JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the first time in 2018, Carson-Newman prepares for a home match as the Eagles start South Atlantic Conference play Friday night at 7 p.m. against Wingate before hosting Coker on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"It's always comfortable being in your home gym and having the crowd on your side," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "Having a big crowd on a Friday night against a high quality opponent, we are looking to feed off of that energy. It's part of the college experience. I know the girls are excited."
The Eagles are 12-14 in conference lidlifters all-time. Overall, C-N is 10-16 in SAC road starters versus 14-11 in their first home conference match. It is the fifth time in the last six years that the unit will open SAC action at home having won each of the last three in straight sets since being toppled by Tusculum in five frames on Sept. 10, 2013.
Friday night is a rematch of a classic outing from the 2017 NCAA Tournament where Wingate overcame a 2-0 deficit to survive against the Eagles as the Bulldogs ran their streak to seven straight wins in the series with a lead of 48-14 overall. C-N has not won on its home floor against Wingate since Sept. 24, 2005, a five set decision, for a 13-match losing streak. Since that time, the Bulldogs have won 32 of the last 33 contests - the lone exception being a five-set win for the Eagles at Cuddy Arena against the No. 7 team in the nation on Nov. 4, 2014.
After failing to win either, regular season or tournament, conference championship in 2017 for the first time since 2005, Wingate earned 10 of the 11 first-place votes in the preseason poll to be the SAC favorite. The Bulldogs advanced to the 2017 Southeast Region Finals winning five-set matches over C-N and Georgia College.
Coach Shelton Collier's team enters play this weekend as one of eight remaining undefeated teams in the country with the ninth-longest active winning streak.
The team leads the nation in opponent hitting percentage yielding a .065 clip so far on the season. Three teams have hit above .100 in 2018 with the highest efficiency tallied by Catawba, .136, in a five-set match on Sept. 11. The block ranks third in the league but has only three efforts greater than eight through 10 outings.
Offensively, Wingate is 14th nationally with a .261 hitting percentage having failed to hit above .200 just twice on the year with a season-low .174 versus Augusta on Sept. 1. Middles Phoebe Havenaar and Anna Holmquist lead the roster with over three kills per set while hitting .333 and .325 respectively.
"They have a couple senior middles who are really good," Franklin assessed. "They are fun to watch. They are well-trained and have worked really hard. You have to try to slow them down. Their players aren't going to stop – you can only hope to contain them.
"They run a fast offense and have always been an offensive juggernaut. Your serving has to be on point and you have to try to slow that animal down. If we are able to do that I like what we have been able to do offensively. I like the progress we have been making."
Saturday will be the 11th all-time face-off against Coker with the Eagles holding an 8-2 margin with both losses coming in 2016. In the eight wins, the Cobras have won a total of two sets being swept six times.
In a pair of sweeps in 2017, Marnie Streeter dominated with 26 kills and just five errors while hitting .313. She has had at least a dozen smashes in her four-career matches against Coker.
Coker won seven of its first eight games of the season before dropping its first two matches of the SAC slate, a five-set defeat at Queens (N.C.) and a sweep against Anderson. The program has not had a winning record on the road in a season since 2006 sporting a 28-117 in road affairs since the start of 2007.
Taylor du Bray is the standout player leading the SAC in points per set, 4.58, thanks to the second-highest kills per set total, 3.86, and third-highest service ace margin, 0.54. She posted 28 kills and a .393 attack percentage against UNC Pembroke on Aug. 25 marking the fifth-highest total in Division II in a four-set match this year.
"She is going to get hers," Franklin stated. "They are going to give her the ball. She has been effective even when people know that she is going to get the ball. I think we have balanced enough attack and our serving is tough enough that I don't think she can beat us."
Both matches this weekend will be broadcast on cneagles.com/live with free video streams available courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network.
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