ANDERSON, S.C. – Winners of its last three road contests, the Anderson volleyball team opens its longest South Atlantic Conference road swing of the season by paying a visit to Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday night. First-serve is slated for 7 p.m. at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.
Anderson (9-8, 8-4 SAC) has won four of its last five contests and is coming off a split of last weekend’s conference matchups, defeating Coker, 3-1, and falling to 13th-ranked Wingate by a 3-0 count at the Abney Center.
The junior tandem of Shannon Gillespie and Hailey Pittman, who have each earned SAC Player of the Week accolades this season, leads the squad with 3.91 and 3.05 kills per set, respectively. Gillespie is riding a streak of eight consecutive double-doubles and has notched 12 double-double efforts on the season, while Pittman is eighth in the conference with her .304 hitting percentage. The Orlando, Fla. native recorded a career-high .647 hitting percentage in Friday’s four-set win over Coker, committing just one error in 17 attack attempts.
Junior Alix Hooker, who has moved into 10th place all-time in AU’s career record books for digs, averages a team-high 4.50 digs per set and ranks sixth in the league. Fellow junior Meghan Cautero leads the team and ranks ninth in the league with nearly eight assists per set. Freshman Jessica Harris leads the Trojans with 46 blocks on the season and ranks 14th in the league, averaging 0.70 per set.
Lenoir-Rhyne was a preseason pick to finish fifth in the league this season in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, behind seven-time defending league champion Wingate, Tusculum, Lincoln Memorial and Newberry.
The Bears returned five starters from a squad that finished 19-12 last year including an 11-7 mark in conference play while earning its second bid to the NCAA Tournament in school history. Junior outside hitter Haley Rhyne was named to the preseason all-league first team after leading the Bears with 353 kills last season, while adding 221 digs, 61 blocks and 16 service aces. Lenoir-Rhyne also returned outside hitter Ashley Wells who earned South Atlantic Conference All-Freshman Team honors after finishing with 286 kills, 100 digs, 60 blocks and 13 service aces last fall.
The Bears are 11-5 overall on the season and are currently tied with the Trojans for fourth place in the conference standings with an 8-4 mark in the SAC. L-R, which is slated to host to Mars Hill tonight, has won five of its last six outings and is an impressive 6-1 at Shuford Gymnasium. The Bears have also won five of their six home league matchups, with the lone setback being a narrow five-set loss to Newberry in late September.
Lenoir-Rhyne is coming off a 3-1 (25-16, 17-25, 25-20, 25-20) road win past Catawba last Friday night that saw three Bears notch double-doubles. Rhyne led the way with a match-high 20 kills to go along with 10 digs while sophomore setter Briana Gottberg added 46 assists and 11 digs in the victory. Sophomore outside hitter Morgan Bunker tallied 10 kills and 12 digs.
The Series vs. Lenoir-Rhyne
The Trojans and Bears have met just eight times over the past 16 seasons, with L-R holding a 6-2 advantage in the overall series that dates back to the 2000 campaign. The Bears won the first matchup, 3-0, and the series saw a seven-year lapse before L-R edged Anderson, 3-2, during the 2008 season. The two squads have met six times as members of the SAC, with the Trojans sweeping the 2010 season series. But Lenoir-Rhyne has won four straight over AU the past two seasons, with five of the last seven contests going the full five-set distance.
The last meeting between the two schools saw Lenoir-Rhyne claim a 3-2 (17-25, 25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 15-7) win over the Trojans a year ago at the Abney Center. Gillespie posted her 10th double-double of the season with a team-high 18 kills, while adding 15 digs. Pittman recorded 11 kills and added a pair of service aces. Cautero handed out a match-high 44 assists and completed her fifth double-double of the season with 17 digs. Hooker recorded a match-best 30 digs.