GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Despite a rowdy Tusculum crowd, Carson-Newman's young unit was unfazed by Pioneer Arena's boisterous fans as the Eagles captured a four-set win over the Pioneers 25-21, 25-22 and 22-25 and 25-20 Friday night to open South Atlantic Conference play.
"Walk out with a victory in a rivals gym on a night with a raucous crowd," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin stated. "With a young team, you're not sure how they are going to react to it. Man, that was fun to watch. They were able to battle through. Some players didn't have their A-game and certain skills but they didn't affect others. That kept us around being able to make plays."
After Tusculum (2-2, 0-1) swept the season series in 2016, Carson-Newman (3-1, 1-0) wins the first affair of 2017 and has now won five of the last seven between the two programs.
The Eagles had lost eight of their last 10 road openers in SAC play and are now 12-14 as a program in conference cork poppers.
Sophomore Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) paced the visiting group with 20 kills, her third career match with at least 20 kills, on a .259 attack percentage.
Freshman Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) tallied her first career double-double with 11 kills and 14 digs.
In the opening stanza, Tusculum made eight attack errors and hit minus-.032. The home unit held the early advantage stretching the lead to 11-8. Carson-Newman fought back with a 6-2 counter attack. While the Pioneers tied the score 15, Franklin's team won eight of the next 10 to go ahead 23-17. Alex Biro (Ootlewah, Tenn.) put a stop to TC's comeback bid by pummeling a set from Anna Patton (Franklin, Tenn.)
The second set belonged to pins of the Eagles. Oldenburger and Streeter combined for 11 kills and just three miscues. A 7-2 start capped by a smash from Natalie Harris (Monroe, N.C.) started the Eagles on the right foot. The Pioneers flipped the script and tied the score at 12. The two clubs traded haymakers and with the scored tied at 21, C-N ripped off four of the next five as an Oldenburger hammer gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
The momentum carried to the early portions of the third frame as the lead expanded to 8-5 for the Orange and Blue. Tusculum responded with eight of the next 11 points to gain a lead it would not relinquish.
"The thing was [Tusculum] started to play better," Franklin explained. "I didn't think that we started playing poorly. Their outsides started to step up and make some really big time swings. It was impressive. We just told our kids to stay the course and keep doing what we do."
The Eagles ripped the cover off of the ball in the fourth set to the tune of a .407 hitting percentage making just one attack error while picking up five rejections. Tusculum's lead 18-14 out of a timeout from Franklin. After Oldenburger picked up a kill, the first-year pin rattled off eight straight points thanks to a trio of blocks from Biro and Kendall Cooley (Castle Rock, Colo.). Match point for C-N was sealed with a block from Cooley and Harris.
Cassie Born led the Pioneers with 14 kills but made 10 attack errors and Mariah Lewis chipped in 10. Shannon Murphy picked up a double-double with 40 assists and 10 digs. Melissa Mazur led the backline with 27 digs.
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