ANDERSON, S.C. – After stepping out of South Atlantic Conference play two nights ago, the Anderson volleyball team will be looking to get back in the win column as the Trojans wrap up a three-match homestand by playing host to league opponents Brevard and Lenoir-Rhyne this weekend.
AU (10-11, 9-6 SAC) snapped a three-match skid with last Saturday’s four-set, 3-1, win at Carson-Newman , but dropped a four-set, 3-1, decision to Lander Tuesday night at the Abney Athletic Center. AU is currently alone in sixth place in the league standings, but remains just one game out of second place.
Junior outside hitter Shannon Gillespie and junior middle blocker Hailey Pittman lead the Trojans offensively, averaging 3.96 and 3.22 kills per set, respectively. Gillespie currently ranks second in the SAC with her kills average, while Pittman stands eighth. The Orlando, Fla. native also ranks fifth in the league with her team-best .321 hitting percentage. The duo also get the job done defensively, with Pittman 16th in the league with 47 blocks. Gillespie, who needs just eight kills to become just the ninth player in school history to reach the 1,000-kill plateau, also adds more than three digs per set.
Junior Meghan Cautero recorded her third consecutive double-double and eighth of the season with 39 assist and 13 digs versus Lander, averages nearly eight assists per set. Teammate Alix Hooker averages nearly five digs (4.83) and ranks fourth in the conference.
A pair of newcomers also appear in the conference rankings, as freshman Jessica Harris leads the Trojans with 58 total blocks on the season and is 12th in the league, averaging 0.72 per set. Freshman Tinsley Hallman leads AU with 31 service aces and is tied for fourth in the SAC.
Last season, Brevard posted an overall record of 11-18 and a 1-16 slate in the league, with the lone win a 3-1 home victory coming at the expense of the Trojans. First-year head coach Kelly Burdeau’s squad is 6-14 overall and 2-13 in conference action this season and has dropped back-to-back home decisions coming into Friday night’s contest. The Tornados opened the campaign by winning three of its first four matches, including two at the North Greenville Invitational and have defeated SAC foes Coker and Catawba on the road this season. The Tornados are 4-4 on the road this season.
Brevard is coming off a 3-2 (17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 13-25, and 11-15) loss at home to SAC opponent Tusculum last Saturday afternoon. The Tornados took two of the first three sets from the Pioneers, but Tusculum won the final two frames to claim the victory. Sophomore Fatima Gharachorloo led BC with a season-high 19 kills, while Erin Rollins chipped in 13 kills and Camille Cameron had 12. Aleksandra Vrvilo had a match-high 23 digs for the Tornados, while Kayla Hanus had 12 digs to go along with 51 assists.
The Series vs. Brevard
Despite being separated by less than 70 miles, the Trojans and Tornados have met just eight times over the past 17 seasons, including the inaugural matchup during the 2006 campaign, with Anderson claiming a 3-1 win in that contest. AU and Brevard have met seven times over the last four seasons as members of the South Atlantic Conference, with the Trojans holding a 6-1 advantage in the SAC series between the two schools. Anderson had claimed five consecutive victories in the overall series before the Tornados upended AU in last season’s first meeting. AU avenged the setback with a 3-0 sweep at the Abney Center.
The last contest between the two squads saw Anderson blank Brevard 3-0 (25-23, 25-12, 25-23) on Sept. 27 at Boshamer Gymnasium. Pittman and Gillespie shared match-high kill honors with 13 apiece, while Hallman added six kills. Cautero dished out a match-high 31 assists and Hooker tallied 15 digs. Harris recorded four block assists.
Lenoir-Rhyne, which was a preseason pick to finish fifth in the conference this season in the SAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, is currently tied for second in the league standing with Tusculum and Lincoln Memorial, each with 10-5 marks.
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 13-6 overall on the season and have won three their last four outings, including a 3-0 sweep of the Trojans nine days ago. Lenoir-Rhyne is 8-2 at home on the season and has won three of its last four road contests.
L-R is also coming off a 3-2 (25-20, 29-31, 22-25, 25-15 and 13-15) loss to Tusculum last Friday night that saw Rhyne set a career-high with 26 kills and sophomore outside hitters Morgan Bunker and Ashley Wells finish with 17 kills each. Sophomore setter Briana Gottberg also finished with a career-high 64 assists and 11 digs.
The Series vs. Lenoir-Rhyne
The Trojans and Bears have met just nine times over the past 17 seasons, with L-R holding a 7-2 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 seven times as members of the SAC, with the Trojans sweeping the 2010 season series. But Lenoir-Rhyne has won five straight over AU, with five of the last eight contests going the full five-set distance.
The last meeting between the two schools saw Lenoir-Rhyne sweep the Trojans 3-0 (19-25, 23-25, 20-25) on Oct. 22. Gillespie recorded 15 kills and 11 digs, while Pittman recorded nine kills on the night. Cautero tallied a team-high 25 assists and 12 digs, with Hooker adding 17 digs. Hallman finished with three service aces and Harris posted four block assists.