Franklin’s flock forecasted fourth in SAC preseason poll

Franklin’s flock forecasted fourth in SAC preseason poll

VIDEO: Dave Franklin Interview

ROCK HILL, S.C. – After qualifying for the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships for the third time in the last four seasons in 2017, Carson-Newman was picked to finish fourth in the South Atlantic Conference's preseason poll Tuesday morning.

"The expectation levels rise a little bit because we have a lot coming back," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin iterated. "We have a lot of experience. We keep learning [the system]. I think the expectation level rises. We just want to be the best we can be that way we know that if we reach our best certain things can be accomplished which is probably motivating and it should be. I think towards the end we will be playing our best ball and that's the goal."

In 2017, Franklin's bunch finished the conference regular season fourth before making a run in the
South Atlantic Conference Volleyball Championships. The Eagles ended Anderson's 22-match winning
streak in the semifinals before finishing runner-up to Queens.

A trio of players earned accolades from the SAC led by first-team libero Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.). Outside hitter Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) picked up a nod on the second team and Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) finished up her rookie season with a spot on the All-Freshman roster.

While the club loses three-year starting setter Anna Patton to graduation, almost all of the rest of the team's statistics are back. All but 91 of the team's 1,372 kills return to the fold as the unit is a year older with five starters returning. Of the 10 athletes that saw action in at least 60 sets, nine expect to play big roles during the 2018 campaign.

This season's version of Carson-Newman is looking to do something that has never been done in school history and that is to qualify for the NCAA postseason for a fourth time in a five-year stretch. When the Eagles went to the tournament three times in successive years it was preceded by a five-year drought and followed by three years of being on the outside looking into the field.

"We have had two scrimmages," Franklin reflected. "The first one was a little rough. This past Saturday we made improvements from that and we just keep progression. We always talk about in our gym that we teach them how to move and then we teach them how to see. We have really started getting into the seeing part now. If they start the seeing part of the game and not just move we are going to be ready to go [next] Friday."

Despite seeing its 11-year run as the best team in the SAC, Wingate earned 10 of the 11 first-place votes to be considered the league favorites. The Bulldogs advanced to the Southeast Region Finals winning five-set matches over C-N and Georgia College to get there.

Coach Shelton Collier needs to replace the reigning Player of the Year and All-American Katie Bludau but he returns five all-conference athletes.

The team that dethroned Wingate, Anderson, earned the other first-place vote and edged out Queens by a point for second in the league poll. Todd Hay, the Coach of the Year in 2017, loses three All-SAC honorees but has first-team setter Emily Conlin back to lead the charge.

Queens, who captured the 2017 SAC Tournament over the Eagles, is five points clear of C-N for the third spot on the ledger. Both of its first-team picks from a year ago, Rebecca Cochran and Sydney Kunz, are no longer patrolling the court but Taylor Henry and Casey Tarvin will see increased time.

Starting the group of teams slotted below C-N in the preseason prognostication is Lincoln Memorial edging out Tusculum for fifth. The team leader in kills, Kiera Holland, graduated, but each of the other five triple-digit kill producers remain on the roster.

Tusculum tallied 71 points to slide into the sixth slot. The Pioneers graduated five seniors including star setter Shannon Murphy but the top option on the pin, Cassie Born, and libero Melissa Mazur return.

Mars Hill finished sixth in 2017 just one game out of a tie for fourth in the standings a season ago. Coach Tony Fontanelle placed three players on the conference's honorable mention group but only middle Sally Anne Johnson is back.

SAC Freshman of the Year Taylor Prall leads eighth-place Lenoir-Rhyne into the 2018 season after a 6-14 conference record last year. Coach Dave Markland saw the graduation of Brooke Redmond, who finished her career second on the school's kills list.

At the bottom of the list, Coker, Catawba and Newberry were slotted to finish at the bottom of the table for 2018.

The season for Carson-Newman begins on Aug. 31 with a doubleheader against Belmont Abbey and King beginning at noon from LMU's Mary Mars Gym in Harrogate, Tenn.





Wingate (10)



Anderson (1)









Lincoln Memorial






Mars Hill














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