JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – It has been 17 days since the volleyball team last played a contest at the friendly confines. In the midst of a stretch where Carson-Newman (7-6, 2-4) plays nine of 11 away from its campus, the Eagles play host to Catawba and Queens (N.C.) this weekend.
"We feel good about where we are," head coach Shannon Mincey said. "Our team is connecting well. It was great for me to train some of my hitters and do some scenarios we haven't been able to spend time doing."
Having earned a victory in its last match against Coker last Saturday, Carson-Newman will look to maintain its momentum after a match that saw the Eagles hold the Cobras to a .050 hitting percentage. Carson-Newman hit .286 in the affair, its second-highest output of the season.
As a team, the Eagles rank second in the South Atlantic Conference in service aces (90), fourth in hitting percentage (.198) and fifth in blocks per set (1.67).
Junior outside hitter Rachel Harper (Chattanooga, Tenn.) remains one of the most prolific all-around players in the conference. Harper ranks second in kills (165), second in service aces per set (0.53) and fourth in kills per set (3.67). She also has eight double-doubles in 12 games.
The four upperclassmen for the Eagles have played a critical role this season. Mincey gave the quartet of Harper, junior setter Kristen Pickett (Cleveland, Tenn.), junior outside hitter Lauren Santarelli (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and senior right side Emily Schultz (Atlanta Ga.) an opportunity to demonstrate their experience to the rest of the roster this week.
"They have had a focused week," Mincey said. "I've looked to all four of them for leadership in different areas. Monday, they had a captain's practice, where they did some things on their own and allowed the underclassmen to follow their lead."
Catawba (2-6, 2-4) comes to town Friday night for a 7 p.m. first serve. The Indians have lost their last two contests and are 1-3 in road games this season.
"This is a challenge for our team," Mincey said. "We hope that we can produce something for our fans. We have great support from the bleachers and our athletic director has rallied around our volleyball team. He has brought in a lot of energy."
Led by the duo of Bri Howard and Haley Lanier, Catawba ranks ninth in team hitting percentage (.178) and 11th in digs per set (11.72). Howard leads the club with a .295 attack percentage and 2.03 kills per set. Lanier tops the squad with 2.32 kills per set on an .186 efficiency.
The Indians have improved with league play as they are hitting .206 as a team, a mark that ranks third in the SAC in conference affairs. Catawba also places fourth in conference contests averaging 1.78 blocks per set.
The weekend concludes with the first meeting ever against Queens (2-6, 2-4). Having dropped their last two matches, the Royals are 1-3 away from their North Carolina home this season.
Queens ranks eighth in the SAC with a .181 hitting percentage, ninth in digs per set (13.48) and ninth in blocks per set (1.37).
Preseason All-SAC second team selection Keri Kemp leads the conference with 4.15 kills per set. The Lake Mary, Fla. native is hitting .220 with almost 150 more attempts than any other player on the roster.
Both matches will be broadcasted online on the Eagle Sports Network by visiting cneagles.com/live or follow @CNathletics on Twitter for updates on each contest.