After a shortened offseason, volleyball returned to campus. The varsity and junior teams have both had successful 2020 seasons, so expectations are high as both teams progress into the 2021 season.
Led by head coach Ken Carver, the varsity team staged one of their most successful campaigns last spring. Despite the loss of many players from the 2019 squad, in addition to facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Brown University finished 11-4 overall, good for its third highest winning percentage (0.733).
The varsity team kicked off their season with a total of eight games in two tournaments. JBU then opened the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) against the Oklahoma University of Science and Arts Drovers and Mid-America Christian Evangels, winning the opener against the Drovers on August 31 before losing the following night on Sept. 1 against the Evangels, ending a 15-game winning streak against Mid-America Christian University.
After that, the Golden Eagles returned to Bill George Arena, winning their home opener in straight sets against Southwestern Christian University on September 7 before losing one the following night to Oklahoma City University (OCU). in four tight sets. Wins over Oklahoma Wesleyan and Brescia and a loss to Park in the Park Classic Tournament last weekend took their overall record to 7-8, 2-2 in conference.
“We have deliberately played a tough non-conference schedule,” said Carver, “in order to expose our team to programs that are at least as good, if not better, than OCU and the other top teams in our conference.”
Much like last season, the Golden Eagles received a lot of help from their freshmen. In her first year, middle hitter Taylor Golmen currently leads the team in blocks (39). Away forward Callie Mullins led the team in kills on their BGA debut against Southwestern Christian (12). Outside hitter Julie Milligan opened the season with three straight double-digit performances.
“We had high hopes and expectations with the group that we brought in and it’s fun to see them rise to the occasion,” Carver said of the freshman class.
Meanwhile, the JV program entered its second season under the guidance of head coach Steve Brankle. After finishing 7-3 last season, Brankle is looking to give his players even more challenges this fall.
“We have predicted much tougher teams this year and I hope that will increase our level of play,” said Brankle.
Most of last season’s team have returned, led by outside hitter Skyler Robbins, setter Haylie McCutchen, center hitter Julia Dinwiddie and center hitter Lauren Kelly, all in sophomores.
“These are all strong players who will be considered for leadership and presence on the pitch,” said Brankle. The JV team lost their first game on Monday, September 13, to Seminole State in straight sets.
The varsity team will return to Bill George Arena on Friday, September 17 to face Wayland Baptist. The winner will take the all-time series lead between the two teams, with the two schools holding 28-28 records against each other. The JV will face Lyon on September 21 before looking into the series of the season against Seminole State.
Photo courtesy of Karen Penner