SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (August 21, 2015) -- Freshly picked to finish fourth in the Sooner Athletic Conference preseason poll, the John Brown volleyball team will begin its 2015 journey with a quartet of contests at the SAC/RRAC Clash, hosted by Texas Wesleyan today (Aug. 21) and tomorrow.
The Golden Eagles kick off the tournament with a matchup against Our Lady of the Lake (Texas) at noon before taking on Jarvis Christian (Texas) at 4 p.m.
The Saints finished the 2014 campaign with a 19-12 overall record, led by four seniors in Jaclyn Bautista, Alysha Blanco and Gloriana Villarreal. Bautista is a 2014 All-Conference first team recipient and recently posted a .269 hitting percentage and 181 kills last season. Blanco earned All-Conference second team honors in 2013 and returned in 2014 for a first-team selection. She is the Saints’ third all-time leader in kills in a season (242). Villarreal returns this season after missing 2014 due to injury. In 2013, she landed All-Conference first team honors after finishing second on the team with 237 kills.
In 2014, the Bulldogs finished with a 5-26 mark and a 1-12 record in RRAC play. The duo of Keandra Tillman and Taiesha Brown fueled the JCC offense with 152 and 142 kills, respectively. In a two-setter system, Jarvis boasts both Brown and (242 assists) and McKenzie Rodriguez (299 assists) as its primary options.
Over the previous three seasons, John Brown has compiled a 9-3 (.750) mark against Red River Athletic Conference programs, including a 3-0 mark against Texas Wesleyan and Southwestern A.G. (Texas) when they were RRAC members prior to joining the Sooner Athletic Conference. Last year alone, JBU was a perfect 5-0 against RRAC teams, posting four 3-0 clean sheets.
SAC Preseason Rankings
The Golden Eagles were picked by SAC coaches to finish fourth in the final 2015 standings. JBU received one second-place vote, three third-place votes and three fourth-place votes. John Brown finished one point behind Texas Wesleyan (55) for a tie for third place.
The Golden Eagles return seven letterwinners from the 2014 campaign and welcome seven new faces this season. JBU returns All-Conference honorees in seniors Audrey Dearien (first team), Libby Blasingame (second team), Melissa Bakke (honorable mention) and junior Molli Pugh (honorable mention). Dearien became John Brown's first All-American in 2014 since Juliana Todescan was named to the NAIA's All-America third team in 2006. She also paced the Golden Eagles last season with 416 kills and contributed 370 digs, second-most on the squad. Blasingame and Bakke also return for their senior seasons as the front-row duo combined for 446 terminations, 176 and 270, respectively. Pugh tallied 186 kills last year but also threw up 62 total blocks, good enough for second-most on the team. JBU will have to work around three key losses in Shayna Daniels, Becca Young and Tiffany Hunnicutt. Daniels paced last year's team in assists (663) and aces (71) while Young racked up 487 digs, most of any player. Hunnicutt contributed 229 kills and 60 total blocks in 2014.
Live video and stats for both contests today and tomorrow will be provided by Texas Wesleyan University.