JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Down 20-13 in the fourth set on the brink of elimination, fourth-seeded Carson-Newman scored 12 of the final 13 points before posting a .529 attack percentage in the fifth set to upend top-seeded Anderson (S.C.) 18-25, 25-22, 12-25, 25-21 and 15-10 Friday evening at Holt Fieldhouse in the South Atlantic Conference Volleyball Championships.
"Players win," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "Give those kids credit. That's heart. That's guts. It's just battle, battle, battle and see if something goes your way. With a match like that, it has to click for you. Things have to go your way. You need some help. [Anderson] hadn't made many errors but they helped us out in the fourth."
Carson-Newman (17-13) is back in the SAC title match for the first time since 2009 while ending the nation's third longest winning streak at 22 as Anderson (27-4) falls for the first time since Sept. 15.
"I'm super proud of these kids," Franklin said. "You can't train heart and grit. You ask it of them and push them all year long. They get rewarded for it. As a coach you can't be happier for that group. I have challenged them all year. I'm a lucky coach to have players that are committed and willing to grind through and be committed to each other."
Offensively, Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) had the best night of her career pounding out a career-high 24 kills while picking up 10 digs.
"Anna made it pretty easy," Streeter said. "She was giving super good sets. It was just to swing high because there were two really [tall] girls blocking. It's so surreal right now. I never would have believed you that after last year we would be here."
Natalie Harris registered her second double-digit kills match of the season with 10 on 23 swings without a miscue while recording a pair of blocks.
The top seed opened the match by winning the first six rallies. C-N responded by winning eight of the next 11 points to pull within one on a kill by Katie Parnell (Atlanta). It was a 14-13 tally when Anderson went on a 5-1 sequence to take a six-point lead at 19-13. A kill by Jayln Knight ended the opening stanza.
The Trojans used an early 6-0 jaunt to gain separation in the second set to go on top 10-5. The Eagles stormed back to tie the score at 11. The Eagles came back to tie the score at 19. With the tally knotted at 21, Carson-Newman closed out the set by winning four of the final five points as Streeter's 13th kill of the night tied the match at one.
In the third stanza, Anderson never trailed after starting the set with a 10-1 lead and reeling off 16 of the first 20 rallies of the game. Rachel Burts put the Trojans on top 2-1 in the match.
A 7-0 sequence opened up a 17-8 lead for the Trojans in the fourth set. It was 20-13 when Carson-Newman ripped off 12 of the final 13 points as back-to-back attack errors from Marissa Mitter gave the set to the Eagles and sent the two teams to the fifth set.
Franklin's team never trailed in the fifth set starting the game off on a 5-1 spurt. A kill from Knight cut the deficit to one at 6-5 when the Eagles rattled off seven of the next eight to go on top 13-6. Back-to-back smashes from Streeter sealed a semifinal win for the Eagles.
Four players finished with at least 10 kills for coach Todd Hay's group. Mitter led the way with 18 kills and 15 digs as one of three players with a double-double for the Trojans.
Knight finished with 15 kills and 12 digs and setter Emily Conlin had 47 assists, 21 digs and five kills. Rachel Burts had 10 kills but hit .143 after entering play ranked 13th in the country in attack percentage. Kathryn Hughes had 13 kills to round out the offense.
The SAC championship match will commence at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon inside of C-N's friendly confines of Holt Fieldhouse as the program angles for its third league tournament title. Third-seeded Queens will be the opponent. The Eagle Sports Network will provide the broadcast starting 15 minutes before first serve on cneagles.com/live.
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