JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The final portion of the 2017 Carson-Newman volleyball position previews shines the spotlight on the setters and liberos with senior setter Anna Patton (Franklin, Tenn.).
One of two seniors on the roster, Patton is the most experienced player on the team having seen time in 257 sets over the last three seasons.
"It's weird coming back and knowing that I'm a senior," Patton said. "I felt the change when I came back. I felt more pressure to be a leader and lead the underclassmen. I think I'm ready because of the position and the role that I have played the last couple years. I feel like it's been able to prepare for the position that I'm in today."
The floor general ranks fifth on the school's all-time list for assists with 2,325 in her career and led the team with 14 double-doubles to bring her career total to 30. She finished fifth in the SAC with 0.34 aces per set and eighth in total assists with 845 and assists per set with 8.20.
Patton is joined by fellow senior Morgan Harlan (Ladera Ranch, Calif.) who saw action in nine matches as a junior. She Registered her first career double-double at Coker on Sept. 23 with a career-high 53 assists and 11 digs.
Rounding out the group of setters are a pair or rookies in redshirt-freshman Elena Vazquez (Riverside, Calif.) and Madison Rademacher (Broomfield, Colo.). Vazquez missed the entire 2016 while being on Carson-Newman's campus with a leg injury but spent time on the court during spring practice.
Rademacher set the school record for assists in a season piling up 847 to lead the Colorado Front Range Conference in 2016. Overall she averaged 13.4 assists, 7.6 digs, 4.1 service aces and 2.3 blocks per set.
"As far as practice goes, we are able to get a lot more reps in because there are so many more setters," Patton dissected. "We are able to a more realistic, game-like setting in practice. All of the freshman, underclassmen and everyone on the team is really talented so it helps push the upperclassmen. It helps everyone be competitive in a healthy way."
The biggest hole left on the roster is the graduation of four-year starter and 2017 honorable mention All-South Atlantic Conference pick Taylor Lowe. She was the first libero for C-N to be placed on an all-conference squad since the program's leader in digs, Blaire Young, was a first-team pick in 2005. The Franklin, Tenn. native closed out her career with a total of 2,261 digs to finish second behind Young's 2,550 mark from 2002-05. With 708 scoops in 2016, Lowe accumulated the fourth-most in a single season in school history.
"It's going to be tough," Patton stated. "We are going to have to form a connection and a good relationship and trust in the back row with the liberos and setters. Taylor was there for a long time and she was able to help us out. I think we are already clicking pretty well and it's been the very early stages of preseason."
The lone returner to the group is junior Hannah Robertson (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.). She was one of four players to see time in all 30 matches in 2016 playing in 117 sets racking up seven double-digit dig matches to rank fourth on the roster with 224 scoops in 2016.
Wofford transfer Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) joined the roster in the spring of 2016 after spending her rookie campaign with the Terriers. She played in 31 of the team's 32 matches racking up 91 total sets played posting 1.16 digs per set as a rookie, 106 overall and eight service aces.
Annabel Fernandez (Miami, Fla.) completes the backline after being named the Southwest Miami Senior most valuable player and All-Dade county for four straight seasons from 2013-16
With a roster that features 14 underclassmen and 10 different states, Patton is trying to unify the roster and close out her career on a high note.
"We want to be at the top of the conference," Patton discussed. "We want to redeem ourselves from the blow that we took last year. It was a struggle but I think in the end it helped us become more persistent – that's a big word that coach has talked about. It's helped us build character and build tougher skin. The returners will have that and we will be able to make it further in the season. Hopefully top four in the conference – that's what we are shooting for."
First serve for 2017 is slated for 12:30 p.m. on September 1 at Lincoln Memorial when the Eagles face King (Tenn.) in the first of three matches over a 24-hour period. Stay tuned to cneagles.com and @CarsonNewmanVB for updates regarding the program in the coming weeks.
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