JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Looking to ride the wave from last weekend, Carson-Newman takes it up a notch this weekend in the Augusta/USC Aiken Invitational playing four matches in a three-day period.
Action gets rolling on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at USC Aiken (5-1). On Friday, the Eagles start the morning with a match against Lander (6-1) at 10 a.m. Carson-Newman (3-0) hops on the bus to make the short drive to Augusta, Ga. to face Barton (1-7) at 4:30 p.m. The weekend closes out on Saturday against Augusta (6-1) at 2 p.m.
"We were given the opportunity to play Thursday night instead of playing two Friday and two Saturday," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "I thought that was more advantageous for us – just more rest. Trying to play back-to-back matches can weigh on you. This will give our starters a chance to refresh and come back in the next matches. It's going to take a team effort. We aren't going to be able to play just our starters in four matches over three days and expect to win."
With a 28-13 overall record against the four teams the Eagles play during this weekend's challenge, the Eagles look to continue one of their best starts in school history. For the first time since the 2014 season, Carson-Newman is off to a 3-0 start to the season and is looking for a 4-0 beginning for the first time since the 2010 group opened the year 5-0. The only time that the program started better than 5-0 came at the start of the 2007 campaign when the Eagles won 13 straight out of the gates.
"From my standpoint, it just shows us where we are at right now," Franklin iterated. "The idea is whatever we are doing we are trying to be the best we can become. In week two you aren't going to be the best team you are going to be. Can we handle the emotions of it has an effect on our season? We have to keep plugging along to become better and to use these situations to learn and to see where we are at under the lights."
Franklin's group will look to turn the tide in Aiken as the school is 0-5 all-time on the road against the Pacers. C-N has lost the last three meetings since sweeping the third-seeded group in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 20, 2014 at Wingate's Cuddy Arena.
USC Aiken enters play having won four straight matches since dropping a straight set decision to Barry on the second day of the regular season. The Pacers are 65-8 at home since the beginning of the 2014 season.
Junior middle blocker Christine Carroll has tallied double-digit kills in each of the first six matches to lead the way with a 4.67 kills per set tally and a .428 attack percentage. She is adding 1.11 blocks per set with nine solo rejections.
The Eagles are 10-3 against Lander including a sweep of the Bearcats on their home floor in 2017 stretching the string to four wins in their last five tries in the matchup. It will be the second neutral meeting as Lander won in five sets on Sept. 6, 2008 in Gaffney, S.C.
Winners of five consecutive outings, Lander is 5-1 in neutral matches on the year with its lone loss coming to Barry on Aiken's floor on Aug. 25. Since the beginning of the 2013 slate, the Bearcats are 43-10 on neutral floors.
Rookie outside hitter Kaitlyn Krafka has been the top offensive option posting 3.73 kills per set on the year with five double-digit kill efforts. Sophomore Hannah Hritz is not far behind with a .345 attack percentage and 3.05 kills per game.
All five meetings with Barton have come on neutral courts as C-N has won all but one set. Friday's match will be the first time the two clubs square off since Oct. 30, 2010 when the Eagles swept the Bulldogs in Spartanburg.
Barton, the 2017 Conference Carolinas Champions, won 20 of its final 22 matches last year but has won just one match in eight tries this year. The Bulldogs opened the year in Alaska before losing to Queens and Anderson last weekend.
As a unit, its attack percentage on the season is .086 having hit above .100 just three times this year and not better than a .160 clip in the lone win on Aug. 31 against Georgia College. Kaytlin Elkins is tallying 4.76 kills per set on the year while none of her teammates are posting better than a 1.83 margin.
Having won nine of the last 10 meetings and nine of 12 overall, C-N and Augusta meet for the 13th time. The Eagles are 2-1 in Augusta with the blemish coming in their last trip, a 3-0 setback on Sept. 13, 2014.
Augusta is off to a 6-1 start to the season with a sweep of the 2017 SAC Champions, Anderson, on its ledger. The lone loss for the Jaguars came in a four-set defeat to Wingate on Saturday.
Offensively, the group has put together a .246 hitting percentage but was held to a .049 clip against Wingate. Defensively, Augusta has been stingy yielding a .056 margin as only two teams have hit above .100 in 2018.
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