JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Squaring off for the second time in five days, fourth-seeded Carson-Newman plays host to fifth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals looking to duplicate a sweep of the Bears from Friday night.
"Having familiarity with what they like to do having just seen them is an advantage," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "There is confidence knowing you have beaten them twice and you just did it. Now you get them back in your gym."
Carson-Newman (15-12) is 30-27 in the SAC Tournament all-time including a pair of league titles in 2000 and 2002. The Eagles have appeared in five title outings in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2017 recording a 2-3 mark. Each victory for C-N has come in straight sets while the losses came to Wingate in three and four frames respectively.
Eight schools have won a SAC Tournament Championship since 1990. Of those seven programs, Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne (17-10) are the only two that have not won multiple titles. Wingate leads the way with 12 championships followed by six from Presbyterian, three by Catawba and two each from Carson-Newman and Gardner-Webb
Things are starting to click for the Eagles offensively who are posting 12.67 kills per set on a .179 efficiency over the last five matches with C-N winning four. Prior to that, the team was posting 11.17 and hitting .168.
"With the quick turnaround the momentum should sustain itself," Franklin said. "For us I think we had our best weekend. In four of our last five matches, we did really well so I think we are hitting our stride. When you get on a run the confidence continues to rise. I think we will have a good energy entering Tuesday."
Of the 63 all-time meetings with Lenoir-Rhyne, nine outings have come in postseason play, eight in the SAC Tournament and one in the NCAA Tournament. Carson-Newman won each of the first seven outings in the SAC Championships as L-R has won the most recent in the 2015 semifinals.
The last time the two schools met in the playoffs came in the 2015 Southeast Region Championship match, a four-set win for the Eagles in Aiken, S.C. Of the nine Eagles to play, Natalie Harris (Monroe, N.C.) is the lone remaining player from that one as the then-freshman had nine kills, seven digs and two blocks. There are two holdovers on the other side of the net in Jessica Funk and Bailey Cloninger. Funk had 18 assists and 17 digs while Cloninger finished with 24 scoops.
The last time the Eagles earned a win over the Bears in the SAC Tournament came on Nov. 13, 2009 when they swept the match in Greeneville, Tenn. in the quarterfinals en route to a run to the title match where the Eagles fell in four frames to Wingate. Katie Troyer and Jessica Schachleiter paced the offense with 14 and 11 kills respectively. Nikki James had 5.5 total blocks while four Eagles finished with double-digit digs.
Lenoir-Rhyne missed out on the SAC Tournament a year ago compiling a 6-14 record and has not won a match since taking home its lone crown in a four-set win over Wingate in Anderson, S.C. on Nov. 22, 2015. Cloninger led her club 22 digs as Funk finished with 14 assists and seven digs.
The Eagles picked up the home match because of two wins over the Bears during the regular season, a five-set triumph on Oct. 5 and a sweep four days ago. Blocking has been a key to success for C-N as the group has 23 rejections between the two efforts, both in double figures.
Marnie Streeter and Megan Oldenburger have each racked up double-digit kills efforts combining for 47 of the team's 102 smashes during the two matches. Morgan Ballard has starred in the back row with a 51-dig effort in the first matchup and posting 9.25 scoops per set against L-R.
Angelica Arroyo has been the top offensive weapon for the Bears in two matches as the outside hitter has produced 30 of the team's 90 smashes. She has made 18 attack errors for a .109 hitting percentage across the two efforts.
The Bears have lost their last four road trips to Tennessee since beating Lincoln Memorial in four frames on Sept. 23, 2017 as the unit lost to LMU and Tusculum on its final road trip of the season. Despite being 5-7 on the road this year, the numbers do not contrast greatly minus a lower hitting clip on the road, .167 to a .210 mark at home.
Tuesday's tussle will air on the Eagle Sports Network with fans able to lock in for the broadcast on cneagles.com/live for the sights and sounds.
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