SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (August 20, 2014) -- The 2014 edition of the John Brown volleyball program may not be much different from a season ago, but the Golden Eagles will look to eclipse its 15-match win total from last year when JBU opens the campaign this Friday (Aug. 22) in Shawnee, Okla.
Ten players return from last year’s squad, including 76 percent of John Brown’s offensive output. Leading the charge and returning from a season-ending injury is junior outside hitter Audrey Dearien (Frisco, Texas / Legacy Christian Academy). Although missing the final portion of the season, the All-Conference honorable mention still managed to throw down a second-best 252 kills. Also returning are junior outside hitter Melissa Bakke (Bentonville, Ark. / Bentonville) and sophomore middle hitter Molli Pugh (Little Rock, Ark. / Little Rock Christian). The duo combined for a 201 kills apiece, landing the tandem third in rally-enders. Pugh ended the season with All-Conference second team accolades.
Senior outside hitter Courtney Marshall (Fayetteville, Ark. / Fayetteville) will see some back row time while an injured shoulder continues to heal while junior outside hitter Tiffany Hunnicutt (Texarkana, Texas / Lamar University) will enjoy increased playing time on the right side. The 6-foot-3 transfer will look to bolster her .81 kills per set average from last season, while adding height at the net. Senior defensive specialists Becca Young (Mt. Vernon, Iowa / Community) and Kendra Ammons (Wichita, Kan. / Deerpath) will be called upon to make a big impact in the back row in the libero position. Young finished last season as one of six Golden Eagles to accumulate over 200 digs.
Senior Vanessa Uhrhahn (Greenwood, Ark. / Greenwood) and junior Libby Blasingame (Plano, Texas / Liberty) round of the rest of the returning hitters while second-team All-Conference nominee Shayna Daniels (Magnolia, Texas / Magnolia) will look to control an improved Golden Eagle passing game. The sophomore setter finished last year with 619 assists and even contributed 73 kills, including a career-high 14 strikes on one occasion. She will be called up to provide a dual threat in head coach Ken Carver’s offense, which hopes to end rallies quickly.
”What we’re trying to teach these ladies is to terminate rallies quickly, which means an efficient and accurate offense,” said Carver. “I’m really impressed with my defense and the effort shown so far, but if we’re able to end rallies before they happen, it can only serve to benefit us.”
The 2014 roster includes a trio of newcomers. Alyssa Arnold (Waynesville, Mo. / Waynesville) will help with the setting duties, especially when Daniels is utilized in a hitting role. Local teammates Bailei Brown (Siloam Springs, Ark. / Siloam Springs) and Beth Brankle join the squad in hopes to make an impact when called upon.
The Golden Eagles open the season with a tournament in Shawnee, Okla. on Aug. 22-23. There, John Brown will look to get off to a quick start with a pair of matches against St. Thomas (Texas) and Tabor (Kan.) in the first day. The second day features a matchup with Hastings (Iowa), which received votes in the NAIA National Preseason Coaches’ Poll, and end the two-day event with a tilt against Wiley (Texas), the first of three JBU will play against the Wildcats. John Brown then travels to Marshall, Texas to participate in a tri-match, hosted by Wiley, on Aug. 26. The weekend of Sept. 5 sees JBU in its second tournament of the year, this time at host Baker (Kan.). The Blue and Gold open the tournament with the host, also receiving votes in the national poll, before taking on Graceland (Iowa), Doane (Neb.) and Morningside (Iowa). Last season, Baker upended JBU in the fifth set before the Golden Eagles exacted the same fate on Graceland.
John Brown then will move on to a trio of non-conference matches that feature the usual trip to Batesville, Ark. to face Lyon (Ark.) before the home-opening tri-match ,hosting Ozarks (Mo.) and Wiley at Bill George Arena on Sept. 13. JBU will open the Sooner Athletic Conference portion of games with a three-game road trip before entertaining current No. 3 Wayland Baptist (Texas) in Siloam Springs on Sept. 26. The three-game homestand will also feature current No. 14 Oklahoma Baptist to cap off the three-game cluster.
The Golden Eagles embark for its Dallas-area road trip on Oct. 10 to bout with Southwestern A.G. (Texas) and Texas Wesleyan on back-to-back days. Four-consecutive games at the friendly confines of Bill George Arena highlight a busy week from Oct. 15-22, including a home match against Lyon.
As the regular season winds down, JBU will undertake arguably the most difficult portion of the season, which includes back-to-back games with 2013 NAIA National Championship invitees, Wayland Baptist and Oklahoma Baptist. The road trip ends with a tri-match in Point Lookout, Mo., where John Brown will face Williams Baptist (Ark.) before taking on host Ozarks (Mo.). The host Bobcats are receiving votes in the preseason poll. Finally, John Brown closes out the regular season playing host to Southwestern A.G. and Texas Wesleyan.
The top six teams in the final conference standings qualify with the regular season champion serving as the host, beginning on Nov. 13. The tournament winner earns the SAC's automatic qualification into the NAIA National Championships.