Volleyball runs Stars to brink in semifinals

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PLAINVIEW, Texas -- The fourth-seeded John Brown University volleyball team scored a second-set win to tie the match at one apiece, but two narrow victories by the Stars in sets three and four allowed top-seeded at No. 12 Oklahoma City to land a 3-1 (12-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21) win over the Golden Eagles in the Sooner Athletic tournament semifinals inside the Hutcherson Center and advance to the title match.

Freshmen Jessica Meyer and Megan Beck each terminated nine attempts while Meyer posted five blocks in the loss. Freshman Carly McKinney was limited to six kills but also contributed 10 digs as junior Beth Brankle led the back-line effort with 15 digs in the loss.

"Our team put on a valiant display of courage and dogged determination against OCU tonight," admitted head coach Ken Carver. "The start of the match looked and felt very reminiscent of our first match against them this season where we were just overwhelmed by their athleticism and style of play. We initially struggled to adjust to the tempo of play and their aggressive serving in the first set and while our team took a pretty good punch from them, I liked our focus and attitude.

"We just needed time to adjust to the higher tempo of play and, once we did, we not only took the next set from OCU, but gave them all they could handle."

Although the Stars hit .600 percent (17-2-25) in the first set, JBU responded by taking the second set, limiting the Stars to a .111 percent (11-7-36) while posting a .156 percent (10-5-32) effort of its own.

Down by four, 18-14, a pair of OCU errors, combined with a Beck kill, an Alyssa Arnold ace and a Beck-Kennedy Shelstead block strung together a 5-0 run to retake the lead, 19-18. A pair of Meyer kills and a block helped continue the Golden Eagle rally, allowing JBU to finish the set on a 6-3 run to tie the match at one apiece.

The third set featured a 19-13 City lead, but a 4-1 rally allowed John Brown to pull within three. A late 5-2 run pulled the Golden Eagles within just one, 24-23, but a Manon Soraru kill clinched the set for Oklahoma City.

John Brown held the lead throughout most of the fourth set, including a 12-8 lead, which continued later into the set at 17-15. However, City then rallied on a 6-0 match clinching run, pulling ahead by four and never relenting the lead.

Soraru led all players with 20 kills while Sanja Vojnovic dished out 49 assists on 63 Stars terminations. Dani Chase scooped up a match-best 19 digs.

Oklahoma City now advances to the championship game to take on host and second-seeded Wayland Baptist (Texas) on Saturday (Nov. 12) at 11 a.m.

Meyer continued her impressive freshman campaign by earning a spot to the All-Tournament team after the match.

The match signaled the end of Molli Pugh's Golden Eagle career, one in which the middle hitter compiled 961 kills, 646 digs and 272 total blocks. She also hit at a .232 percent clip over her four-year career.

"In her final match as one of our co-captains, Molli did an excellent job in leading our team on the court and keeping them up and engaged regardless of where the score was," Carver added. "Megan (Beck) and Jessica (Meyer) had really efficient games as attackers for us and at the net. The team as a whole did a really good job of talking to each other and working to problem solve and stay positive throughout the match.

"While we all wanted to win this match and have our season continue, I am extremely proud of how this young team did and succeeded this season. This loss puts the closing chapter on this season on the court, but I continue to be even more excited about the program's future with this awesome group of young women moving forward."

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