JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With the start of the 2019 volleyball campaign coming into focus, it is time to breakdown the Carson-Newman roster with the first of two position previews starting with the setters and liberos with senior Elena Vasquez.
Overall the roster returns 14 players while losing a pair of seniors. Each of the three distributors from 2018 is back in the fold for this season. Two separate injuries limited Vasquez's year to 18 matches but she was consistent posting 4.32 assists per set and posting four double-doubles.
The Riverside, Calif. native led the team in helpers in 11 of her 18 matches notching a career-high 28 at Newberry on Sept. 24. She recorded at least 20 assists four times in 2018 including a 21-assist, 20-dig outing at Queens on Sept. 29.
"I spent a lot of time in the weight room and in the athletic training room trying to get healthy again," Vasquez said. "I have spent a lot of time in the gym trying to get my touches back. I am really looking forward to having one last chance of hopefully staying healthy through a whole season and trying to help the team to the best of my abilities."
The team's leader in assists, Taylor Rohr (Windsor, Colo.), was one of three athletes to participate in all 29 matches during her rookie year. She led the team in helpers 14 times with eight matches of more than 20 including a career-high 30 against Tusculum on Oct. 23. She had six double-doubles on the season as she began her career with 25 assists, 12 digs and a season-high four service aces against Belmont Abbey on Aug. 31.
Madison Rademacher (Broomfield, Colo.) continued her improvement as a sophomore in 2018 finishing the year on a high note with double-doubles in each of the final three contests of the year to bring her season tally to six. In the final month of the year, Rademacher tallied five assists and three digs per set.
The lone newcomer to the setting positon is rookie Maggie Wackerhagen (Fort Worth, Texas), an all-district selection out of Aledo High School.
"Three of us have had a lot of experience," Vasquez said. "We all bring something to the court. Maggie has raw talent. Right out of the gate, you can tell that she is going to be an extremely beneficial part of this team. It's really awesome to see her grow and jump right in with us. Madi Rademacher has such an intentional mind on the court. She is so mature and focused. Taylor brings such strength physically. We are all happy for each other no matter the outcome. It's nice to be a part of a position group with such awesome girls who are willing to push each other and help each other."
In the back row, Hannah Robertson graduated last season as one of the libero options but the Eagles return one of the best passers in the country in two-time all-region pick Morgan Ballard (Weaverville, N.C.).
Her name fills up the South Atlantic Conference record book leading the league in digs per set in each of the two seasons. Her 7.61 digs per set is the second-best total in the history of the SAC and put her second in the country in the category. In two years in the Orange and Blue, Ballard has registered 1,603 digs, good for fifth in the history of the program. To establish a new program record she would need 948 but should firmly cement herself at No. 2.
The first-team AVCA all-region honoree has the most digs in conference history in a three-set match and a four-set match while tallying two of the top three efforts in five frames. She is one of two players in program history to be an all-region pick twice in her career and can become the only player to be lauded three times in 2019.
Junior Emily Harnischfeger (Macedon, N.Y.) was the team's top defensive specialist option off of the bench last year playing in 18 matches racking up 44 digs and 12 aces after making the transition from an outside hitter to the back line.
Making the move from the right side to the back row is junior Lindsay De Vore (Denton, Texas) after playing in nine matches in 2018.
Freshman Hayden Barton (Hixson, Tenn.) adds a third option into coach Dave Franklin's group after playing for a state championship team. Three of her family members were collegiate athletes including her mom, Kristin, who played at Baylor where she led the team in nine batting categories in 1996.
"Morgan has always been a leader," Vasquez said. "I can see Emily and Lindsay, who have really been working hard. They can step right in if they are asked to be a DS or wear the libero jersey that night. They are two very focused and athletic players. Hayden has come right in and jumped into wanting to learn the system. She keeps working hard and you love to see that from any of your teammates especially a freshman."
Part two of the position previews will highlight the attacking group on Monday. Carson-Newman's season opens in two weeks on Sept. 6 with a doubleheader against King and USC Aiken in Harrogate at 1 p.m.
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