JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The 2017 volleyball season is 13 days away as the Eagles play three matches at Lincoln Memorial's preseason tournament. The first of a two-part series previewing the position groups features the outside hitters and middle blockers with junior Natalie Harris (Monroe, N.C.).
The middle blocker is one of four upperclassmen on the roster and has played in all but two matches since arriving on campus prior to the 2015 season. There are eight freshman and one transfer on the roster providing a new look for the Orange and Blue.
"We are definitely excited," Harris said. "There are a lot of new faces so they are very determined and excited to get in the gym and be a part of a new team. We have been getting back to the basics with our reps working on our footwork, our approaches and our core movements to help us in those intense moments in the games."
After being named the South Atlantic Conference's Freshman of the Year in 2015, Harris ranked fourth in the league with 1.00 block per set and 108 total blocks as a sophomore. The junior rounded out her game a season ago stuffing the stat sheet with 205 kills, 108 blocks, 57 digs and 29 service aces. The veteran has led the team in blocks in 32 of her 65 matches at Carson-Newman.
"I think being a good example of our core values," Harris stated of her leadership role. "We really stressed that this past spring as we were building this program for all of these new faces to come in. To show the underclassmen the way we want Carson-Newman volleyball to be. This is how we want it to be for years to come and focus on leading by example."
Joining Harris in the middle as a returner is sophomore Alex Biro (Ootlewah, Tenn.). The Volunteer State native was one of three players on the roster to participate in all 117 sets in 2016. She finished third on the club with 208 kills while leading the group with a .238 attack percentage. Biro's best match came on Oct. 14, 2016 in a five-set victory over Augusta when she registered 15 kills on a .565 attack percentage with 4.5 total blocks.
Joining the fray in the middle is one of the eight rookies on the roster entering 2017, Katie Parnell (Atlanta, Ga.). The six-foot-two player racked up a .400 hitting percentage with 457 total kills and 278 blocks in her career and was named to the 4-AAAA All-State team as a senior.
Depth is a key word around camp this season. There are eight different players listed as outside hitters entering the year including three returnees.
"It takes the pressure off," Harris explained about the team's depth. "Injuries are prone to happen during the season. The biggest thing is having that competition in practice every day. You don't think 'there's only two people in my position so I'm going to play'. Every day you have to show up and put your best foot forward in every rep. You have to focus on all of the small details and push yourself to be the best you can be to get that playing time."
Leading the charge on the pins is 2016 SAC All-Freshman team selection Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.). She became the eighth Carson-Newman rookie to earn a spot on the all-freshman squad since its inception prior to the 2005 season. The outside hitter finished the season fifth in the conference in total kills with 345 and seventh in kills per set with 3.03. The 345 total smashes were the most by a C-N freshman since Melissa Miller racked up 367 in 2003. Streeter had 18 double-digit matches in 2016 including a string of 12 consecutive contests to close out the year where she averaged 3.83 kills per frame.
Streeter's bashing mate a year ago, Abbie McFarlane (McKinney, Texas), played in 94 sets over 28 matches as a rookie racking up 241 kills and 132 digs. The sophomore had 10 double-digit kill performances leading the team seven times while recording the second-most double-doubles on the team with four.
Joining the group of veterans is sophomore Kendall Cooley (Castle Rock, Colo.). She saw action in 26 matches playing in 95 sets accumulating 86 kills and 33 digs. Cooley collected 30 kills over the final four matches of the season including a season-high nine kills and six digs against Brevard on Nov. 11, 2016.
Five freshman are looking for playing time to round out the crew. Lindsay De Vore (Denton, Texas) led Denton High School with 4.3 kills per set and was named the district most valuable player to conclude her career.
Erin Edwards (Midlothian, Va.) was her team's most valuable player each year in high school while picking up first-team all-conference honors. Her career numbers were 624 kills, 75 blocks, 174 digs and 141 aces.
2016 New York State Champion Emily Harnischfeger (Macedon, N.Y.) posted 331 kills and 3.06 kills per set as a senior to be named to the Class AA All-Tournament team.
An honorable mention all-state selection in Iowa in 2016, Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) notched 316 kills and 219 digs in 2016.
Columbia, Tenn. native Abbey Wilson won two district titles and makes the shortest trip of any of her positional teammates to the Mossy Creek campus. During her high school career, Wilson piled up 1,274 kills, 190 blocks, 315 aces, 1,229 digs, and 1,807 assists.
The Lincoln Memorial Tournament starts the season for the Eagles against King (Tenn.), Lee and Erskine over a two-day period on the first two days of September. Coming off of Dave Franklin's first season, the unit is focused on a different start in 2017.
"I think that it's going to come down to not letting our game be influenced by 100 fans or two," Harris discussed. "We have to come out of the gates blazing and show that we aren't going to repeat what happened last year. We have a new team and a new goal that we want to be able to dominate in our conference."
The position previews conclude Sunday afternoon with a look at the setters and liberos as senior Anna Patton (Franklin, Tenn.) analyzes each group with 12 days prior to the start of the season.
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