Arnold Shatters Career High, Golden Eagles Take Williams Baptist in Four

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (September 1, 2015) -- For the fourth time this season, sophomore Alyssa Arnold set a new career high in assists, and the John Brown volleyball team (7-1) captured its seventh-straight win by closing out Williams Baptist (Ark.), 3-1 (25-13, 25-17, 18-25, 25-18), in the home opener on Tuesday (Sept. 1) at Bill George Arena.

The Golden Eagles hit at a .266 percent attacking rate on the evening and limited the visiting Eagles (0-1) to a .107 hitting percentage, while collecting 60 digs and nine blocks in the winning effort.

Arnold led all players with 44 assists, besting her previous mark by seven (37). Seniors Audrey Dearien and Melissa Bakke led the charge offensively for JBU as the duo posted 14 kills apiece while Dearien added 4.5 blocks, 15 digs and a pair of service aces. Joining the tandem on offense was junior Karis Buff, who tallied a career-high nine kills on 19 attempts while junior Molli Pugh was very efficient, notching eight kills on 15 attempts to finish the contest with a match-high .467 hitting percentage.

With the victory, John Brown continues its undefeated mark to open the season at Bill George Arena since 2010 (6-0).

"It was great to finally be home, have our home opener and play in front of family members, our student body and members of the Siloam Springs community," admitted head coach Ken Carver. "Special thanks and a shout-out to the men’s rugby team for bringing the noise. Adding another win to our early part of the season is equally satisfying."

JBU took the first set, 25-13, behind a .310 hitting percentage after getting off to a slow start, as the Eagles held an early 8-5 lead. The lead wouldn't last long, however, with Bakke at the service line as the senior helped rally the hosts to an 11-0 run. Dearien and senior Libby Blasingame each threw up a pair of blocks during the rally that also included a pair of aces from Bakke. Up 17-10, Dearien continued the roll for the Golden Eagles, terminating four of the next six rallies, sending the hosts to a rather easy first-set victory. The JBU defense held the visitors to a -.087 hitting mark in the first frame.

John Brown carried that momentum over into the second set, grabbing a 2-0 lead with a 25-17 win. Five early ties set up a 13-all score, but a trio of Pugh kills helped jump-start a 12-4 run to close out the set. A pair of Buff spikes helped the hosts in the final rally as JBU posted another strong hitting performance, landing at a .293 percent in the frame.

The third stanza featured a mid-set rally from WBC as the visitors opened up a narrow 9-8 lead and went on an 11-5 run. With a 20-13 lead in hand, the Eagles had to weather an Elizabeth Bjornsen service ace and three errors of its own before claiming the set, 25-18. The Golden Eagles struggled offensively in the set, hitting just .115 percent (8-5-26) while Williams Baptist boasted its best of the evening at .212 percent (13-6-33).

Errors plagued both teams early in the final set. Six ties were broken before a Dearien kill for a 12-11 Golden Eagle advantage. Then, at the service line, Dearien made WBC pay to the tune of five consecutive points, sparked by an ace and kills from Buff and Pugh, handing John Brown a 20-15 lead. With a 21-14 advantage, four Bakke terminations accounted for JBU's final points, putting a stamp on a 25-18 fourth-set win.

"While we stumbled a bit in the third set, I felt our team played really well in the other three sets and the crowd got to see some of what has allowed our team to be successful up to this point in the season," added Carver. "Minus the third set, our team did a good job of executing on the offensive side of the ball. Our first ball contact was generally consistent and Alyssa did another fine job of getting our hitters in a great position to terminate balls. While Audrey and Melissa saw the most swing opportunities and did a good job of being efficient, I was especially pleased with the performance of our middles and opposites with how effective they were when they had opportunities to put balls away.

"I liked the athleticism and competitiveness we saw from Williams Baptist tonight. They are going to be a good team and I’m sure they are going to be working even harder and be even more fired up to play us again a week from today as their home opener."

Sophomore Beth Brankle added a match-high 16 digs while Blasingame threw up three blocks (two solo) and Buff added another solo rejection.

Madison Laubach terminated a team-high nine balls for the Eagles. Kaillie Ralston added eight kills and Harley Strayhorn assembled 3.5 blocks in the loss. Maddie Belk dug 12 balls and Jordan Harvey dished out 17 assists for the visitors.

The Golden Eagles will return to the court on Tuesday (Sept. 8) when it returns a trip to Williams Baptist. First serve in Walnut Ridge, Ark., is set for 6 p.m.

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