WINGATE, N.C. — Waking up on Oct. 5, Carson-Newman stood with a 7-5 record and a 5-4 conference mark. Fast forward to Saturday evening at Cuddy Arena and the Eagles have won 21 of their last 23 matches dropping a total of 13 sets carving out space in the trophy case for a South Atlantic Conference Tournament title and an NCAA Southeast Region Championship.
At 6:26 p.m. on Dec. 7, third-seeded Carson-Newman (28-7) secured its second region title in the last five years to become the first team in program history to hoist two tournament trophies in the same season rushing the floor behind another consistent effort over fourth-seeded Augusta winning 27-25, 25-21 and 25-23 for its 14th sweep in the last two months.
“It has been an exciting ride,” Carson-Newman coach Ashley Tiernan said. “Two months ago I took this team over not knowing what to expect. Win or lose our job was to have fun and play this game that we love and see where it took us. One game at a time we just kept building and kept working. It turned into such an exciting time for us. Now we are going to Denver.”
The Orange and Blue improve to 9-7 all-time in postseason play, its most matches above .500 in program history at any time, winning six of its last eight times on the floor.
C-N is now 4-2 against the Peach Belt in the postseason all time having won 12 of the last 13 matches against Augusta (29-9) in the history of the series.
Five players were named to the all-tournament team led by Erin Edwards who paced all players with a career-high 19 kills posting a scorching .435 hitting percentage. The junior averaged 4.30 kills per set over the three matches hitting .396 on the weekend.
“Every time I got the said I just said ‘hit hard’,” Edwards said. “I just made sure I tried to switch up my shots. I figured that they would try to adjust to me but they didn’t so I just kept doing what I did. I’ve had confidence every game and every practice that I am a great volleyball player. We all deserve to be out on the court but when I’m out there I make sure to take the opportunity and run with it.”
Morgan Ballard led all players with 20 digs bringing her tally for the weekend to 74, good for an average of 7.40 digs per set. Megan Oldenburger and Marnie Streeter earn slots on the club with six kills and 13 digs and six smashes and 10 scoops respectively in the match.
Kaina Roehrkasse tallied five kills and three block assists as the middle racked up 18 kills on a .364 margin with 1.40 rejections per game to get her team back to her home state with three other teammates for the National Quarterfinals to be held in Denver.
“It’s so awesome,” Roehrkasse said. “I knew at the beginning of the season that the Elite Eight was in Denver. I never would have thought that as the season progressed our team was nurtured by Ashley. We did it. I am so excited to go home to Colorado and I know my teammates are too.”
On the day, C-N notched 44 kills with a .194 hitting percentage with eight blocks, 56 digs and a program record in an NCAA Tournament 11 service aces led by three apiece from Ballard and Oldenburger.
The Eagles wasted no time taking charge of the day jumping out to an 8-3 advantage in the blink of an eye. Augusta was unfazed storming back to shed a set point and get one of its own at 25-24. One of the seven kills from Edwards in the game tied the score at 25 before a hitting miscue and the junior’s final swat of the game put the No. 3 seed on top.
In the second stanza, the teams went back and forth before C-N seized control winning 10 of 15 to go ahead 18-12. Once again, the left hand of Edwards provided the finishing touch on a 2-0 lead in the match.
Augusta seemingly had the edge in the third despite nine ties and five lead changes holding a 22-20 lead. Carson-Newman won five of the final six points capped by a pair of blasts from Streeter to send the Eagle contingent into pandemonium and the team into a dog pile near the 10-foot line.
The Jaguars finished the day with 36 kills hitting .168 with 54 digs, seven blocks and six aces. Jessica Hedrick was the lone player in double figures with 10 kills hitting .381 adding six block assists. Holland Martin registered 19 digs and Payton Murchie passed out 19 assists.
The NCAA will reseed the remaining eight teams on Sunday, Dec. 8, to determine the four matchups that will take place on Dec. 12 in Denver, Colo. at the Auraria Events Center on the campus of Metropolitan State.