Volleyball Enjoys Home Sweet Home

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- Senior Molli Pughlead the John Brown University volleyball team with 11 kills and the Golden Eagles hit .344 percent on the evening to take a quick 3-0 sweep (25-12, 27-25, 25-19) win over Williams Baptist (Ark.) on Wednesday (Aug. 31) inside Bill George Arena.

In JBU's first home match of the season, a rowdy crowd helped propel John Brown (6-2) to straight-sets win, breaking a two-match skid.

"It was great to finally be home and have a chance for our players to play in front of the home fans," said head coach Ken Carver. "It was a fantastic and energetic crowd who really got behind our team. I know our players and the coaching staff really appreciated the volume that the men's rugby team, men's soccer team and the student body brought to our match. A rowdy home court really does add energy to our players and gives us a distinct home court advantage."

While the Golden Eagles attacked very well throughout the match, posting its second-best attack efficiency of the season, Williams Baptist (0-3) struggled in the first-set 25-12 setback and hit just .174 percent in the contest.

Shelby Wallace paced WBC with seven kills while Rachel Pirtle and Madison Laubach each contributed six terminations. Jessica Baugh scooped a match-high 12 digs.

"Tonight it was good to see our players intentionally focus on what we practiced and talked about leading up to this home opener," noted Carver. "We wanted to do a much better job in our first-ball contact and to only give up two services aces on the match as well as the level of offensive efficiency we were able to execute at. That all speaks to a much improved service reception.

"Alyssa (Arnold) and Elizabeth (Williams) did a very good job in running a balanced offense. To have five of our seven offensive players hit over .300 percent tonight really illustrated their focus on being efficient with the swings they got and on putting the ball down when they had the opportunity."

John Brown turned an early 4-3 deficit in the first set into an 11-6 lead after an 8-2 rally, powered by kills from sophomore Kenendy Shelstead, freshman Megan Beck and sophomore Bailei Brown. Up 15-10, a trio of Pugh terminations sent the hosts to a commanding 21-11 lead which the Golden Eagles finished easily.

The second set, neither team had more than a three-point advantage until three-consecutive WBC errors turned a 17-16 JBU lead into a four-point cushion. With a five point lead, 23-18, staring a set point, the Golden Eagles allowed the visitors to rattle off a 7-1 run to take a 25-24 lead.

Out of a timeout, JBU responded, receiving kills from Beck and Pugh to finish a 3-0 run, taking a 2-0 lead in the match.

"There were definitely moments in the game where we weren't as mindful and started to make more unforced errors or not as aggressive in our attacking, but we were able to refocus out of called timeouts at the later part of sets two and three," Carver added. "As a young team, our focus has a tendency to come and go right now, but to our players' credit, when we remind them to be intentional and mindful of the process-oriented goals we have for ourselves, our performance output generally responds very positively."

Four early lead changes in set three preceded a 6-0 Williams Baptist rally, forcing the hosts into a 10-6 hole. Staying close at 17-16, John Brown rallied on a perfectly-timed 5-0 run, fueled by kills from Shelstead, Brown and sophomore Baily Reagan. Armed with a 20-17 lead, a Shelstead ace and kill propelled the hosts to sweep.

Defensively, junior Beth Brankle paced John Brown with 10 digs, while junior Alyssa Arnoldadded 19 assists and freshman Elizabeth Williams dished out 18 assists. As a team, the Golden Eagles racked up 41 assists to build its .344 percent attack effort (43-12-90).

The Golden Eagles will return to action on Tuesday (Sept. 6) when it opens up Sooner Athletic play, welcoming first-year program Science & Arts (Okla.) at 7 p.m.

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