3-1 Win over Cavaliers Sends Volleyball to Third-Straight Conference Victory

Press Release Photo
Kennedy Shelstead (7) and Melissa Bakke (15) go up to attempt a block in JBU's win over St. Gregory's.

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (October 1, 2015) -- Despite hitting just .110 percent (43-27-146) on the evening, the John Brown volleyball team (13-6, 3-2 SAC) won its third-straight Sooner Athletic contest, gutting out a 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 25-27, 25-22) over St. Gregory's (Okla.) on Thursday (Oct. 1) evening inside Bill George Arena.

Both teams committed over 20 attack errors, but the Golden Eagles rode a career-high seven Audrey Dearien service aces (17 total) to the narrow victory.

"Tonight’s win wasn’t a thing of beauty to be sure, but any win you can get in conference play is a big win," admitted head coach Ken Carver. "St. Gregory’s played very well this evening and their scrappiness kept them in the match and made them very hard to beat. Under Coach Brown’s guidance, that team is playing a whole lot better than they were last year.

"We struggled offensively tonight in terms of our consistency, but was able to put some crucial mini-runs of points together to win sets when it counted. I was proud of how our team ended the match with two aggressive kills and a service ace. We took care of the ball from the service line tonight and was able to score a lot of points with our aggressive serving."

Twice the Cavaliers (3-9, 1-4 SAC) held leads late in the period that John Brown had to overcome. Facing a 21-20 deficit in the fourth set, senior Libby Blasingame provided a pair of timely terminations to accompany senior Melissa Bakke's service ace. JBU finished the match on a 6-1 rally. Similarly, in the second set, the Cavs overcame a 20-18 deficit to land a 22-21 advantage. Senior leadership again led the Golden Eagles back to life as a pair of Dearien kills and a smack from Blasingame and Bakke each helped John Brown finish the frame on a 4-0 run.

Missing a few regulars, John Brown relied on crucial playing time from freshman Bailei Brown, Bayli Reagan and Kennedy Shelstead. Filling in admirably, the reserves helped round out the gritty victory.

"We had a couple of players who couldn’t go for us tonight and, as a result, we were working with a bit of a different lineup," Carver added. Regardless of our lineup, we will need to keep working on having a more consistent first ball contact and cut down on the number of balls our opponents are blocking due to our low arm swings or not seeing the block soon enough to adjust our armswing.

"In the end, however, our team found a way to win and that’s important. Conference wins don’t have to be pretty; a match where we had to 'grind' and would definitely be classified as an “ugly” win still counts as a win and moves us in the right direction. We’ll go back and work on a few things tomorrow in the gym and look to be better against a much-improved Southwestern Christian team on Saturday afternoon."

Dearien concluded the match with her fourth double-double in five contests, sending 12 kills and digging 17 balls. Sophomore Alyssa Arnold passed around 38 assists and added her eighth double-double of the season with 10 digs. Blasingame (10) and Bakke (8) each posted timely kills throughout the match while sophomore Beth Brankle added a team-best 22 digs and three aces in the victory.

The first set featured lead swings between both teams, back back-to-back Blasingame terminations at 21-19 built a four-point lead that was capped off by Brankle's first aces of the evening.

Despite an early 4-0 lead in the third, the Cavaliers rallied on a 10-4 run for a two-point lead. Leading throughout the majority of the set, John Brown climbed back to within one on six occasions until capturing match point with a 24-23 lead after a pair of SGU errors and a Dearien ace. St. Gregory's tied the match at 24 and a service error again gave JBU a chance to claim the match in three.

However, two attack errors and a timely kill from SGU's Shannon Howard handed the visitors the set, 27-25, and its first-ever set victory inside Bill George Arena. JBU had swept the previous seven matches between the two team in the all-time series.

The Cavaliers didn't hit much better, notching a .165 percent mark (44-21-139), but received a match-high 13 kills from Ashlyn Broussard, who completed the double-double with 16 digs. Cierra Mullins chipped in with 10 kills while Courtney Murphy added seven blocks (4 solo) in the loss.

JBU will face a quick turn-around when it hosts Southwestern Christian (Okla.) on Saturday (Oct. 3) inside Bill George Arena. The first serve is slated for noon, and will be a part of the 2015 John Brown University homecoming festivities. Also, prior to the match, the program will honor its three seniors in a Senior Day ceremony.

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