Trojans Set to Host Conference FoesOctober 3, 2013
ANDERSON, S.C. – Looking to extend its best start ever in conference play, the Anderson volleyball team hosts South Atlantic Conference foes Mars Hill and Tusculum this weekend at the Abney Athletic Center.
Anderson returns to league play following a nonconference matchup that saw the Trojans blank Erskine 3-0 before a near-record crowd at the Abney Center last Tuesday night. Friday night’s contest will feature a pair of teams that are riding win streaks, as the Trojans are looking for their fifth consecutive victory, while MHU has won five straight.
After a challenging early-season schedule, AU has battled back to .500 on the season with an overall record of 5-5 and currently holds the second spot in league with a 4-1 SAC record. The Trojans have won four straight and five of their last six and are 3-0 in the friendly confines of the Abney Center.
With a victory Friday night, the Trojans would match their longest win streak since they posted a five-match win streak at the start of the 2010 campaign.
Offensively, the junior duo of Shannon Gillespie and Hailey Pittman lead the squad with 148 kills and 122 kills, respectively. Gillespie currently ranks second in the conference in kills per set (3.89 k/s), while Pittman is eighth (3.21 k/s) and sixth in hitting percentage. Junior Meghan Cautero’s 8.82 assists per set is good enough for fourth in the league, while junior Alix Hooker is seventh in the SAC with 4.13 digs per set on the season. Freshman Jessica Harris leads the Trojans with 25 total blocks and is 17th in the conference with .66 blocks per set.
Mars Hill (7-4, 5-2 SAC), which finished seventh in the SAC last season with a 7-11 conference record and a 14-15 overall mark, was picked to finish eighth in the South Atlantic Conference this season in the coaches’ preseason poll.
After opening their conference slate with back-to-back losses, the Lions have reeled off five consecutive wins, including four straight at home. MHU is an undefeated 4-0 at home, but is 1-3 on the road.
Senior outside hitter Marissa Wixson and senior libero Maggie Murphy were each named to the Preseason All-SAC Second Team in late August. Wixson, a two-time All-SAC performer, led Mars Hill and ranked fourth in the conference with a 3.39 kills per set average last season. She needs 62 kills to become the fifth Lion in school-history to top 1,000 career kills. Murphy is also a two-time All-SAC honoree, earning second-team honors in 2010 and 2011. She led the nation with a 6.91 digs per set average during the 2011 season and averaged 5.68 digs per set a year ago. Murphy is 323 digs shy of becoming the school's all-time leader.
The Lions swept the league’s weekly awards last Monday, with senior Toni Cole being named SAC Volleyball Player of the Week, while teammate Courtney Worthington was named SAC Volleyball Specialist of the Week. The duo helped MHU extend their winning-streak to four with four-set victories over Queens and Catawba. Cole hit .533 over the two matches, averaging 4.50 kills and 1.12 digs per set, with Worthington averaging 12.62 assists and 1.75 digs per set. She tied a Mars Hill four-set record with 62 assists in the Lions' victory over Catawba last Saturday.
Mars Hill is coming off a four-set, 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23) road win past Newberry last Monday night that saw the Lions rally after dropping the opening set to the Wolves. Mars Hill was led by Maggie Murphy with 30 digs. Wixson posted a double-double with 13 kills and 19 digs for the Lions, passing Evie Tafunai for fifth on Mars Hill's all-time list with 938 career kills. Junior Hannah Wilson tallied 13 assists, eight digs, two kills and a service ace), while freshmen Victoria Kaiser and Christen Nicholson each added 17 digs. Worthington recorded 32 assists.
The Series vs. Mars Hill
The Lions hold a narrow 7-6 edge in the overall series and have claimed five straight wins since Anderson defeated the Lions in AU’s inaugural season in the SAC in 2010. After MHU won the first-ever meeting in 1997, the Trojans won five of the next six meetings over the following 11 seasons.
The last meeting between the two teams occurred last October, when the Trojans posted their second-lowest hitting percentage of the season and dropped a 3-1 (16-25, 25-18, 22-25, 22-25) decision to the Lions. Gillespie recorded her 13th double-double of the season by adding 13 digs. Sophomore Kelley Lacey added nine kills and 21 digs, while Cautero led all players with 41 assists. Hooker tallied 24 digs on the night.
The Pioneers are coming off an impressive 24-8 campaign last season, finishing as runner-up in both the SAC regular-season and SAC Tournament. The Pioneers earned their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth a year ago, while advancing to the D-II Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
Tusculum was a preseason pick to finish second in the conference and had an impressive five players named to the Preseason All-Conference Team. Seniors Caitlyn Dean, Kassie Voelker and Ashley Sarmiento were first team selections, while Megan Hasse and Danae Stauffer earned second-team recognition. Dean, a three-time All-SAC first team selection, became the South Atlantic Conference’s all-time leader in that category as the Pioneers split a pair of contests at the 2013 Quality Inn & Suites Ashland Invitational in mid-September. Voelker, a 6-foot middle blocker, earned a spot on the 2012 AVCA All-Southeast Region first team after leading the Pioneers with 87 total blocks. She was also named to the All-SAC first team last year. Sarmiento, a 5-foot-11 setter, led the SAC in assists per set a year ago. Hasse led the Pioneers in kills, service aces and points. Stauffer, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, earned SAC All-Freshman Team honors last season as she averaged 2.59 kills and 0.99 digs per set.
Entering the weekend, Tusculum (9-4, 4-2 SAC) has won two straight and three of its last four after blanking Queens, 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-12) last Saturday in Greeneville, Tenn. Hasse led the Pioneers with 13 kills and three aces while Stauffer added 11 kills. Dean finished with a match-high 14 digs. Sophomore Hannah Berling dished out 29 assists to lead the Pioneer offense.
The Series vs. Tusculum
Tusculum owns an 11-1 advantage in the overall series that dates back to the 1997 season. The Pioneers claimed the first-ever meeting in 1997, then the series lapsed for six years before the two squads met again, with AU taking a 3-1 win in Greeneville, Tenn., during the 2004 campaign. Tusculum has since won 10 consecutive decisions past the Trojans, with six coming since Anderson joined the SAC in 2010.
The two teams last met on October 27, 2012 at the Abney Center, with Tusculum taking a 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 28-26, 25-10) decision and dampening AU’s Homecoming celebration. Gillespie recorded her fifth consecutive double-double and 14th of the season with a team-high 13 kills and added 16 digs. Cautero dished out a team-high 44 assists, Hooker notched 27 digs. Lacey posted 21 digs on the afternoon.