SAC releases volleyball preseason coaches’ poll with C-N tabbed ninth

ROCK HILL, S.C. – The South Atlantic Conference published its annual preseason coaches' poll Tuesday morning as the league predicted Carson-Newman to finish in ninth.

Dave Franklin's group returns six starters from a year ago including each of its top-five kills producers, its top-two assists specialists with the lone hole left by four-year starting libero Taylor Lowe.

The team is supported by senior setter Anna Patton (Franklin, Tenn.), a second-team All-SAC pick as a sophomore who ranks fifth on the program's all-time assist ledger with 2,325.

Junior middle blocker Natalie Harris (Monroe, N.C.) was the Freshman of the Year in the conference in 2015 and has seen time in all but two matches in her career tallying 526 kills.

With a total of four upperclassmen on the roster, the Eagles expect to see five sophomore and nine freshman vie for time on the court. Sophomore Marnie Streeter (Goldvein, Va.) was an All-Freshman team pick in 2016 and finished seventh in the league with 3.03 kills per set. In each of her final 10 outings, the outside hitter posted double-digit kills. Her 345 total smashes were the most by a C-N freshman since Melissa Miller racked up 367 in 2003.

Carson-Newman is looking to forget the 2016 campaign that saw the group go 3-27 and 2-20 in league play and snap a 13-match losing streak dating back to a five-set victory over Augusta on Oct. 14, 2016.

The Eagles ended with a single-digit win total for just the third time in program history having not done so prior to 2016 since 1990, the team's second year of volleyball. 1989 is the only other season that C-N has failed to crest double-digit wins tallying a program-low three victories in the opening year of volleyball competition.

2016 was the 17th time in school history that the Eagles have recorded a losing record in SAC play and the first since a string of three years from 2011-13.

A season ago marked the fifth time in program history that C-N finished last in the SAC and the first since 1995. The three other times the Eagles finished last came in the first four years of the program, 1989, 1990 and 1992.

Wingate is picked to finish first receiving 10 of the 11 first-place votes after winning the regular season and tournament titles in 2016. The Bulldogs earned the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Region and was bounced in the first round for the second straight year losing in five sets to Queens (N.C.).

Shelton Collier's team placed four members on the preseason All-SAC club led by 2016 all-region performer Oakley Attaway.

Following a runner-up finish in the regular season in 2016, Lincoln Memorial edged out Anderson (S.C.) for second in the preseason poll. The Railsplitters went to the NCAA Regionals as the No. 5 seed getting swept by fourth-seeded Armstrong. Jenny Michael's team graduated four key players including first-team All-SAC pick Abby Cash.

Anderson received a first-place vote and is projected to finish in third despite having three preseason first-team all-conference honorees. The Trojans were fifth at the end of the 2016 regular season.

Queens is projected to finish fourth and will need to replace the conference's player of the year, outside hitter Meredith Jones. 2016 second-team All-SAC setter Sydney Kunz and honorable mention outside hitter Rebecca Cochran are both on the preseason second team. The Royals reached the Southeast Region title game with five-set wins over Wingate and Flagler before falling in five frames to top-seeded South Carolina Aiken.

Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry were separated by four points for fifth and sixth respectively. The Bears welcome back middle blocker Emily Steele and outside hitter Brooke Redmond to the fold, a pair of second-team All-SAC selections in 2016.

The Wolves did not place an athlete on the preseason all-conference teams and are under the guidance of first-time head coach Callie Youngman.

Tusculum and Catawba are the two teams selected to finish directly above C-N. Libero Melissa Mazur leads the Pioneers after posting 589 digs last season, sixth in the SAC, while her 5.77 digs per set were good for the second-best margin.

The Indians from Catawba College finished sixth in the conference a season ago and needs to replace first-team all-league honoree Bri Howard who was seventh in the conference with 0.91 blocks per set.

Mars Hill is tabbed to finish 10th after going 7-15 in the conference in 2016. Mary Kate Griffin, the team's leader in kills last year, has graduated and leaves a vacancy on the pins.

Coker received just 13 total votes after going 5-17 in league action last season. Christen Bragg is a senior this year after compiling a pair of triple-doubles in 2016 including inside of Holt Fieldhouse on Oct. 28 when she posted 28 assists, 16 digs and 12 kills.

The season begins Friday afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial Tournament as Franklin's team plays a pair of matches, against King (Tenn.) at 12:30 p.m. and Lee at 5:30 p.m.


School (First-Place Votes)



Wingate (10)



Lincoln Memorial



Anderson (1)





















Mars Hill





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