HICKORY, N.C. – The second-seeded Carson-Newman Eagles (26-6) lost to the No. 3 seed Anderson (S.C.) Trojans (25-7) in a five-set battle 25-17, 15-25, 19-25, 25-23 and 15-17 in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday evening at Shuford Gymnasium.
"All four seniors wanted this match," head coach Dan Ahiers said. "They came fired up and ready to play. My entire team, one through 15 left it out on the court tonight. It was a great match. Anderson brought their energy and their A-game."
Carson-Newman surged out of the gates winning six of the first seven rallies. Anderson pulled within four points on several occasions, but the Eagles used a multitude of runs including a 7-3 spurt to take a 20-11 lead. A kill from senior outside hitter Rachel Harper (Chattanooga, Tenn.) sealed the set. Senior setter Kristen Pickett (Cleveland, Tenn.) had 13 assists.
After leading wire-to-wire in the first frame, the second stanza featured five ties and three lead changes as Anderson took a 6-3 edge to start the set. The Eagles battled to tie the score at 10 before the Trojans ended the set on 15-5 run. Anderson hit .361 in the set while Carson-Newman hit .075.
The Trojans led wire-to-wire in the third set as they took a 7-3 lead to start the game. The Eagles pulled within three points at 11-8, but a 12-6 tear for Anderson made it 21-13 before taking the set. Harper led the way five kills and nine digs.
The fourth set featured three ties, but Carson-Newman used a 10-3 run to take a 17-10 lead. Anderson was able to chip away at the lead and pulled within a single point at 24-23 before senior middle blocker Jenna Wilson (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) found the ground for the seventh time in the set.
The fifth set featured nine ties and five lead changes as the two sides traded haymakers. The largest lead in the set was a 4-1 edge for Anderson. The score was tied at 15 after the Eagles discarded a match point, but a pair of Eagle attack errors gave the match to the Trojans.
Harper finished with her 14th double-double of the year with a season-high 18 kills and a career-high 29 digs.
Pickett had her 12th double-double of the year with 52 assists and 15 digs while Wilson had 19 kills and three total blocks.
Freshman outside hitter Kyrie Pennington (Charlotte, N.C.) notched her fourth double-double of the year with 11 kills and a career-high 16 digs.
Shannon Gillespie recorded a game-high 22 kills on a .233 attack percentage to go along with 27 digs to lead the way for Anderson.
The Eagles await their NCAA Tournament fate as the team will find out Sunday night at 10 p.m. with the Selection Show.
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