WINGATE, N.C. – In perhaps the most balanced team effort of the season, third-seeded Carson-Newman won an opening round match for the fifth time in the last six trips Thursday at Cuddy Arena in front of a pro-Eagle contingent over sixth-seeded Anderson 26-24, 25-22 and 25-20 to advance to the Southeast Region semifinals.
“We came into today with a lot of journey in our hearts,” Carson-Newman coach Ashley Tiernan said. “We had a lot of excitement and you could see that from the start of warmups. The girls were having a good time and were so excited to be here. They were hungry for more. Getting to this point wasn’t enough for us. We still know that we want to continue to move on. They did everything that they could to make sure that that happened.
“Anderson beat us twice in the regular season. Coming into today we wanted to make sure that that wasn’t the mentality that we had. No matter who was on the other side of the court, we were pushing and playing our game and doing the things that we needed to do to come away with a victory.”
The Eagles avenged two regular season, five-set losses to the Trojans as six different players posted at least five kills and the rotation stuffed the stat sheet to secure the program’s third-ever NCAA Tournament sweep. Thursday’s affair was the first time in the four postseason efforts against Anderson (22-8) where the match did not go five frames.
Marnie Streeter moved into the program’s top five for career kills tying for the team lead with 10 to bring her career total to 1,366. The senior added 10 digs for her eighth double-double of the year.
Erin Edwards added 10 smashes while Kaina Roehrkasse and Kendall Cooley each had six kills and five block assists.
Setters Taylor Rohr and Elena Vasquez handed out 23 and 18 assists respectively. Morgan Ballard led all players with 26 digs.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot about this team and each girl over this entire season,” Ballard said. “The biggest thing that I have learned about each of us is that we have one goal. We are all together so strong and we are able to overcome so many obstacles.
“Our support system is so awesome. For all of them to come together and be here for this moment is awesome. To get them involved at the beginning when we were all singing and dancing was a big energy booster.”
Overall, the Eagles notched 45 kills with a .234 hitting margin with 62 digs, six blocks and five aces versus Anderson’s 37 kills, a .134 clip, 58 digs, six aces and five rejections.
Despite the score being tied six times in the first set, there was just one lead change as Anderson won the first point of the day before C-N won the next three. The Eagles opened up a six-point lead twice but the No. 6 seed was able to pull even at 24. Back-to-back kills from Streeter gave the No. 3 seed the upper hand.
Tiernan’s squad opened the second set on fire jumping out to a 14-4 advantage. The Eagles would need every point with Anderson chipping away to close the margin to two points at 24-22 before Katie Parnell soared for a kill.
Once again in the third set the Eagles took flight early going ahead 15-5. This set proved to be less theatrical with C-N holding a differential of at least three the rest of the way. A block from Parnell and Cooley on a swing from Maya Learmonth started the victory parade.
Regan Duty led the Trojans with 13 kills hitting .357 and Hailee Wilhelm blasted eight kills without a mistake on a .471 margin. The rest of the team posted 16 kills and 17 attack errors. Emily Conlin registered a double-double with 29 assists and 18 digs.
The Eagles move into the regional semifinals to take on seventh-seeded Flagler who upset second-seeded Queens in straight sets Friday at 5 p.m. Fans can tune into the broadcast by using the ESPN to watch the broadcast.