For the third consecutive year, Belmont and Jacksonville matched up in the Atlantic Sun Championships. It was the Bruins’ third straight trip to the finals, and the second time they would face the Dolphins for the title. Despite the recent history between the teams, Belmont stormed to the program’s first conference championship, sweeping Jacksonville 30-22, 30-24, and 30-11. Four Bruins were named to the all-tournament team, and setter Colleen Nilson was named Most Valuable Player.
Game one belonged to the Bruins, as the team jumped to an early 9-3 lead and then pushed the advantage to 17-10. Jacksonville pushed to close the gap, but a four-point run behind all-conference first team member Katie Tobiasz’ strong serving, opening the game to 23-14. The Dolphins made one final push, rallying to 23-19, but Deane Webb’s squad finished strong, pushing the score to 27-20 and finally winning 30-22 on three consecutive kills by A-Sun second team member Emily
Cahill, Cat Mundy, and Katie Tobiasz.
The Bruins recorded two blocks in the opening game to JU’s four, but the Belmont block party began to kick in during the second game. Down 7-9, the Bruins rattled off 12 consecutive points behind aggressive serving from Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Colleen Nilson and five blocks, blowing open a 19-10 advantage.
Jacksonville rallied to within two points as late as 24-22, but Belmont did not falter as they took the second game 30-24. At the intermission, Belmont already had two players with double-figure kills in sophomores Cat Mundy and Emily Cahill. Through the first two games, five different players tallied four or more digs for Belmont, while no Dolphins had more than eight kills.
“It was a team effort all around,” commented Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year Deane Webb after the match. “We took what JU gave us, and we generally have enough offensive options to get through, and that was
the case today.”
Belmont continued to overwhelm the visiting Dolphins in game three, as Jacksonville did not score a pair of consecutive points until scoring two in a row to make the score 29-11. Belmont put the game and match away on the next point, however, winning the championship in straight sets.
Six different Bruins recorded an ace in the match, led by Colleen Nilson, with three. Jacksonville managed just one ace in the match. Belmont out-hit the Dolphins .291 to .038, with JU hitting -.194 in the final match, with five kills and 11 errors.
“Our serving and passing today made for a large point swing before the second touch. Our passers played very well and helped keep us in our system. Players stepped up in spots and helped us remain consistent during our runs as well as theirs,” noted Webb.
Colleen Nilson highlighted the all-tournament team, and was joined by teammates Jaye Schuler, Cat Mundy, and senior Katie Tobiasz. Stevenique Richardson recorded six kills and two blocks in the match,
and was named to the all-tournament team. Lindsey Rutherford and Ann Mullins from Lipscomb University were also named to the Atlantic Sun all-tournament team.
Jacksonville won a tightly contested match for the conference title in 2004, finishing off the deciding game five 15-13. The Bruins returned the favor in 2005, sweeping the Dolphins in the semi-final match en route to the final against Florida Atlantic. The Bruins won the first game before falling in four games to the Owls a year ago.
The Bruins will wait to learn their destination regarding the NCAA Tournament during the selection show one week from Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CST and will be televised on ESPN U.