ANDERSON, S.C. – After knocking off No. 7 seed Mars Hill in the 2018 South Atlantic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals two days ago at the Abney Athletic Center, the Anderson University volleyball team will be making its second straight and fourth overall appearance in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament Semifinals, Friday night in Hartsville, S.C.
The No. 2 seeded Trojans are slated to square off against No. 3 seed Lincoln Memorial at 6:30 p.m. at the DeLoach Center, following the matchup between top-seeded Wingate and fourth-seeded Carson-Newman.
The Trojans and Lady Railsplitters will be meeting for the third time this season, with AU in the hunt for the school's fourth NCAA appearance in six seasons and its first automatic bid to the NCAA Southeast Regional.
Anderson (27-4) is in the midst of its seventh consecutive trip to the conference tournament and eighth overall and with the four-set win over the Lions last Tuesday night, Anderson is 6-7 in its eight appearances in the conference tournament. The Trojans are 2-1 in the semifinals of the event after advancing to the title contest in 2013 and 2014.
The Trojans are 1-1 versus LMU in the SAC Tournament, with both contests coming in the quarterfinals. AU entered the 2014 SAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed and promptly knocked off sixth-seeded Lincoln Memorial, while falling to the Lady Railsplitters in AU's first season in the league in 2010.
AU would be seeking its first SAC Tournament victory over Wingate in three attempts if both teams advance to Saturday's championship contest. The Bulldogs eliminated AU in the 2012 quarterfinals and the Trojans finished as tourney runners-up to Wingate in both 2013 and 2014.
Carson-Newman owns a 2-1 edge over the Trojans in SAC Tournament history, as the fourth-seeded and host Lady Eagles upended the top-seeded Trojans in five sets in last season's semifinal round. In 2015, AU extended the eventual NCAA Southeast Region Champions to five sets before succumbing in the quarterfinals at the Abney Athletic Center. The Trojans stunned second-seeded Carson-Newman in the semifinals of the 2014 tourney.
The Trojans, who are ranked fourth in the NCAA's Southeast Region weekly poll, are just the second team in program history to earn 27 wins in a season and are only one victory shy of equaling last season's school-record 28 wins.
The Trojans pace the SAC in kills, assists and aces, while ranking second kills per set, hitting percentage and assists per set.
A program-record five Trojans have earned All-Conference honors, with junior Emily Conlin capturing First-Team All-South Atlantic Conference accolades for the second consecutive season, while sophomore Hailee Wilhelm also earned First-Team recognition after leading the league with a .338 hitting percentage and pacing the Trojans with 287 kills.
Senior Jayln Knight - one of just three players in the league with more than 300 digs and 200 kills - earned Second-Team honors and has already knocked down a career-best 284 kills. Sophomore Regan Duty was named to the Honorable Mention squad while standing third on the team in kills and ranking 20th in the league with 235 kills. Newcomer Liliana Kinder is just the second Trojan named to the All-Freshman squad since AU joined the league in 2010. The Ponte Vedra, Fla., native has recorded 183 kills and notched 32 blocks this season.
The Lady Railsplitters
Third-seeded Lincoln Memorial (19-8) earned a berth in the tourney semifinals by sweeping No. 6 seeded Queens last Tuesday night in Harrogate, Tenn. The Lady Railsplitters have won five of their last six matches and 10 of their last 12, with one of the losses coming as a five-set loss to AU.
LMU was a preseason pick to finish fifth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Junior right-side hitter Rylee Storms and senior libero Erica Whiteaker swept SAC Player of the Week honors in mid-October, as Storms had double-digit kills in two of LMU's three matches, combining for 35 total to go along with 28 digs and eight blocks. Whiteaker tallied 80 digs, 18 assists and eight aces across the three matches.
Earlier this season, redshirt junior Tone Gill was named the SAC Player of the Week after recording 11 kills on a season-high .333 hitting percentage in LMU's 3-1 home victory over Queens.
Storms, Whiteaker and Gill were all named Second-Team All-SAC earlier Thursday, with Emily Walter receiving All-Freshman Team accolades.
The Series vs. Lincoln Memorial
The Trojans and Lady Railsplitters have met 24 times over the last 15 seasons, including 19 meetings since AU joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2010 campaign.
LMU holds a 15-9 advantage in the overall series between the two schools, with Anderson snapping a nine-match skid at the hands of the Lady Railsplitters in the first meeting five seasons ago and defeating LMU three times during the 2014 campaign, including a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-13) decision in the opening round of the SAC Championship.
After LMU swept the 2015 and 2016 matchups, the Trojans returned the favor by blanking the 'Splitters twice last season and defeating LMU, 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-21) earlier this season at the Abney Athletic Center and in five sets in Harrogate.
