JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The second weekend of the season starts the South Atlantic Conference slate as Carson-Newman plays its first home matches of the year against UVa-Wise Friday at 7 p.m. and Tusculum on Saturday at 2 p.m. inside of Holt Fieldhouse.
"We have to control what we can control," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "It doesn't matter who we are playing, the game of volleyball doesn't change. Our standards, who we want to be and how we compete mentally will be the same. I think as you learn to approach it that way consistency can happen. Defending [our home floor] for us is just learning how to be who we want to be on an everyday basis."
Franklin's crew is coming off of a 2-1 weekend against two NCAA Tournament teams from 2018. The Eagles get their opportunity to defend their home floor for the first time looking to make strides.
"We have some good fundamental things in place," Franklin said. "We have to get a few others in place. We are learning and developing an identity growing into who we want to be. The opening weekend gave us plenty of opportunities. I'm excited about the positive energy they have brought to practice. We are ready to get better and go forward."
In the history of the program, the first conference contest of the season has been hit-and-miss with an overall record of 12-15. On the road, the Eagles are 11-16 in their first road outing of the year but 14-12 in the initial home affair.
Carson-Newman (2-1) welcomes UVa-Wise (1-1) to Holt Fieldhouse for the first SAC match in the history of the program for the Cavaliers. The two clubs have never met in a volleyball match.
As a program, the Cavaliers have not had a winning season since 2007 during the 30-point rally scoring days when it went 25-16 although it did finish .500 in 2014 going 14-14. There have been five seasons with single-digit victories in that span including each of the last two years going a combined 11-49.
Coach Kristen Salyer is in her eighth season with the Cavaliers after starring for the program during its NAIA Tournament appearance in 2007 while ranking fourth all-time in kills and points and in the top 10 in digs, aces and blocks.
Salyer returns all six starters from 2018 and 10 total letterwinners. She welcomes back redshirt-senior Ciara Kain who missed 2018 with an injury. She was a second-team All-Mountain East Conference pick in 2017 with 369 kills and 317 digs.
UVa-Wise opened the year with a five-set win over Fayetteville State before being swept by UNC Pembroke. The team allowed its foes to hit .215 mustering seven total blocks on the weekend. Kain led the way with 20 kills getting help from Matelyn Gibson and Kelsey Green who each posted 19 smashes.
Saturday will be the 62nd all-time meeting with Tusculum with the Eagles in a 33-28 all-time hole in the series. C-N has lost three of the last four outings inside of the friendly confines after falling five sets on Oct. 23, 2018.
Tusculum jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match before the Eagles came roaring back to take it to a fifth set. Franklin's crew led 13-11 in the final game before losing the final four points. Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) finished with a team-high 13 kills.
The Pioneers are under new guidance in 2019 with first-year mentor Danielle Marante taking over for Michael Robinson. Marante was a four-time All-American at Tampa leading the Spartans to the Final Four three times with two runners-up finishes. Most recently, she was on the staff at Marshall.
Marante's crew split the first four matches of the season but won the latter of the two including a five-set effort at USC Upstate. Emiah Burrowes led the offensive attack with 3.36 kills per set but only hit .113 behind 30 attack errors. She was set at least 42 times in each of her first three matches.
Six seniors lead the roster with four playing big roles for the Pioneers. Middle blocker Tatum Thornton hit .250 while posting nine blocks through the first week.
"You aren't sure if coaches are going to make adjustments," Franklin said. "You see what you see so all you're really trying to see with these guys is are there some serving targets? Are there basic strategies that will put us in a good position to win? I'm not really sure who either one of them is but we have some basic knowledge. I know how we want to attack it."
Both matches this weekend will air on the Eagle Sports Network by visiting cneagles.com/live for the video broadcast. Follow @CNathletics on Twitter for the latest updates throughout the weekend.
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