Efficient attack punches volleyball’s ticket to Plainview

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- Needing a 10-game swing to finish the regular season, including five-consecutive victories and some luck, the fourth-seeded John Brown University volleyball team not only did just that, but made it six matches in a row with a commanding sweep (25-14, 25-20, 25-16) over fifth-seeded St. Gregory's (Okla.) on Tuesday (Nov. 8) evening inside Bill George Arena in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals.

Towards the end of its regular-season ending five-match run, the Golden Eagles (21-11) picked up a huge 3-1 win at St. Gregory's tipping the favor of earning a home quarterfinal date with the same Cavaliers, prompting a third round between the squads.

"I was really pleased with our team's focus and purposefulness in how we played tonight," head coach Ken Carver admitted. "It's difficult to play the same opponent two out of your last three matches, especially SGU whom we split respective 3-1 results with and had sets generally decided by five points or less. To win two of our three sets tonight by 11 and 9 points illustrated our team's execution and ability to put pressure on SGU.

"I'm really proud of our players' ability to focus right now in this stretch run of the regular season and into the postseason. We're carrying a lot of momentum with us, so we'll see how things go on Friday. I was happy to get Molli (Pugh) a final home win as a senior player and to see her play such a complete game and lead our team on the court tonight."

The result was the most lopsided outcome in the three-match battle, with JBU posting a blistering .300 attack percentage (40-10-100) on the evening, while limiting the Cavaliers (19-16) to a tepid .085 percent mark (31-22-106).

Freshman Carly McKinney, freshman Megan Beck and senior Molli Pugh shouldered the majority of the success for JBU, as the trio combined for 27 kills and just three attack errors (.385 percent) while adding six block-assists. Pugh and McKinney each notched a double-double as Pugh terminated 10 and dug 14 balls while McKinney also featured 10 kills and 12 scoops in the victory.

Beck added seven kills and a pair of block-assists.

The Golden Eagles enjoyed 31 assists on 40 kills as junior Alyssa Arnold passed out 16 helpers and freshman Elizabeth Williams added 14 more of her own. St. Gregory's managed just a pair of service aces and committed eight service errors contributing to the John Brown counterattack.

"Our serve and pass game was on point and we were able to keep SGU out of system most of the match," Carver added, "and then we played really good defense and scored a lot of points with first ball kills in our transition game. Alyssa (Arnold) and Elizabeth (Williams) did a really good job of distributing the ball tonight and our attackers were very efficient and smart with the shots they were taking.

"We had another really good blocking game as well which marks three straight matches where we've blocked really well. We will definitely need to continue this defensive output at the net and back row as we will face a very dynamic offense in OCU in our semi-final match on Friday."

With the victory, the Golden Eagles advance to Plainview, Texas, where host Wayland Baptist (Texas) will host the final four on Friday (Nov. 11) evening and Saturday (Nov. 12) morning.

JBU will take on No. 12 and top-seeded Oklahoma City in the first semifinal match, set to start at 4:30 p.m. The Stars have already defeated John Brown twice this season, by a 6-1 set margin.

The Cavaliers' Ashlyn Broussard was held in check with just eight kills, while teammate Gabby Ware added nine terminations in the sixth-consecutive loss for SGU. Sarah Ahrens passed out 20 assists while Ware notched the double-double, adding a team-best 12 assists.

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