JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Morgan Ballard crossed the four-digit dig threshold in the third set as Carson-Newman survived a surge from Coker to take home its first South Atlantic Conference contest of the year 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 20-25 and 15-8 Saturday afternoon at Holt Fieldhouse.
"We were trying to show our kids that we have to stop worrying about who they are playing," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin stated. "Our numbers statistically were fine. We were meeting our standards but in sets three and four [Coker] really stepped up. They had 32 kills between the two sets They were doing good things. We have to address some things defensively to figure out why we keep giving up 18 kills in a set – that's a little extreme. Credit to them. That's a good team. It's just fun to see our kids grow. In the fifth set we owned it and dominated."
Ballard led all players with 39 digs in the match and she stretched her year-plus career total to 1,022. The Weaverville, N.C. native added five assists.
It was the 11th time that the two programs have met as Carson-Newman (5-4, 1-1) leads the series 9-2. In the previous eight wins, Coker (8-4, 0-3) had won just two sets.
There were a pair of early lead changes and with the contest tied at 12, the Eagles reeled off three straight points to gain a pad that it would not relinquish. Winning six of eight, C-N pushed the margin to 22-16 and sustained a late flurry to seal the game on a smash from Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.).
In the second stanza, the two sides were tied 12 times and the lead changed hands on seven occasions. C-N broke a 5-5 deadlock by winning four straight points only to see Coker come back and take several leads. The Cobras held the lead at 17-16 as the home group rattled off four straight to take a three-point lead. Coker never cut the deficit below two as a service ace from Natalie Harris (Monroe, N.C.) sealed the victory.
Coker's offense picked up the pace in third set with a .200 efficiency as Taylor Du Bray racked up five kills. The Cobras held the lead for much of the set flipping a 6-5 deficit into a 9-7 lead. C-N came back to tie the score at 18 but conceded six of the next seven to fall behind by five before a service error salvaged a set for the Cobras.
The offense continued to see an uptick in the fourth as Coker made just two attack errors piling up 18 kills from four players. Olivia Cerick led the charge with six as her side raced out to an 8-1 lead. Chiseling away at the scoreboard, C-N pulled within a deuce at 22-20 only to drop the final three points as Cerick's final smash of the frame set the contest to a fifth set.
In the final game, the Eagles offense took charge pounding out 11 kills and hitting .526 as a unit. At 4-4, C-N won four straight points and eight of nine to expand the bulge to 12-5. Joy Rhodes (Youngsville, N.C.) put the match on ice with her eighth kill of the match.
On the day, the Eagles finished with a .224 attack percentage on a season-high 57 kills while registering 86 digs, 12 blocks and seven aces. Coker mustered a .180 hitting clip on 59 smashes with 81 digs, nine aces and seven blocks.
Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) tallied her fourth double-double of the season with 14 kills and 17 digs while hitting .289. Erin Edwards (Midlothian, Va.) and Streeter each had 11 kills as Streeter added six scoops and two blocks.
"That's huge for us compared to last year," Oldenburger said of the depth up front. "We are spread out on the offense in the front row. It's a huge advantage to our side. It helps take the pressure off a couple hitters and let the rest do it."
Du Bray and Cerick each had 19 kills on the night with 13 and 18 digs respectively. Lana Strejcek added 14 to the push offensively. Rami Mullen had 45 assists and 17 digs and Kara Overholt finished with 18 scoops.
In a stretch of six games in eight days, the Eagles hit the road to the Palmetto State on Monday to face Newberry at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to @CNathletics on Twitter for the latest information surrounding C-N.
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