WINGATE, N.C. – Providing another strong offensive match with the Orange and Blue fans out in force, third-seeded Carson-Newman punched a ticket to the Southeast Region finals for the second time in five years beating seventh-seeded Flagler 25-19, 25-22, 21-25 and 25-23 Friday evening at Cuddy Arena. Overall the match featured 31 ties and 16 lead changes.
"We knew going into tonight that it was going to be a battle," Carson-Newman coach Ashley Tiernan said. "We held our composure and did what we needed to do. Even when Flagler went on their runs and had some big swings, we made sure that we focused on our side of the night and did not falter on anything that could hurt us. The composure that we held, focusing on our small games to five and moving onto the Sweet 16 is very sweet."
In the region final, Tiernan's crew will face fourth-seeded Augusta who ended Wingate's 54-match winning streak which stood as the nation's longest in five sets in the nightcap on semifinal Friday night.
With 60 kills as a team, the Eagles saw three players finish in double figures in kills with five individuals posting at least seven for a .207 team hitting margin. Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) led the way with 17 kills hitting .261 with 16 digs.
"The whole game I was a bit more nervous than what I looked like," Oldenburger said. "The whole time I was like I have to keep fighting for these seniors because we have six seniors and seven juniors and a core group that has been together almost three years now. It was just working for them and fighting for every single point so it wasn't their last game and knowing that we are capable of moving on."
The two teams had played just twice in history with Flagler sweeping both matches including a regional semifinal in 2010. Carson-Newman (27-7) is in the regional final for the second time winning its lone Southeast title in 2015 in four sets over Lenoir-Rhyne.
Erin Edwards (Midlothian, Va.) continued her end of season surge with 14 smashes hitting .353 while Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) added a double-double with 11 kills and 18 digs registering a career high four aces.
Elena Vasquez (Riverside, Calif.) dished out 26 assists with eight digs and Taylor Rohr (Windsor, Colo.) chipped in 20 assists and six digs. Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) led all players with 28 digs chipping in six helpers.
1⃣7⃣ kills from @oldenburgermeg— Carson-Newman Athletics (@CNathletics) December 7, 2019
2⃣8⃣ digs from @MorganFaith21
2⃣6⃣ assists from @lenfrances02
3⃣.5⃣ blocks from @kainajoyr
✅ berth in a region final for the second time in five years. pic.twitter.com/w7QoTZaI2q
Flagler seized control first taking a 14-11 edge in the first frame forcing a timeout by the Eagles. C-N responded with aplomb out of the break ripping off a 13-1 scoring surge to get a cushion. It took four set points, but one of Kendall Cooley's (Castle Rock, Colo.) seven kills of the night found the ground to put the No. 3 seed on top.
The second stanza was back and forth from the first serve as each team had 22 on the scoreboard before Carson-Newman found a surge with a block and kills from Oldenburger and Edwards to go on top 2-0 in the match.
A third set that featured 10 ties and seven lead changes saw each team tally haymakers before a 8-3 run gave the Saints a 19-16 lead. The Eagles could never quite put a dent into the deficit falling on a kill by Karlie Redfern.
In the fourth set, Flagler rode the momentum of the third set holding control for much of the game and as big as 18-12. With Streeter on serve, C-N won six straight to tie the score before taking a 22-21 lead on a kill by Edwards. The junior provided the finishing touches with a tap down the line to seal the victory.
"Honestly, I looked at the score and I almost got tears in my eyes because I think I realized like this could really end like right here," Streeter said. "This could be the last game. Then I went back there to serve and I was like, 'No, this is senior year. It can't end.'"
To go along with 60 kills and a .207 efficiency, the Eagles produced 81 digs, nine blocks and seven service aces versus Flagler's 47 kills, a .188 mark, 76 scoops, nine rejections and five aces.
Redfern led all players with 21 smashes hitting .242 to go along with 21 digs. Rebekah Machovec posted 10 kills, Kennedy Muff dished out 37 assists and Kayla Norelli racked up 22 digs.
First serve in the region championship match is slated for 5 p.m. from Cuddy Arena with broadcast coverage airing on the ESPN app and ESPN3 by using your favorite streaming the device.
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