JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With the start of the 2018 volleyball season less than two months away, Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin unveiled a slate for his third season at the helm that features just 10 home matches out of a 27-game docket.
Each of the first nine contests of the season are away from Mossy Creek as C-N does not get its first home match until mid-September. Overall 12 of the first 14 outings require travel for the unit.
The season gets underway on Aug. 31 with the first day of the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolinas Crossover in Harrogate. The Eagles take on Belmont Abbey and King at noon and 2 p.m., teams that finished second and third in the North Division standings a year ago. The weekend wraps up with Emmanuel on Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. The Lions won the South Division by two games with a 13-2 conference record but was not eligible for conference tournament as it completes its transition to Division II.
"It's not going to affect us too much," Franklin assessed. "We are bringing back a lot of experience from last year. They have been on the road. It's pretty similar to last year's schedule going on the road early. I think it's just a matter – if you look at the schedule – of playing regional opponents the first two weekends.
In Division II, those regional matches are count towards rankings at the end of the year if you are trying to make the NCAA Tournament. To do that we have to get out on the road this year. Hopefully our kids understand it's the same game in different gyms. We come back to Holt and hopefully we get comfortable."
The second weekend of the season takes place over a three-day period at the Eagles take on USC Aiken on its home court on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. It is the first match of eight against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
At 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, C-N takes on Lander in Aiken, S.C. before making the 35-minute trip to Augusta, Ga. to play Conference Carolina Tournament Champion Barton at 4:30 p.m.
Play concludes in the SAC/Peach Belt Challenge on Saturday with a 2 p.m. first serve against Augusta, a team that the Eagles have beaten in five sets each of the last two years.
"They are huge," Franklin responded. "You're trying to get your season off to a good start and get your confidence rolling. The one thing that we want to make sure with our players is that they understand no matter what happens it's not the end of the season. It can simply help with the rankings towards the end. We want to make sure that they understand it's important but that the season isn't won or lost in the first two weeks."
Conference play lights up on Sept. 14 with the traditional Friday and Saturday schedule with a 7 p.m. match at Newberry. The reigning conference regular season champions Anderson awaits on Saturday at 1 p.m.
After over two months of practice and games, Carson-Newman gets its home opener on Sept. 21 in a rematch of last year's epic five-set opening round match of the Southeast Regional against Wingate. The Bulldogs bounced the Eagles from the NCAA Tournament.
"I think it's awesome," Franklin said of the start of home play. "We are going to get a big crowd out here. For our girls, they are going to be really excited to play in our own gym. It will be against a team that they respect that has set the bar. We want to gauge ourselves and find out where we are at in the conference and maybe even make a statement ourselves."
Following a home meeting with Coker, the Eagles take to the road to face Catawba, Queens and Tusculum. The Royals toppled C-N in the SAC Tournament title game at Holt Fieldhouse in 2017 as the two clubs tangle for the first time in 2018 on Sept. 29.
Eight of the next 11 games to close out October will be played inside of the friendly confines of Mossy Creek including a four-match stretch in a seven-day period against Tusculum, Catawba, Queens and Lincoln Memorial from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30.
"Any time that you get to stay at home that much and get comfortable and they have to come into your home gym, I'm looking at it as let's see where we are at when we get to it," Franklin said. "Let's see what its importance is when we get to it. Maybe we have to make a run or maybe we can do this to separate. It is definitely a spot where we can make up ground or push ourselves away from the field."
The regular season comes to a close with road matches at Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill on Nov. 2-3. The SAC Championships quarterfinal match at campus sites will be played on Nov. 6 before the final two rounds will be played on Nov. 9-10 on Coker's campus in Hartsville, S.C.
Every home meeting in 2018 will be featured on a video stream on cneagles.com/live starting 15 minutes before first serve on The Eagle Sports Network. Coverage all year long will be featured on Twitter on @CNathletics and @CarsonNewmanVB.
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