Golden Eagles Land Big Victory over Graceland, Fall to Baker

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BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (September 6, 2013) -- The Golden Eagle volleyball squad finished day one of the Baker Invitational after playing a pair of five-set matches, losing a two-game lead and falling to host Baker (Kan.) before grinding out a hard-fought victory over Graceland (Iowa) on Friday (Sept. 6).

In the first match of the day, John Brown faced a hot Wildcat (6-3) squad that had defeated both Briar Cliff (Iowa) and Doane (Neb.), both of whom had handed the Golden Eagles losses of their own.

JBU came out strong and captured a commanding 2-0 lead with 25-23 and 26-24 wins in games one and two. Things grew more difficult for the Blue and Gold as the host Wildcats came roaring back to capture games three and four in convincing fashion, 25-14 and 25-16.

With momentum on its side, JBU fell in the fifth and deciding set, 15-12.

Senior middle blocker Erin McIlroy paced the Golden Eagle offense with a match-high 19 kills. Joining her in double-digit kills were sophomore outside hitter Audrey Dearien, finishing with 16, and sophomore middle blocker Libby Blasingame, who chipped in with 12 of her own.

Senior setter Kailey Bain and freshman setter Shayna Daniels both contributed strong performances in running the John Brown offense, landing 21 and 22 assists, respectively. Senior defensive specialist Staci Williamson earned a match-high 27 digs in the losing effort.

"We lost our focus in the first match, despite playing some really good volleyball," said head coach Stacie Johnson. "But the good news is that we followed up the loss with even better volleyball. We came out with a fire against Graceland that I haven't seen all year. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come this season."

In the first set of match two, JBU fell in a close 25-22 game, but earned back-to-back wins in games two and three, landing 25-19 and 25-20 wins to take a narrow 2-1 lead. In game four, Graceland (8-2) put a quick halt to the Golden Eagle momentum and rolled to a convincing 25-14 victory.

John Brown was in for fifth set heroics for the second time in a single day. Already 0-2 in fifth and deciding games, the Blue and Gold weren't prepared to fall to 0-3 in match-deciding sets. JBU grabbed a 15-11 win in the final game, earning its second victory in three matches.

McIlroy was this hero this time for JBU, as she notched a match-high 15 kills. Blasingame grabbed 10 kills of her own as Dearien finished with eight. The match marked the first time this season that Dearien didn't pace the John Brown offense in kills in consecutive matches.

Bain nabbed a team-high 23 assists in the winning effort as Williamson contributed 25 digs en route to the victory. Dearien (14) and junior outside hitter Courtney Marshall (11) each finished in double-digit digs.

The Golden Eagles won't have much time to enjoy the victory, as they turn around and play two more matches on day two of the Bake Invitational, facing Friends (Kan.) and, for the second time this season, Benedictine (Kan.) in hopes of jumping across the .500 threshold for the second time this season.

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