JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Winners of five of its last six, fourth-seeded Carson-Newman will need its top performance Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. against 24th-ranked and top-seeded Wingate in the South Atlantic Conference semifinals from Coker's DeLoach Center to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
"It's probably one of the better passing teams in the region going against one of the tougher serving teams," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "We have to make sure we are sharp there. Offensively they are going to kill the ball. So are we. We are going to practice taking big swings at these guys. We are in a position to let it fly. If we can compete and get into the match, anything is possible."
Friday evening will be the first time that Franklin's group takes on a ranked team since the start of his first season in 2016. While the Eagles have lost nine straight and 34 of the last 35, the last win for Carson-Newman in the series came on the road on Nov. 4, 2014 when the school took down the seventh-ranked team in the country in five frames.
The two programs are meeting in the SAC Tournament for the 10th time as Wingate holds a commanding 8-1 lead in the tournament series history. The lone win for the Eagles came on Oct. 28, 2000 when C-N won in straight sets in Greeneville, Tenn. in a semifinal affair en route to the school's first-ever league championship.
To find the last meeting between the duo in SAC Tournament play, you have to go back to Nov. 11, 2011. The Eagles entered as the eight seed and after losing the first two games, C-N became the first team to take 14th-ranked and undefeated Wingate to five frames falling 15-10 in the fifth.
As a school, Wingate has racked up 12 conference tournament titles including 10 of the last 12 despite seeing Lenoir-Rhyne win in 2015 and Queens taking the trophy in 2017. In fact, 2017 was the first time in 13 years that the Bulldogs were not in the tournament title match dating back to 2004.
The only loss for the Bulldogs this season came at Anderson on Oct. 26 as five of the last six wins for the unit have come in straight stanzas. Wingate has recorded 16 sweeps this season needing five sets just twice this year, at Catawba on Sept. 11 and at Mars Hill on Oct. 13.
Defensively, opponents are hitting .104 as coach Shelton Collier's group good for sixth in the country. No Eagle has hit double figures in either effort with Marnie Streeter posting a total 15 smashes.
On the other side of the net, Wingate is seventh in the country in kills per set at 14.63 per game on the year led by Phoebe Havenaar and Hannah Givens. The duo is fourth and fifth on the league ledger with 3.19 and 3.05 kills per set.
Rachel Alles leads the group as one of the top setters in America tallying 11.39 assists per set, 17th in the country. She handed out 34 and 46 helpers in the first two meetings this season. She has had at least 35 assists in each of her last eight performances and has had no fewer than 27, in a three-set win over L-R, against a SAC team this year.
The only category where the group is not dominant is blocking where the unit is fifth in the league with 1.97 rejections per set. That number dips to 1.52 per game over the last eight matches.
Keep your eyes on cneagles.com and @CNathletics on Twitter for the latest information regarding the Eagles on their journey to Coker for the conference tournament.
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