For the first time since 2005, a pair of John Brown University volleyball student-athletes were named to the All-America honorable mention list as sophomores Jillian Blackman and Lauren Cloud were selected, the NAIA national office announced on Tuesday morning.
This is the first instance of multiple volleyball student-athletes to earn national recognition since Juliana Todescan and Christine Wells made the honorable mention list in 2005.
"Both Jillian and Lauren were significant contributors to our team's success this past season," said head coach Ken Carver. "Jillian had a phenomenal year, scooping up more digs in half as many sets as she did in her freshman campaign. With a full season, Jillian probably could have made a run at the individual season record in total digs. Lauren had an equally impressive sophomore campaign and did a great job in creating opportunistic scoring situations for our young corps of attackers this season.
"Quite often, setters who are a part of a 6-2 offensive system get overlooked by the 5-1 setters who are getting twice as many assists when awards are handed out. I'm thrilled the All-America committee saw the merit and body of work of both Jillian and Lauren and selected them as well-deserving members. It's exciting to know both of these players are returning and still have more potential to grow and develop through the remainder of their respective playing careers."
The duo of Blackman and Cloud also collected All-Sooner Athletic and AVCA South Central first team honors this season after helping the Golden Eagles to an 11-4 season.
Blackman led the Golden Eagles and the conference with 5.82 digs per set – reaching double-figure digs in all 15 matches this season. She surpassed 20 digs on 11 occasions, including a career-best 36 in a win at Oklahoma Panhandle State on March 12. Blackman was also second on the team with 26 service aces, recording at least one ace in 11 of 15 contests. She had a career-best seven in a sweep of Science & Arts (Okla.) on Feb. 26, and was named the Sooner Athletic Defensive Player of the Week three times this season.
Meanwhile, Cloud facilitated a young John Brown offense that finished the season hitting .216, while averaging 6.00 assists per set in a two-setter system. Despite playing just over half of the total sets in comparison to the 2019 season, Cloud dished out 336 total helpers – 108 more than a year ago, adding an extra 3.83 assists per set on average to her freshman campaign output. She also led John Brown with 31 aces in 56 sets – an average of 0.55 aces per set, an effort that placed her at No. 13 nationwide.
Sophomore Ellie Lampton also earned honoroable mention recognition from the AVCA.
Lampton, a Siloam Springs native, led the Golden Eagle outside attack to the tune of 158 kills. Averaging 3.04 terminations per set and a .257 attack efficiency – blowing away her freshman season averages. She also paced the team with 416 total attacks as the squad leaned on Lampton to shoulder the largest portion of the offensive opportunities. Lampton finished the season with three straight 15-kill contests and posted a career-high 21 terminations in a five-set victory at Oklahoma Panhandle State.
Cloud, Blackman and Lampton make their first appearance on the AVCA regional teams.
"I am thrilled for and proud of Jillian, Lauren and Ellie being recognized even further for their outstanding contributions on the court during the course of our season," noted head coach Ken Carver. "Each player was a leader on our team at their respective position.
"It's exciting to know that while all three of these young ladies had outstanding sophomore seasons and showed tremendous amount of growth and progress, there's even more that they, as well as their teammates, are capable of moving forward. While our opposing conference coaches may not be looking forward to having to deal with our talented youth moving forward, I can't wait to see how much better these three, and the rest of our team, will look come this fall. Until then, much deserved congratulations are definitely in order for these three and their respective on-court performances this season."