Golden Eagles Shift Momentum, Topple Texas Wesleyan in Come-From-Behind Fashion

Press Release Photo
Senior Libby Blasingame (11) smacks one of her seven kills in a 3-1 win over Texas Wesleyan.

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (September 25, 2015) -- Three players finished with double-digit terminations and senior Libby Blasingame provided four blocks to spark a comeback as the John Brown volleyball team (11-5, 1-2 SAC) broke a three-match losing skid by knocking off Texas Wesleyan (13-7, 2-1 SAC) on Friday (Sept. 25) inside Bill George Arena, 3-1 (16-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-22).

The Golden Eagles picked up its first conference victory of the season while handing the visiting Rams its first loss in conference play, while also breaking its four-match winning streak.

After Wesleyan built an 8-0 lead in the first set and ran away with a 25-16 victory, JBU responded with three straight wins, beginning with a counterpunch in the second set. Blasingame helped turn the tide with a pair of solo blocks late in the frame, propelling the hosts to a 25-15 response to the first set, holding the visitors to a -.111 percent attack (5-9-36) in the second set. The Golden Eagles elevated its performance as the match grew on, posting a .197 percent attack in the final two sets while limiting the Rams to a .069 percent clip.

“Tonight was a hard-fought match between two teams that were pretty evenly-matched,” admitted head coach Ken Carver. “Texas Wesleyan definitely came out ready to play and put us on our heels right from the start. I think one of the good things that emerged from tonight’s match was our team’s ability to bounce back. In our last three matches which ended up being losses for our team, we talked about having to have better ‘short term memory’ and to play each point to the best of our ability.

“The first set was pretty ugly on our side, but we were able to battle back and when we had the set change over, the team did a great job of refocusing and then coming out and playing better. Tonight’s match had a lot of errors by both teams so both coaches will have plenty to work on with their respective teams moving forward.”

With a narrow 18-14 lead in the second set, and trailing 1-0 in the match, Blasingame recorded two solo blocks, propelling JBU to a 5-0 run and a 22-14 advantage. Senior Audrey Dearien smacked one of her team-high 14 kills to finish the set, much to the delight of the loud Bill George Arena crowd.”

“The fans were awesome once we finally were able to start playing better and the volume level was great when our team earned points,” admitted Carver. “It was great to play in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.”

Errors continued to mount for the visitors in the third set and three straight from the Rams helped John Brown break a 7-all tie to take an 11-7 lead. One of two Dearien aces on the night, coupled with a pair of Bakke kills, sent the Golden Eagles to a 17-10 lead. With a 22-16 lead in hand, John Brown head to weather a small TWU comeback attempt as the visitors crept within three, 22-19. Junior Molli Pugh ended the rally with a kill in the middle and finally a Ram service error ended the third set, 25-20.

After the Golden Eagle lead grew to as many as four in the fourth (11-7), the Rams battled to six ties and a 17-17 score. Dearien and Pugh posted a pair of kills each for a 21-18 JBU lead and three-straight Wesleyan miscues was capped off by a Bakke termination to end the match.

“I felt Alyssa [Arnold] and Molli [Pugh] had some great chemistry offensively tonight as she was the most efficient attacker on our team during the course of the match,” added Carver. We’ve been working on running more offense to both of our middles so I was pleased to see Alyssa attempt to do that tonight. When we were in-system tonight, I felt the speed of our offense was good and our hitters were taking some aggressive swings and putting balls down. Texas Wesleyan is very scrappy and play a lot of balls up so we knew our shots needed to be well-placed and crisp.”

Arnold finished the match with a game-high 42 assists and capped off the double-double with 11 digs. Sophomore Beth Brankle added 14 digs in the victory while junior Karis Buff posted a career-high six blocks, three solo, helping John Brown double the Rams in rejections, 10-5.

Abby Zipoy led the Rams with 13 kills and Kristina Gafford was limited to just 27 assists (6.75 assists per set), well below her season average (9.96 helpers per set). Shaughnessy Hearn notched a match-high 25 digs in the loss.

The Golden Eagles will now rebound quickly when it hosts Southwestern A.G. (Texas) on Saturday (Sept. 26) at 1 p.m. inside Bill George Arena. The Lions (12-3, 4-0 SAC) continued its undefeated conference run tonight with a 3-1 victory at Bacone (Okla.).

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