JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Big runs were the name of the match Tuesday night at Holt Fieldhouse. Fourth-seeded Carson-Newman had a stretch in each set where it outscored Lenoir-Rhyne by double digits coasting to a 25-21, 25-17 and 25-14 sweep of fifth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne at Holt Fieldhouse in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals.
"We want to be an elite level serving team," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "We want to be the toughest serving team every night. Runs are about getting teams out of system and then being discipline defensively. Our serving was really good. When you get them out of system and we make them pay, runs happen."
In the 10th postseason meeting between the two schools, Carson-Newman (16-12) improves to 9-1 beating Lenoir-Rhyne (17-11) in the SAC Tournament for the first time since Nov. 13, 2009.
The Bears held a 7-4 lead in the first set before the Eagles stormed back winning 13 of the next 16 to go ahead 17-10. It was a six-point margin at 18-12 when L-R notched a 7-2 sequence to pull within one. It was 21-20 when the Eagles closed out the set on a 4-1 tally capped by a smash from Erin Edwards (Midltohian, Va.).
It was an ominous beginning to the second stanza as the visitors won the first five and held an 8-3 lead when the Eagles exploded. A 14-1 spurt that included a 10-0 run pushed the margin to 18-11 in favor of the four seed as it cruised to a victory. C-N had six aces in the set and 13 kills on its final 48 cuts.
"The word that was mentioned last week was composure," Franklin said. "Last weekend, we showed a level of composure that we hadn't shown. We showed a level of maturity and growth to handle runs and believe in what we are doing and that with our serve we can make runs back at them. I thought we passed fine. We just got stuck in a rotation and couldn't kill it. If we can keep our composure through runs like that it helps our confidence rise."
After trading the first six rallies, the Eagles used a 13-3 spurt to go on top 16-6 gaining a bulge big enough to allow the Eagles to cruise to a match victory. The Bears made nine attack mistakes on 34 swings.
On the night, Carson-Newman produced 11 aces, its third-most of the season, with 71 digs, 35 kills, a .162 hitting percentage and eight rejections. Lenoir-Rhyne countered with 27 kills on a .038 margin, 80 digs, three aces and three rejections.
"It's amazing," senior libero Hannah Robertson said. "I was super nervous the last game we played thinking it was my last home game. To come here and have one more chance was just amazing. To go out with this group of girls – honestly one of my favorite groups in the past four years. To get a sweep it was amazing – the best feeling ever."
Neither team saw a player hit double figures in kills as Edwards crushed nine kills with .364 efficiency mark. Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) tallied nine smashes and 11 scoops.
Madison Rademacher (Broomfield, Colo.) registered 12 assists and 10 assists for her fifth double-double of the season and her second straight match.
Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) piled up a team-high 31 digs and a career-high four service aces. Her season total reached 763 scoops to take fourth on the school's single-season ledger.
Helen Hamilton had a double-double for L-R with 13 assists and 11 digs. Bailey Cloninger tallied a match-high 32 digs and Taylor Prall paced the offense with eight kills and 12 digs.
The Eagles advance to play the top-seeded Wingate Bulldogs Friday evening in the SAC semifinals on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. from Coker's DeLoach Center.
- CN -