Jacksonville Sports Day

JU: Home Sweet Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – “It felt like home.”

That’s how three members of Jacksonville University’s volleyball team described their decision to compete as a Dolphin. Despite coming from three separate cities – Jupiter, Fla., Columbia, S.C., and Sanford, Fla. – junior Jessica Armstrong and freshmen Amarrah Cooks and Mallory Mattingly all found something in the cozy school on the St. John’s River that gave them comfort in the welcoming atmosphere.

“University Boulevard is just like 1792 back at home,” said Mattingly. “It just felt like home, and I love it. I wouldn’t change it. People were very welcoming when I came here. The students were just like, ‘Hey what’s up? Oh you’re a new recruit? That’s really cool, hope you come here. JU’s awesome.’ They were really promoting the school and I really liked that.”

“I’d never been to Jax my whole life and I’m a Floridian,” laughed Armstrong. “I was originally in DeLand, which is kind of small, so coming to this area, everybody was so welcoming – the campus and everyone in it.”

Cooks agreed with her teammates. “Before I even stepped onto campus, I didn’t know what I wanted in college life or college volleyball. When I walked onto JU’s campus, I just knew that it was home. I felt it in my heart.”

Another thing the women agreed on is that Head Coach Julie Darty played a key role in their decision to attend Jacksonville.

An Orlando, Fla. native herself, Darty helped coach all over the East Coast before settling in Jacksonville for her first head coaching job.

“I started out at Villanova, which is really far away, and then I moved south to Columbia, S.C. I always wanted to get closer to home and be in the state of Florida – I was born and raised here.”

Not just born and raised. From 2004 to 2007, Darty was a member of Mercer’s volleyball team that competed in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Her experience playing Jacksonville and other teams in the league added to the appeal of the head coaching job at JU.

“I knew that this conference was a great volleyball league,” added Darty. “When the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to go on the interview just to kind of see what it was like.”

“When I was here, I knew that everything felt right and this was the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for and I needed to take it. I didn’t expect to be head coach of two programs right away for my first job so that was a huge jump, but I’m super happy with the decision I made to be here.”

That decision would prove to be just what Armstrong, Cooks, and Mattingly were looking for in a head coach.

“She felt like a second mom to me,” said Cooks. “She was so stern, but she still builds you up after all that. That definitely sold the deal.”

Armstrong elaborated, “I had an interesting experience my freshman year. I kind of lost my confidence and I didn’t really enjoy playing volleyball anymore. Then I met Julie and she instilled so much confidence in me. She gave me the opportunity that I was looking for and I think she really helped me see a different side of volleyball. She showed me that this was the place where I was supposed to be.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *