ANDERSON, S.C. – After seeing its home opener postponed due to Hurricane Irma, the Anderson University volleyball team will open its South Atlantic Conference schedule on the road at defending conference champion Wingate, Friday night at Cuddy Arena.
First-serve versus the Bulldogs is slated for 7 p.m.
Anderson is 6-1 overall in South Atlantic Conference openers since joining the league in 2010 and is 4-1 in SAC road openers.
After opening the season by winning its first four decisions, Anderson (5-2, 0-0 SAC) is looking to get back in the win column after falling in four sets to defending Southeast Region Champion USC Aiken on the Pacers' home court last Saturday afternoon. The match was closer than a first glance indicates, as the win/loss margin was no more than four points through the first three sets.
Sophomore setter Emily Conlin and senior outside hitter Marissa Mitter were each named to the USC Aiken Invitational All-Tournament Team over the weekend. Both players earned Preseason First-Team All-SAC recognition, with Saturday marking the second straight weekend that Mitter captured All-Tournament accolades.
Conlin nearly matched her career high by handing out 58 assists in the five-set loss to Augusta and leads the league in both total assists and assists per set after recording 196 assists (12.12/set), including match-highs, in all four contests in Aiken. She has posted double-doubles in three of the last four matches and has recorded four on the season. The Glendale, Ariz., native is third in the SAC with a team-high 12 service aces.
Mitter recorded 56 kills (3.50/set) in the four weekend matches, including a season-high 21 in the setback to USC Aiken on Saturday. She recorded three double-doubles in four of the tournament matches, while adding 51 digs over the weekend and chipped in four aces and nine block assists. She is currently second in the SAC in total kills and ranks fourth in kills per set and is tied for fourth in service aces.
Senior Rachel Burts and junior Jayln Knight are second on the team with 64 kills apiece on the season, with Burts holding a team-high .350 hitting percentage. Knight has posted a pair of double-doubles and has narrowly missed recording two more.
Senior Serena Jackson and sophomore Kathryn Hughes are tied for fourth on the squad with 46 kills on the season, with Jackson tied for tops in the conference with 24 total blocks. Junior Emily Conard paces the Trojans and is 12th in the league with 101 digs on the defensive side.
Wingate (7-0, 2-0 SAC) has opened the season with seven consecutive victories and opened its conference slate by sweeping Coker, 3-0, on Sept. 5 and is coming off a 3-0 sweep of visiting Newberry two nights ago.
Redshirt senior right-side hitter Rachael Cecka recorded a career-high 11 kills in the win over Newberry, with junior middle blocker Anna Holmquist adding nine kills. Senior outside hitter Katie Bludau had six kills, nine digs and three blocks, while sophomore setter Rachel Alles had 23 assists, 20 digs, three kills and two blocks. Junior Kori Adams collected 12 digs.
After winning the 2016 SAC Tournament and being one of three teams to represent the league in the NCAA Southeast Regional, Wingate was picked to win its 12th consecutive regular-season title after picking up 10 first-place votes and 100 points from the coaches' panel in the Preseason SAC Coaches' Poll. The Bulldogs finished 29-6 last season after advancing to the NCAA Southeast Regional for the 12th straight year with the league's automatic bid.
Junior outside hitter Oakley Attaway was a first team preseason all-conference selection, while senior Katie Bludau, along with sophomores Rachel Alles and Treslyn Ortiz were Second-Team Preseason All-SAC honorees.
Attaway earned second team All-SAC honors during her sophomore season in 2016, after collecting All-SAC Freshman Team accolades in 2015. She also received AVCA All-Region recognition last season, finishing second on the team and 10th in the SAC with 2.89 kills per set. She notched four double-doubles on the year. Bludau was an honorable mention AVCA All-Region selection in 2016, while also earning a spot on the All-SAC Tournament Team. She finished second on the team with 330 kills, ranking 11th in the league with 2.80 kills per set.
Ortiz earned second team All-SAC honors during her freshman season, while also earning second team All-Region accolades from the D2CCA to go along with All-SAC Freshman Team honors. She recorded 562 digs, averaging 4.57 digs per set. Alles earned a spot on the All-SAC Freshman Team in 2016, while also earning honorable mention all-conference accolades. She handed out 9.57 assists per set as a freshman, ranking second on the team with 2.70 digs per set while adding 115 kills, 42 blocks and 31 aces.
The Series vs. Wingate
Anderson will enter Friday's contest looking for its second straight win and its third overall win in school history past the Bulldogs and just its' second victory since 1999, when the Trojans were in their first year as a member of NCAA Division II. Wingate has won 19 of the last 20 matchups and leads the overall series, 19-2.
The Trojans snapped a 19-match skid at the hands of the perennial powerhouse when they stunned Wingate with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-8, 25-14) win at the Abney Athletic Center last season. The loss marked just the Bulldog's fourth SAC loss in three years.
Hughes and then-senior Allison Gaminde and shared match-high honors with 10 kills apiece, with Gaminde also chipping in three block assists. Conlin dished out 26 assists with Conard coming up with 19 digs. Burts recorded a solo block and four block assists in the win.
In addition to the regular season home-and-home matchups, the two teams have squared off in two of the last four SAC Tournament Championships, with the Bulldogs sweeping AU on both occasions.
Queens (6-1, 1-0 SAC) opened the season with five consecutive victories and has seen four of its road matches cancelled due to weather-related issues. The Royals opened SAC play with a 3-1 win over visiting Coker last Tuesday night, with Senior Rebecca Cochran leading the team with 21 kills and a .246 hitting percentage to go along with 19 digs. Fellow senior Jessica Raines followed with 11 kills. Senior setter Sydney Kunz paced the offense with 49 assists and contributed 12 digs. Sophomore Lexie Dolecheck registered 16 digs.
The Royals were predicted to finish fourth in the South Atlantic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll following a season that saw QUC finish with a 22-10 overall record and an 16-6 mark in conference play last year, while making an appearance in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history.
Seniors Rebecca Cochran and Sydney Kunz earned spots on the preseason all-conference second team. Cochran totaled 343 kills a year ago and ranked inside the league's top 15 with 2.68 kills per set while also contributing 43 service aces. Kunz, a SAC Second-Team All-Conference honoree a year ago, was fourth overall among all players with 9.86 assists per set and chipped in 335 digs (2.60/set) and 36 service aces.
The Series vs. Queens
The Trojans are 23-11 versus Queens over the past 19 seasons and have won 20 of the last 25 meetings, but the Royals have claimed two of the last three matchups.
The two teams have met just eight times since 2009, when both were members of Conference Carolinas, with Queens joining the SAC in 2013. The Trojans swept the regular-season meetings in 2015. AU and Queens split each of the 2013, 2014 and 2016 regular-season matchups, with each squad winning on the other's home court in 2013 and defending their home court in 2014 and 2016. Three of the last eight meetings have been five-set affairs.
The Trojans suffered a 3-1 (12-25, 18-25, 25-19, 24-26) loss to Queens in the first round of the SAC Tournament last season, with Mitter leading the Trojans with 15 kills and added 15 digs for her 20th double-double of the season, while Burts posted 13 kills and three total blocks. Jackson tallied nine kills, with Hughes chipping in seven kills. Conlin notched her 19th double-double of the campaign with 42 assists and 11 digs. Knight recorded a match-high 23 digs, with Conard adding 20 digs.