JMU roundup: Dukes picked 2nd in preseason volleyball poll

Daily Staff Reports –

HARRISONBURG – The James Madison University volleyball team was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association this season by the league’s coaches, as announced by the conference on Tuesday.

The Dukes return every starter from a squad that went 8-6 in the conference last season and advanced to the CAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

“It’s great to receive this kind of recognition and respect from the conference,” head coach Lauren Steinbrecher stated in a news release. “At the same time, we realize that this is just a preseason poll and we need to keep working extremely hard every day to make sure this team reaches its full potential.”

Defending CAA champion College of Charleston was tabbed to repeat at the top of the conference by the coaches, garnering six of the nine first-place votes and 62 total points in Tuesday’s poll. JMU collected a pair of first-place votes and 52 points in its runner-up spot, while Northeastern grabbed the final first-place vote and 48 points in third place.

Hofstra (37 points), UNCW (36) and Delaware (35) were closely grouped in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively, ahead of Towson (23) in seventh. William & Mary (20) sat in eighth place, while conference-newcomer Elon rounded out the poll with 16 points.

Senior middle blocker Lizzy Briones returns for the Dukes after a season that saw her earn honorable mention AVCA East Region honors as a junior. She was the only CAA player with more than 300 kills and 100 blocks, earning a spot on the All-CAA First team.

JMU kicks off its season on Aug. 29-30, as the Dukes play host to the JMU Classic and welcome Norfolk State, Charleston Southern and Villanova to Harrisonburg for the two-day tournament.

Track and field

FAIRFAX — James Madison senior Destiny Simmons of the Dukes’ track and field program has been named a 2014 recipient of the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year award by Diverse: Issues of Higher Education.

The award is issued to student-athletes who exemplify high achievement in scholarship, athleticism and community service. It is inspired by tennis legend Arthur Ashe, Jr.’s commitment to education as well as his love for the game of tennis.

Simmons, an athletic training major at Madison, earned a spot on the podium at the 2014 CAA track and field championships with a runner-up finish in the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.25 seconds. She was also a member of JMU’s fourth-place 4×800 relay tandem at the ECAC indoor championships.

She is the second JMU student-athlete this summer to garner the laurel, joining women’s basketball redshirt senior Lauren Okafor. Other past winners of the award include former University of Tennessee women’s basketball star Kara Lawson as well as NFL quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.