CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the Queen City, Carson-Newman finished the South Atlantic Conference Championship like royalty – earning the conference championship for the first time since 2002 with a 3-0 victory over host Queens.
As the final point dropped to the back-right corner of the Royals' (24-6) half of the hardwood after a block by the Eagles (25-7), a roar echoed throughout the halls of the Levine Center. A dogpile began in the same place as it did the night before near midcourt.
A wave of emotions for all the players and coach Ashley Tiernan had reached the crest.
"I don't think I ever have the words to describe how I'm feeling right now," Tiernan said postgame. "It's sinking in but it hasn't completely sunk in. I'm just so excited.
"These girls have battled, and they have wanted this, and they have worked so hard day in and day out for this and I'm so proud of the effort and the energy that they brought today for this win."
Junior outside hitter Erin Edwards (Midlothian, Va.) led the way with 16 kills, which would have matched a career-high, had she not have broken the previous mark Saturday night in a 17-kill performance against Wingate. Her offensive production, matched with three block assists and a dig in the championship match, earned her the SAC Tournament MVP.
"We have put our blood, sweat and tears into this," Edwards said. "We have worked so hard and it's great to see our hard work pay off."
The SAC championship automatically qualifies C-N into the NCAA Tournament, which begins Dec. 5.
It was a tumultuous season for C-N, that saw the arrival of coach Ashley Tiernan to begin the Peach Belt Crossover tournament on Oct. 11, where the Eagles would go on to win all four of its game on the two-day weekend. It was then that coach Tiernan said she knew she had a special group.
Now 17-2 as the head coach at C-N a mix of team chemistry, defensive play at the net and rising to the occasion when called upon are what have been some of the secret ingredients in what lifted the Eagles to their third conference championship in program history.
"I give all the credit to them," Tiernan said. "I give all the credit to God. God has blessed this team and this family with everything that we have and I'm just so thankful for that."
Much last the semifinals against Wingate, C-N found itself deadlocked late in the first set. Down 22-21, a timeout called by Tiernan would rally the troops to a four-point run with kills by way of Edwards and Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) to take a 1-0 match lead.
In the second frame, both teams would see leads in the middle part of the set evaporate with multiple-point runs from the opposition. Down 18-16, C-N's seven-point run to propel them into the driver's seat at 23-18 was all that was needed to claim the set, with Kaina Koehrkasse (Fort Collins, Colo.) firing home the last point.
Down late yet again in the championship clincher, C-N rattled off five-straight points from a 21-16 deficit to even the scoreline. Roehrkasse and Kendall Cooley (Castle Rock, Colo.) would send an attack from Queens' Casey Tarvin back 15 feet to the back-right corner of the area of play, securing the championship in a 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 result.
Edwards' 16 kills led the way for C-N, with Streeter adding 12 kills of her own. Taylor Rohr (Windsor, Colo.) added 27 assists. Senior libero Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) led the match with 40 digs, while outside hitter Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Streeter and Rohr each had at least 15 digs of their own.
C-N held Queens to a mere .068 hitting percentage, their second-lowest mark of the season, respectively.
Next up for the Eagles will be the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. to determine who will be C-N's region quarterfinal opponent. The livestream of the selection show will be on the NCAA website.
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