Golden Eagles Fall to Rams in Five

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FT. WORTH, Texas -- The John Brown volleyball team (17-12, 7-5 SAC) fell in its highest-scoring frame of the year and eventually dropped a five-set thriller (23-25, 25-20, 31-33, 25-15, 11-15) at Texas Wesleyan (20-9, 9-3 SAC) on Tuesday (Oct. 24) night at the Sid Richardson Center.

With the loss, the Rams took sole possession of third place overall in the Sooner Athletic Conference standings, forcing the Golden Eagles to battle for a fourth-place seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

Audrey Dearien launched a 16-kill, 14-dig double-double while senior Melissa Bakke also captured a double-double with 11 kills and 24 digs, a team-high. Senior Libby Blasingame added 13 kills of her own while junior Molli Pugh terminated 12 and threw up a match-high nine block-assists.

John Brown won the previous matchup between the two programs, 3-1, in Siloam Springs.

“While I would have loved to come away with two conference wins on this trip our team worked really hard and battled against two evenly-matched opponents,” said head coach Ken Carver. “I was really pleased with our defensive effort in both matches. Our front block was working really hard and touching a lot of balls and scoring more points than normal as well. That allowed us to have a bit lower offensive output and win one match and be within striking distance of winning the second match as well.

“The match against TWU came down to which team was going to make the last, most crucial run in every set but the fourth one. It's tough when our team is ahead in almost every stat category but lose the match on the scoreboard. Matches against TWU are very competitive as evidenced by the number of 5-set matches we've played over the course of the last two seasons. I like how we're playing defensively right now. If we can get back to our offensive output we've had through most of the season then I like your chances to finish off the regular conference season on a strong note."

The first game set the tone, and that tone was intensity. The Rams found a little breathing room with a 4-0 run capped by a Starnisha Bodie service ace for an 8-4 lead. The Golden Eagles chipped away at the lead and tied the set at 10-10 before grabbing a 6-0 rally to make it 14-10 capped by a Molli Pugh, Audrey Dearien block. Wesleyan turned that score around and tied it again at 16-16 and the two teams went back and forth with the lead. TWU made it a 22-19 advantage after a 4-1 run highlighted by an Abby Zipoy kill, and that was enough to take game one by a score of 25-23.

The Rams started the second set with a strong 4-1 lead capped by a Shelby Stinnett kill, but that lead quickly diminished and the teams went back to trading the lead. A kill by Dearien made it a 12-8 Golden Eagle lead that gave John Brown enough momentum until an Alanna Hayhurst smash cut the lead to 20-19. JBU held on despite some attacking errors, and Libby Blasingame tied the match with a set winning kill.

The third set turned out to be one of the most incredible sets played at the Sid Richardson Center. The Rams bounced out to a 5-0 lead due to a few John Brown mishaps, but the Golden Eagles rebounded and quickly took an 8-7 lead on a Bethany Maddox ace. That spurred an 8-3 Golden Eagle run to extend the lead to 16-9. The Rams fought back with a 7-0 rally capped by a Zipoy kill to regain a 19-17 advantage. The lead did not last as neither team was going to give up the all-important third set. A Melissa Bakke kill gave JBU a 20-19 lead, but a 5-2 Ram run capped by a Hayhurst kill tilted the game back in favor of the Lady Rams at 24-22. The Golden Eagles responded and took a 25-24 lead, but again a Zipoy kill tied the set at 26 all. Hayhurst made it set point with an ace in the next play, but a Blasingame kill evened things up again at 27-27. The set was tied four more time from there as a Pugh kill tied the set at 31-31 before Bodie threw down a kill for set point and a Golden Eagle error gave the Rams a 33-31 game three win.

Emotions ran high as these two evenly matched teams went back on the court for a fourth set. It was deadlocked early until an Alyssa Arnold ace put the Eagles up 9-5. John Brown kept the pressure on from there catching Wesleyan off-guard with a 12-4 run to take the fourth, 25-15.

John Brown seemed poised with growing momentum, taking a 3-0 lead into the fifth set. The Golden Eagles led 5-3 before a 4-0 rally by Wesleyan capped by a Zipoy kill turned things around to lead 7-5. Kristina Gafford timed a kill perfectly to catch the defense napping to keep the Lady Rams in front 13-8. The Golden Eagles cut the lead to 13-10, but Texas Wesleyan powered home the dagger with a match winning kill from Stinnett to take the fifth set, 15-11.

Zipoy led the attack and notched her seventh consecutive double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs. Gafford posted a 46 assists and 18 dig double-double. Stinnett had a huge 15 kill 27 dig double-double night. Shaughnessy Hearn kept the ball alive with 33 digs in the win. Bodie added eight kills and seven blocks for the Rams.

The Golden Eagles return to action on Thursday (Oct. 29) when it travels to Bethany, Okla., to face Southwestern Christian (Okla.) at 7:30 p.m.

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