SAC coaches pin Franklin’s unit third in preseason poll

SAC coaches pin Franklin’s unit third in preseason poll

VIDEO: Dave Franklin Interview

ROCK HILL, S.C. – Entering the 2019 season with an experience club, expectations are high at Mossy Creek as the South Atlantic Conference's coaches picked Carson-Newman to finish in a tie for third with Lincoln Memorial in the preseason poll released Friday.

Franklin's crew has finished fourth in the final regular season standings in each of the last two years earning the right to host a SAC Quarterfinals matchup.

"We thought we were better volleyball players last year than the year before," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "But we pretty much had the same results. We needed to develop our team connection. Could we become a great team? We focused on our team connection. We focused on our commitment level. As we got our connection level to rise, our commitment level rose. Our summertime commitment rose. It seems like we are really on a mission. That's the last pillar to put us in place is can we be a championship team?

"What does it take to be premiere? When we look at our culture, we are happy with it. We are always going to push it. When we look at academics, we have a 3.6 GPA. We are doing these things. We are taking on the challenge because now is the time to win. We are going to get there because winning is what's important now. The last part of getting us on track to become premiere. Winning is the last part of it. We are starting on that path to understand what it takes."

Gone from the 2018 team are the final two members from a region championship in Natalie Harris and Hannah Robertson but C-N returns almost every ounce of stats from last season. The Eagles return 99 percent (1,151 of 1,164) of their assists, 96 percent of their digs (2,137 of 2,232), 93 percent (1,152 of 1,237) of their kills, 82 percent (151 of 184) of their service aces and 74 percent of their blocks (187 of 254).

Of the 18 players on the roster, 13 are upperclassmen with six members of the senior crew. The team will be led out of the back row by two-time all-region pick Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) who has the chance to go down as the most decorated volleyball athlete in the history of the school. The Tar Heel State native has some of the best dig totals in the history of the SAC and is less than 1,000 digs away from taking over the top spot on the school's digs list.

"The depth is good," Franklin said. "It brings the competition in practice every single day. Let them duke it out and determine who the best players are over the next couple weeks. To take that depth we have to worry about performance standards. Do we have championship-level practice? Are we dialed into a two-hour practice? How competitive are we? Experience, volleyball-wise, we have it. Can we be a championship team in practice so that we can be a championship team on the court?"

Up front, C-N has a pair of all-conference outside hitters in Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) and Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Streeter is less than 300 smashes away from moving into the program's top five for kills in a career after racking up her 1,000th as a junior. Oldenburger took a step forward and has rarely come off of the floor in her career as she saw her numbers rise across the board.

In the middle, Katie Parnell (Atlanta) finished in the top 10 in the country in blocking while improving her efficiency by over 100 points as a sophomore.

As a team, the Eagles have been steady over the last two years with a 33-28 overall record and a 21-19 tally in the league. Franklin's club is 14-11 at home, 13-11 on the road and 6-6 in neutral affairs.

The class of the league continues to be Wingate coming off of a 32-2 season taking just one loss during the regular season, a four-set loss at Anderson. After winning the region championship coasting to three match wins dropping one set, the Bulldogs once again fell short of winning a match in the National Quartefinals. Coach Shelton Collier's team received 10 first-place votes and returns second-team All-American setter Rachel Alles.

Anderson picked up a pair of first-place votes and are led by honorable mention All-American Emily Conlin who led the conference in assists per set last season. The Trojans were upended in the SAC semifinals by LMU before losing in the regional semis to Wingate.

Tied with Carson-Newman for third is the team that captured the final at-large spot in the NCAA Regionals thanks to a season sweep of the Eagles and a timely SAC semifinal win over Anderson. The Railsplitters were bounced by USC Aiken in the first round of the postseason.

Queens had an up and down 2018 but could not duplicate its run from 2017 when it won the SAC Tournament at Holt Fieldhouse settling for a 14-15 overall record. Despite that finish, the Royals were picked to finish fifth and are led by first-team All-SAC Casey Tarvin on the outside.

Lenoir-Rhyne finished fifth last season but stands steadily in sixth in the preseason poll. Taylor Prall, a two-time all-league selection, has posted nearly identical numbers over each of her first two years and will need to take a step forward with the departure of first-team All-SAC outside Angelica Arroyo.

The bottom of the league standings sees Mars Hill rise above Tusculum and Catawba, tied for eighth, to hold seventh. Coker and Newberry sit above SAC newcomer Virginia-Wise at the bottom of the table.

Volleyball action starts on Nov. 6 with a twin-bill on the docket beginning at 1 p.m. against King with a 5 p.m. nightcap against USC Aiken in Harrogate, Tenn. to open the year.


School (First Place Votes)



Wingate (10)



Anderson (2)



Lincoln Memorial












Mars Hill

















 - CN -