Volleyball Moves to 8-1; Downs Host Ozarks and Ottawa
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. (September 1, 2012) — With only a one point lead late in the fifth set, 9-8, the Golden Eagles volleyball squad netted six of the final eight points in a dramatic comeback win over Ottawa (Kan.) University just hours after sweeping host College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in three sets.
With the win, John Brown not only moves to 8-1 on the young 2012 season, but has now notched victories over No. 17 Kansas Wesleyan in addition to Evangel (Mo.) and College of the Ozarks, both of which received votes in the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 poll.
"The ladies are excited about our great start," noted head coach Stacie Johnson. "I am proud of them, but I still know that we have our very strong Sooner Athletic Conference schedule that awaits us. We have plenty of things to improve on."
In the first game of the day, John Brown used the offense of Erin Didier and Audrey Dearien to spark the team to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-14) win over the Bobcats. The Golden Eagles again used an impressive attack, posting a .457 hitting percentage.
Didier led the way with 13 kills while Dearien added nine. Kailey Bain finished with a team-high 16 assists.
On the defensive end, JBU played a sound game, keeping Ozarks in the mid-teens. Staci Williamson handed in seven digs on the match with help from Didier and Aubrey Adams who each posted six.
After upping its record to 7-1 overall and 3-0 against teams receiving votes in the polls, the Golden Eagles faced some adversity in the final game of the tournament as the Braves pushed JBU to the limit.
Despite falling down 2-1 entering the fourth set, the Blue and Gold pieced together late game heroics, finally defeating Ottawa, 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-10).
JBU made a statement early, taking the first set in convincing fashion. Didier put the Golden Eagles in position for the win with four kills while Dearien and Williamson each added three.
However, the Braves would make a comeback, taking games two and three, placing John Brown in a must-win situation.
"The players made a decision between games three and four." added Johnson. "They decided not to focus on their errors but instead how they could use the match to get better. Watching them rediscover their game was awesome."
In the fourth set, Didier stepped up once again, launching six of her game-high 19 kills while Adams recorded seven assists. With the set tied at nine, the Golden Eagles were sparked by a 9-4 run to pull away from Ottawa, setting up a fifth and final game.
Holding onto a slim one point lead late in the game, JBU's 6-2 run sealed the game and the victory, bumping its record to 8-1 overall.
Dearien ended the second game with 18 kills, one shy of Didier's 19, and 15 digs. Williamson led the charge on defense with 17 digs and two block assists.
Bain posted an impressive 25 assists on the match, a testament, she says, to her team's impeccable passing.
"Our passers did a great job this weekend of staying focused and giving us so many options on offense. Communications amongst our defense has been the key to our successful passing. Not only do the great passes allow us to feed our outside hitters the ball, but our middle blockers, Erin (McIlroy) and Libby (Blasingame), do a phenomenal job of holding the block.
"They both catch the other middle blocker's attention, which gives me the opportunity to give Erin (Didier) and Audrey (Dearien) a one-on-one ball, which always translates into a kill. I'm so proud of both our passers and hitters. They're doing more than I could ask for as a setter."
The Blue and Gold will now head into the Baker (Kan.) University Invitational with an 8-1 record, but will again face stiff competition. JBU's schedule includes three Heart of America Athletic Conference opponents, Baker, who is receiving votes, in addition to Benedictine (Kan.) and Graceland (Iowa). The Golden Eagles will close out the tournament with a game with Friends (Kan.).
"We need more court awareness," said Johnson of her team's list of improvements. "We need to read the game better and increase our discipline defensively. If we can do that, in addition to finding better consistency in what we do well, I expect us to be successful."
The tournament is set to run next Friday and Saturday (Sept. 7-8).