Golden Eagles Earn Victory Over No. 17 Kansas Wesleyan, 3-1 Record on Texas Roadtrip


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GRAHAM, Texas (August 25, 2012) - In stark contrast to last season’s 1-3 start, the 2012 version of the John Brown University volleyball squad has begun the season strong, posting a 3-1 record after a difficult tournament that was hosted by Texas Wesleyan University this past weekend.

Last season, the Golden Eagles campaign began at a tournament hosted by Sooner Athletic Conference foe Oklahoma Baptist. JBU ended up finishing 1-3 at the invitational.

Expectations for this year’s squad has improved, however, as head coach Stacie Johnson had a plan for success as the team traveled to the Lone Star state.

“This tournament allowed us to figure out our lineups,” added Johnson, “but, more importantly, it allows us to find where the chemistry is. When you play against teams that you’ve never seen before, making changes on-the-fly and communication are critical.

“I believe these facets allowed us to be successful.”

The first game pitted the Golden Eagles against the tournament host, Texas Wesleyan. John Brown began the tournament strong, posting a 3-1 victory over the Rams. In the first game, JBU had to stretch out a 27-25 win before falling in the second set, 25-22. However, the Golden Eagles rallied, posting 25-20 and 26-24 wins to close out the match.

Erin Didier had an impressive 18 kills on the match, posting a .381 hitting percentage. On the defensive side, Staci Williamson notched 15 digs in addition to her seven kills.

“We made some changes very quickly in the this match and they turned out to be the right ones,” Johnson said. “Texas Wesleyan is a strong program but we constantly attacked them, throwing them back on their heels.”

Later on Friday, the Golden Eagles found themselves paired against St. Thomas (Texas) in the afternoon match. The JBU hitting was too overwhelming for the Celts as John Brown moved to 2-0 with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-20) victory.

John Brown simply repeated the success it found against Texas Wesleyan as Texas-native Audrey Dearien posted a match-high 12 kills in addition to Dider’s seven, which gave the senior 25 kills on Friday.

JBU was met Saturday morning with a daunting task as No. 17 Kansas Wesleyan awaited the Golden Eagles. Last season, KWU knocked out of the NAIA tournament the Sooner Athletic Conference champion, Oklahoma Baptist.

John Brown didn’t back down from the matchup for a moment, as the unranked Golden Eagles upset the Coyotes, 3-2 (22-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-16, 15-11). Despite finding themselves down 2-1 entering game four, the ladies rallied, notching an impressive nine-point advantage in the fourth game before completing the upset in game five.

Didier again facilitated the JBU offense, communicating and connecting well with her setters. In addition to posting a game-high 21 kills, she finished with 7 digs and two block assists. The Golden Eagle blocking was stifling as the Coyotes only managed a .152 hitting percentage, compared to JBU’s .301 percent.

With an opportunity to run the tournament a perfect 4-0, JBU’s last task Saturday afternoon was Wiley (Texas) College. The Wildcats entered the game 1-2 which included a 3-1 loss to Kansas Wesleyan. Unfortunately, John Brown fell 3-1 in its final game prior to returning home.

The Didier - Dearien was strong again in the loss as they posted 20 and 22 kills, respectively. However, the Wiley offense was very powerful and hit .383 percent against the Golden Eagle defense.

In game one, Libby Blasingame was unable to enter the game because of an excessive nosebleed, something that Johnson believed changed the dynamics of the game.

“The ladies, at this point, have a rhythm and chemistry going. We faced some adversity in that Libby was unable to play in the first set and that threw off our momentum.

“I’m glad we were able to gauge the character of our team with this match. We finally found ourselves in the third set, winning 25-14, but by then it was too late.”

Returning to Siloam Springs with a 3-1 record is a proud accomplishment for the volleyball squad, but not too far ahead lies another difficult tournament hosted by College of the Ozarks (Mo.) next weekend which includes the likes of Evangel (Mo.), Central Methodist (Mo.), College of the Ozarks (Mo.) and Ottawa (Kan.).

Unwilling to find satisfaction with a .750 win percentage, Johnson’s vision includes a higher purpose for the Golden Eagles, especially at this time of year.

“Right now, we’re trying to find our legs and our chemistry. But, more importantly, when we travel on these road trips and play schools we’ve never played before, we have a unique opportunity to represent our institution with class and our faith with grace.

“Of course, we want to win and be positive ambassadors of JBU. So far, these ladies are doing both.”

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