Rocky Mountain High Note

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DENVER, Colo. -- After a strong statement on the opening day of the Johnson & Wales Invitational, the John Brown University volleyball team ran into a pair of roadblocks in Montana Western and Embry-Riddle (Ariz.), but turned could-be losses in wild five-set affairs that saw JBU escape undefeated and the tournament crown.

John Brown (4-0) was the only team to escape the Mile-High City unblemished, courtesy of two rallies that exceeded most norms of conventional volleyball.

Facing a 2-1 deficit in the first matchup with Montana Western, freshman Carly McKinneyhelped JBU jump out to a commanding 15-7 lead and, after some help from senior Molli Pughand freshman Megan Beck, the Golden Eagles knotted the match at two apiece.

One year removed from a winless fifth-set record, the Golden Eagles battled back from a 6-4 deficit to take a 9-8 lead after a pair of Bulldog errors, but the lead-swapping would only start there. Down 13-11, two more UMW miscues and a Beck termination gave JBU a narrow one-point lead.

After Western tied the match, another two leads changed hands until kills from McKinney and sophomore Kennedy Shelstead finally ended the barn-burner, 3-2 (25-23, 23-25, 22-25, 25-15, 18-16).

McKinney and Pugh each posted monster double-doubles, with McKinney notching 19 easily a match-best 19 kills and 24 digs while Pugh added 16 kills and 12 digs. Junior Beth Branklescooped up a team-best 25 UMW attack attempts.

Both teams hit below .100 percent in the battle of attrition.

Tired but inspired, the final match came down to another five-set brawl. Perhaps showing fatigue early, ERAU jumped out two a 2-0 lead, which was more difficult to overcome as JBU tied the match at 24, only two lose on a pair of errors.

With the third set tied at 19, sophomore Brittany Ayers added a pair of kills, helping the Golden Eagles finish the set on a 6-2 run.

The fourth was littered with 17 ties, but a 30-28 battle was finally won by JBU once ERAU committed a lethal error and sophomore Bethany Maddox served up the frame-clinching ace.

Again tied at two apiece, a quick 4-0 rally helped the Golden Eagles to jump ahead decisively, 8-2. Embry-Riddle continued close and down 11-7, came back to tie the score at 11 after a trio of JBU miscues. John Brown was repaid the favor during the next rally, and more, as the Golden Eagles finally clinched the final set, 15-12, with three of its final four points coming courtesy of ERAU errors.

The final match scores included 16-25, 24-26, 25-21, 30-28, 15-12. Even more impressively, the Golden Eagles recorded 223 points in just 10 sets and two matches.

Although out-hit .183-.158, 34 block-assists, including 10 from Ayers, helped the Golden Eagles remain in contention. McKinney again added a double-double with 16 terminations and 11 digs while Pugh added 13 kills. Brankle and Maddox each served a quartet of aces and Brankle finished with a team-best 20 scoops.

The Golden Eagles will now rest until next Friday (Aug. 26), when it travels to Atchison, Kan. to play in the Benedictine (Kan.) Invitational.


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