ELON, N.C. – After opening Colonial Athletic Association on the road last week, the Elon volleyball team returns home to Alumni Gym this weekend to host its first CAA matches of the season. The Phoenix (3-12, 0-2) welcomes James Madison (12-3, 2-0) on Friday, Oct. 2, for a 7 p.m. start before closing out the weekend on Sunday, Oct. 4, with a 2 p.m. match against Towson (14-2, 1-1).
A Look at the Phoenix
Elon opened CAA play last weekend with a trip to Northeastern and Hofstra. The Phoenix took reigning CAA champ Hofstra to five sets but was not able to pull out the win, falling to 0-2 in league play. Despite the loss, the defense tallied a season-high 20 total team blocks, marking the best block performance by the Phoenix in at least 10 years. The defense was led by a career-high 11 blocks from Ally Karle and ranks second on Elon’s Division I single-match record list. Over the weekend, the maroon and gold saw double-double performances from Erin Kelly (17 assists and 12 digs at Northeastern) and Megan Gravley (16 kills and 11 digs at Hofstra).
Scouting the Dukes
JMU has had a great start to the season and CAA play with a 12-3 overall record and a perfect 2-0 in the conference. Last week, the Dukes picked up a five-set victory against Towson and swept the Blue Hens in Delaware. JMU ranks 12th nationally and first in the CAA in aces per set (1.81) with the help of 26 aces on the season from freshman Bryn Recker, who ranks 14th nationally (0.51/set). Junior Janey Goodman, who is the reigning offensive player of the week, leads the conference in kills with 4.06/set, while libero Taylor Austin is second in digs with 5.21 per set.
Outside of last season’s conference matches, the Phoenix and the Dukes have only met one other time. JMU owns a 3-0 advantage in the series with two victories in 2014 and the other in 2007. The last time the programs met was Nov. 2, 2014, with the Dukes taking a 3-2 match win after a tight 15-12 final in the fifth set.
Prior to becoming the Elon head coach, Mary Tendler was an assistant coach at JMU for three seasons, helping the team to a CAA tournament title and an NCAA appearance in 2000.
Scouting the Tigers
Towson enters the weekend with 14-2 record with its second loss just coming last week at JMU in five sets. The Tigers rank second nationally with 908 team kills this season, while leading the conference in both assists (also second nationally) and hitting percentage. Towson averages 13.65 assists per set and owns a hitting percentage of .267, while holding opponents to a .180 mark. Freshman Anna Holehouse was named the current CAA Rookie of the Week after 55 digs in two matches last week, while also ranking third in the league with 4.68 digs/set.
The Phoenix and the Tigers have met on the volleyball court four times with Towson claiming the advantage, 3-1, in the series. Elon won the first meeting in 1998, 3-2, before the Tigers took the victory in the next match in 2004. Last season, Towson won 3-1 in both matches.
The 1,000-Kill Club
On Sept. 25, Megan Gravley became the newest member of Elon’s 1,000-kill club. The senior reached the milestone in the team’s match at Northeastern and now has 1,023 career kills.
The Elon defense has been impressive at the net so far this season and is out-blocking opponents 142.5-98. The Phoenix has out-blocked the other team in nine of its 15 matches this year and is averaging 2.5 blocks per set. The maroon and gold block has been led by Catherine Head and Ally Karle, who have each recorded career highs this season. Karle posted 11 blocks at Hofstra, which was the most by an Elon player since 2006, and ranks second on the program’s Division I single-match records list. Elon ranks 24th nationally (third in the conference) in total blocks and 39th (second in CAA) in blocks per set.
Head Coach Mary Tendler
Elon head coach Mary Tendler is in her 13th season with the Phoenix program. She enters this weekend’s matches with a 194-213 Elon and career coaching record.
Follow the Phoenix
Fans can follow the Phoenix this weekend and through the season with updates on elonphoenix.com. Live stats for every volleyball match will be available on the team’s schedule and home pages on the Elon athletic website. In-game updates will also be provided on Twitter at @elonscores. The match against Towson on Sunday on will be streamed on Phoenix All-Access.
Elon remains home in Alumni Gym next week to host three matches. The first comes on Thursday, Oct. 8, against College of Charleston at 7 p.m.