Bulldogs bounce Eagles from NCAA Tournament in five-set tussle

VIDEO: Press Conference

ST. AUGSTINE, Fla. – After holding a 2-0 lead in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Division II Women's Volleyball Championships, Carson-Newman could not put the finishing touches on Wingate as the Bulldogs battled back to win in five sets 20-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-20 and 15-10 Thursday afternoon at Flagler Gymnasium.

"That was a great battle," Carson-Newman coach Dave Franklin said. "It had to be a fun match for fans to watch. There was a lot of energy and a lot of momentum. I'm really proud of our kids. They battled and came out with a great energy. This is a team that they have struggled against at times and it didn't faze them."

Wingate (26-3) has now won six of the seven meetings on neutral courts against Carson-Newman 17-15 as the Eagles snap a string of four straight trips to the playoffs with at least one victory.

Offensively, Megan Oldenburger (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) led the way with 18 kills making just three attack mistakes while piling up 20 digs. It was the 10th double-double of the season for the rookie and third match with at least 20 scoops.

Marnie Streeter (Golvein, Va.) was the only other player in double figures with 15 as she ended the year with 14 consecutive matches with at least 10 smashes.

Anna Patton (Franklin, Tenn.) notched 48 assists, nine digs, five service aces and three total blocks in the final match of her career.

Pacing the defense Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.) tallied 29 digs as she posted double-digit digs in all but one match during her sophomore season.

The first set saw the Bulldogs reel off a 5-0 scoring run before the Eagles stepped up to make a comeback. A kill from Streeter cut the C-N deficit to one halfway through the set as the Eagles scored six straight to take a 20-16 lead that they would not relinquish. An attack error from Katie Bludau was blocked by the tandem of Biro and Patton to put the seven seed on top after a frame.

Franklin's bunch kept momentum going in the second set despite a team hitting clip of .163. Both teams battled back and forth to gain a substantial lead as 12 ties occurred throughout the set. Two errors and an ace gave the Eagles a 24-22 lead before back-to-back Bludau smashes tied the score at 24. Streeter crushed a ball and Patton tallied a service ace to break the tie and put the Eagles on top 2-0.

In the third, the Bulldogs began biting back, jumping out to a quick 5-1 lead. The Eagles were never able to take a lead in the set as Wingate sailed to a 25-20 to cut the match score, 2-1, in the only game that did not feature a lead change.

Neither team could rise above a .150 hitting percentage in the fourth frame. A five-point scoring skid by C-N gave the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead before the Eagles took back the lead for a short time. An attack error by Patton gave the Bulldogs set point at 24-19 but a subsequent service error by Rachel Alles allowed the Eagles to stay in the game briefly before a Bludau kill forced the match to a fifth set.

The final set started with a bad set by Kori Adams to give C-N the opening point before the Bulldogs put their foot on the throttle, outscoring the Eagles 7-2 as the clubs switched sides of the court. A Patton service error put Wingate at match point, 14-8. After shedding a pair of match points, Bludau put the game on ice with her 21st kill of the day on 60 swings.

Four Bulldogs finished with double-digit kills as Rachael Cecka had 12, Anna Abernathy had 11 and Anna Holmquist finished with 10.

Alles compiled 60 assists and 19 digs while Adams led all players with 31 digs on the day.

In 118 sets, Ballard posted the best digs per set in program history with 6.94 besting Blaire Young's 6.79 mark in 2004 as one of three players in the history of the school to finish with at least six scoops per set.

The sophomore racked up 819 total digs to finish behind Young's 856 from 2004 for second-most in the 29 years of volleyball at Carson-Newman.

Patton put a bow on her career with 3,061 assists to finish in third on the school's ledger behind Kari Gibson's mark of 5,171 and Kristen Pickett's number of 3,886.

The Franklin, Tenn. native tallied 123 total service aces in her four seasons to finish with the seventh-most in a career.

Streeter compiled 408 kills on the year for a 3.74 kills per set average, good for a tie for fourth in school history with Jenna Rust from 2004.

"This is a great year," Franklin said. "It's the start of a turnaround. Hopefully they can come back in the spring ready to go and can carry on the legacy of the seniors, Morgan [Harlan] and Anna [Patton] and understand they have a responsibility to push this thing further."

Following the team's seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament, fans are encouraged to stay locked into @CNathletics and @CarsonNewmanVB on Twitter for the latest update regarding the program.

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