Dearien, Blasingame Lead Golden Eagles to 3-0 Weekend
HOUSTON, Texas (August 29, 2015) -- Seniors Audrey Dearien and Libby Blasingame used outstanding performances over a three-game span to help the John Brown volleyball team (6-1) earn a trio of wins at the St. Thomas (Texas) Invitational this weekend at the Jerabeck Athletic Center, extending its unbeaten streak to six games.
"Overall, this weekend allowed our team to continue to build some momentum heading into our home opener," said head coach Ken Carver. "I felt we did a good job controlling the matches we played and setting the tempo. We nearly hit .300 percent as a team while holding our opponents to under .100 percent, so I feel it was a balanced effort in being efficient offensively and effective on the defensive side of the ball. Our team is really fired up to finally play a home match and play in front of our fan base in Bill George Arena Tuesday night."
After dropping the season-opener to Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), JBU has gone undefeated, dropping only one set in the six-match span. The Golden Eagles will open home play on Tuesday (Sept. 1) when it hosts Williams Baptist (Ark.) at 6 p.m.
The first contest on Friday (Aug. 28), John Brown rode a game-high 14 kills, and used 10 service aces and a .569 attack percentage to roll past Southwestern (Kan.), 25-16, 25-19, 25-9.
Serving four of JBU's 10 aces, Dearien led all players in terminations for the fifth time this season. The Golden Eagles also received seven kills from Blasingame and junior Karis Buff in the victory. John Brown held the Moundbuilders (1-2) to a mere .038 hitting percentage and yielded just 16 kills in the entire match. Sophomore Beth Brankle tallied 10 digs to lead all players.
"I felt our team did a good job executing from the service line [against Southwestern]," added Carver. "While we did have a good number of aces, we did a very good job hitting spots and keeping them from being in-system. Our block did a good job in sets two and three and while our first-ball contact started out a bit slow, we found our rhythm and that allowed us to run the tempo of offense we wanted from serve receive and defensive transition.
"Several of our freshmen saw increased playing time and they responded well."
Tied at 16 in the first set, the Golden Eagles received a pair of Dearien kills, in addition to a well-time ace from freshman Bayli Reagan, to end the first set on a 9-0 run, which was also fueled by multiple Moundbuilder errors. The second set was also close at first, with JBU holding onto an 11-9 lead, only to have SC pile up more errors, which was jump-started by a pair of Dearien aces. The 8-4 rally was enough distance for John Brown to claim in the second set. The final set featured a Golden Eagle runaway frame, which was capped by three consecutive aces from Dearien.
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles opened play with Wiley (Texas) (1-3) at 8 a.m. Despite the early start time, John Brown began with breaking open a close first set when Dearien served up a pair of aces to rally JBU to 7-2 run to force a 22-15 score. Buff, Dearien and Blasingame each added terminations to end the first set. The second set featured multiple early lead changes until Reagan and freshman Kennedy Shelstead each added kills, sending JBU from a 12-10 deficit into a 20-13 lead. The final set, similar to the previous match, saw the Golden Eagles allow only nine points against in a runaway deciding frame.
"I was proud of the way our team handled the challenges we faced and overcame today," Carver noted. "Having to play our first match of the day at 8 a.m. made for a very early morning. Despite a little bit of a slow start to match against Wiley we found our rhythm and finished the match very strong."
The final contest of the tournament, against Southwest (N.M.), was highlighted with another win, but an end to the Golden Eagles' consecutive set winning streak at 16 straight. Dearien tied a season-high with 17 kills while Blasingame added another 10.
John Brown claimed the first set easily, running out to a 14-2 lead. The second set, however, saw the Mustangs (1-6) take an early lead it would never relinquish. The third set featured a narrow three-point advantage that JBU blew open into a 22-12 advantage while the fourth set included a narrow 19-18 lead that made way for a 6-1 match-ending rally.
"Our second match of the day provided us with some good challenge," said Carver. "Southwest served us equally as aggressive and we struggled in the second set with our first-ball contact quality and made too many unforced errors to win that set. Our team, however, showed great mental toughness and resiliency and corrected the things we did wrong in the second set and put together a pretty dominating performance in the third set. In a back-and-forth battle in the final set we were able to create a small cushion in the score and side-out quickly whenever the University of the Southwest got the ball."
After the tournament concluded, Dearien and Blasingame were named to the All-Tournament team. Dearien finished the weekend with 46 kills, 15 aces and 48 digs while Blasingame tallied 27 kills and 6.5 blocks. Sophomore Alyssa Arnold also continued her strong play with 107 assists on the weekend, giving her a total of 247 on the season. She now averages 35.3 assists per match and again set another career-high with 37 helpers in the victory over Southwest.