JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Fourth-seeded Carson-Newman seeks its first trip the South Atlantic Conference title match since 2009 when it squares off against top-seeded Anderson (S.C.) Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. inside of Holt Fieldhouse.
"We did not show the propensity to be the home team for a long time," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "We were under .500 for a while. It looks like we have gotten comfortable in the friendly confines of Holt Fieldhouse so I think it's going to be huge. Any time you don't have travel and they are in their routine it's an advantage."
Carson-Newman (16-13) has lost two straight semifinal matches and is 4-10 since the league went to a single elimination tournament in 1999.
Anderson (27-3) holds a 12-11 overall advantage in the series having won four straight contests between the schools. It is the third time that the Eagles and Trojans clash in the SAC Tournament with each team holding a victory.
Carson-Newman won the last meeting on Nov. 20, 2015 when the Eagles fought off five match points in the fourth set to win 31-29 before taking the fifth set 15-13 on Anderson's home floor. Anna Patton finished with a career-high 61 assists becoming the first Carson-Newman player with at least 60 assists since Kari Gibson had 62 at Lincoln Memorial on October 17, 2006. She also had 14 digs and a career-high 5.5 total blocks.
Anderson was led by Marissa Mitter's 29 kills on a .288 attack percentage coupled with 15 digs. The 29 kills tied former Carson-Newman player Carly Mozgai's SAC Tournament record for kills in a match. The total is good for the eighth-highest total in a SAC contest of any kind.
The other meeting came in the SAC semifinals when the Trojans won 17-15 in the fifth set in Hickory, N.C. on Nov. 15, 2014. Rachel Harper finished with a season-high 18 kills and a career-high 29 digs. Kristen Pickett had 52 assists and 15 digs while Jenna Wilson had 19 kills and three total blocks. Shannon Gillespie recorded a game-high 22 kills on a .233 attack percentage to go along with 27 digs to lead the way for Anderson.
In two outings this season, the Trojans needed four sets at Holt Fieldhouse on Sept. 29 before sweeping the Eagles on Nov. 3. Mitter, a first-team All-SAC pick, racked up 32 kills and 23 digs over the two matches hitting .313.
Emily Conlin, a first-team All-SAC selection, handed out 42 assists in each match recording a double-double at Mossy Creek with 12 digs.
For the Eagles, Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) was the top offensive option in each contest with a total of 28 kills. Emily Harnischfeger (Macedon, N.Y.) was the only C-N player to crest double figures in either effort with 10 on Sept. 29.
Anderson became the first program other than Wingate to win an outright regular-season league championship since Presbyterian in 2005 winning by one game over the Bulldogs. Since joining the SAC in 2010, it is the first title for the Trojans in volleyball in either the regular season or tournament.
The Trojans have won 22 straight matches marking the third-longest active streak in the country behind Arkansas Tech (32), California Baptist (26) and Wheeling Jesuit (20). Wingate was the last program to earn a win over Anderson sweeping a match on Sept. 15 in Cuddy Arena during a stretch when the Trojans lost three of four.
"If we continue to play the way that we have offensively for the last week I think it's going to be a good war," Franklin said. "[Anderson] makes a run in every set. If we are able to side out because we are playing really good offensively it's going to be a good war."
Coach Todd Hay was named the conference's coach of the year with four all-league picks including three on the top unit.
Opponents are posting a .107 attack percentage on the year, No. 1 in the league and seventh in Division II. On the year, 15 teams have failed to crest .100 in a match with four schools posting margins below zero.
The program is second in the SAC, 17th in D2, with 14.09 kills per set and second in the league with a .248 hitting percentage. The final member of the league's top unit, Rachel Burts, ranks 13th nationally and second in the country in attack percentage with a .387 margin.
The game will be broadcast on cneagles.com/live with a high definition video stream on the Eagle Sports Network beginning 15 minutes before first serve. Fans can follow along with the numbers on cneagles.com/livestats.
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