Over 460 days since the JBU volleyball team last took the court, going into Monday night’s season-opening contest against Mid-America Christian, JBU volleyball head coach Ken Carver knew his team was ready to go.
“I’m really proud of the patience, flexibility and resilience our players have shown during this time we’ve been unable to compete,” Carver said. “They have diligently prepared and focused on getting better with each training opportunity they had. I feel we are about as ready as we can be.”
The JBU Golden Eagles proved that they were up for the task on Monday night as they defeated the MACU Evangels, a team that had previously played 16 matches this season. After dropping the first set, the Golden Eagles bounced back and won three straight to extend their winning streak against MACU to 15 matches. Despite a big performance from Hanna Foecker, who had a match-best 23 kills for the Evangels, the Golden Eagles took the win behind big performances from Emily Essick (13 kills), Ellie Lampton (11 kills, 4 blocks), Micah Fouts (11 kills, 3 blocks) and Lauren Cloud (6 aces).
With the win, the Golden Eagles advanced to 1-0 on the season, while the MACU Evangels dropped to 9-8 and 0-1 in Sooner Athletic Conference play (MACU played seven games against SAC teams in the fall, but those games did not count towards their conference record).
The Golden Eagles saw a good mix of youth and experienced talent getting involved on Monday night, but it was primarily the younger players like Essick and Fouts, both freshmen, who helped lead the charge.
Carver also noted the impact the younger players have made after losing a lot of experience from last season’s team, saying that “We graduated a lot of playing experience from our team from last year. While we didn’t get the opportunity to play this past fall, the additional practice time our freshmen players were able to get, coupled with the work our underclassmen did, has allowed our team to become a stronger unit heading into our spring competitive season.”
Another key component that has helped build depth and boost the development of the younger Golden Eagles has been the re-launch of the JV volleyball team, as the team will take the court for the first time in decades, led by Steve Brankle.
Brankle said that “Being a new team, we took last semester to develop our chemistry and to learn our system. The team is very close and they play with passion. All of them will play every match.”
Brankle also spoke very highly of numerous players on the JV team, adding that Brittney Ware, Haylie McCutchen, Lauren Kelly, Julia Dinwiddie and Skyler Robbins are all players who “could be playing varsity at other schools.”
Despite the win, numerous tough tests still await a JBU team that has been one of the SAC’s best under Carver’s watch. The varsity team now has a three-match road trip ahead of them, taking on Science and Arts on Friday, Lyon on Saturday and Oklahoma City on Wednesday, March 3. The JV team will play a ten-match schedule, including four matches at Bill George Arena.