Wingate (27-1) claimed a spot in Friday's semifinals with a 3-0 win over eighth-seeded Catawba two nights ago. The top-seeded and 24th-ranked Bulldogs have won four straight since being upended by the Trojans late last month.
The Bulldogs were a preseason pick for the 13th consecutive year to finish first in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Wingate has won 12 of the last 13 regular-season SAC titles, while also capturing 10 of the last 12 SAC Tournament championships. In that time, Wingate has also won four NCAA Southeast Region Championships.
Senior middle blockers Anna Holmquist and Phoebe Havenaar, along with junior setter Rachel Alles, were named Preseason First-Team All-SAC, while senior libero Kori Adams captured second-team honors.
Havenaar and Alles have each earned SAC Player of the Week twice this season, with Alles, Havenaar, Holmquist, Kori Adams and Hannah Givens each capturing All-Conference accolades at the conclusion of the season.
The Series vs. Wingate
After defeating the Bulldogs just once in the first 17 years of the program, the Trojans have knocked off the perennial regional powerhouse three times in their last five meetings, with all three victories coming at the Abney Center.
Last month's Homecoming win over the Bulldogs marked AU's second win in three meetings with Wingate and its fourth overall win in school history past the Bulldogs. The victory marked AU's third victory since 1999, when the Trojans were in their first year as a member of NCAA Division II. Wingate has won 21 of the last 24 matchups and leads the overall series, 21-4.
The Trojans snapped a 19-match skid at the hands of their SAC opponent when they stunned Wingate with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-8, 25-14) win at the Abney Center in mid-October of the 2016 campaign. At the time, the loss marked just the Bulldog's fourth SAC loss in three years. The Bulldogs avenged the loss by sweeping AU, 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) in their first meeting last season in the Tar Heel State.
History repeated itself on Homecoming Weekend a year ago, when the Trojans handed the 21st-ranked Bulldogs their first loss of the season at the Abney Center and again this past Homecoming, when AU knocked Wingate from the ranks of the unbeaten with a four-set win.
The Lady Eagles
Fourth-seeded Carson-Newman (16-12) earned a berth in the tournament semifinals by blanking No. 5 seeded Lenoir-Rhyne last Tuesday night in Jefferson, Tenn. The Lady Eagles have won three in a row and five of their last six, with the lone loss coming as a 3-0 home setback to LMU.
The Lady Eagles were a preseason pick to finish fourth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Carson-Newman earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season – its' third appearance in four years – after falling to Queens in the finals of the 2017 SAC Tournament.
Junior libero Morgan Ballard and junior outside hitter Marnie Streeter were named Preseason First-Team All-SAC, while sophomore outside hitter Megan Oldenburger earned Preseason Second-Team All-Conference recognition.
Ballard and Oldenburger both earned All-SAC honors.
The Series vs. Carson-Newman
The Trojans and Eagles have met 24 times over the past 13 seasons, with 21 of the matchups occurring since AU joined the league in 2010. The overall series, which began in 2006, sees Carson-Newman holding a narrow, 13-11, edge.
Carson-Newman won the first five meetings in the series and the two teams have nearly evenly split the last 13 matchups, with C-N holding a 7-6 edge. AU swept the 2016 and 2017 regular-season matchups and posted a 3-1 (25-18, 25-9, 28-30, 25-23) win earlier this season at the Abney Athletic Center, with the Lady Eagles avenging the setback by blanking AU at Holt Fieldhouse.
2018 SAC Volleyball Championship
Tuesday, Nov. 6 (at highest seeds)
Game 1: #1 Wingate 3, #8 Catawba 0
Game 2: #4 Carson-Newman 3, #5 Lenoir-Rhyne 0
Game 3: #2 Anderson 3, #7 Mars Hill 1
Game 4: #3 Lincoln Memorial 3, #6 Queens 0
Friday, Nov. 9 (at Coker College)
Game 5: #1 Wingate vs. #4 Carson-Newman, 4:00pm
Game 6: #2 Anderson vs. #3 Lincoln Memorial, 6:30pm
Saturday, Nov. 10 (at Coker College)
Game 7: winner game 5 vs. winner game 6, 2:00pm
SAC TOURNAMENT INDIVIDUAL DAILY TICKETS:
Semifinals (at Coker): Adult - $ 10.00; Youth (12 and under)/Senior (60+) Active or Retired Military - $5.00; College Students with college ID - $ 2.00
Finals (at Coker): Adult - $ 8.00; Youth (12 and under)/Senior (60+) Active or Retired Military - $4.00; College Students with college ID - $ 2.00
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