ANDERSON, S.C. – After winning the first regular-season title in program history with a road win over Mars Hill two days ago, the Anderson University volleyball team will be searching for the school's third appearance in five seasons and its first automatic bid to the NCAA Southeast Regional, as the No. 1 seeded Trojans will play host to eighth-seeded Coker, Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of this week's South Atlantic Conference Tournament.
The Trojans and Cobras will be meeting for the third time this season, with first-serve slated for 7 p.m. at the Abney Athletic Center.
Anderson (26-3, 19-1 SAC) is making its sixth consecutive trip to the conference tournament and seventh overall after joining the league for the 2010 campaign.
Anderson is 4-5 in its previous six appearances in the conference tournament, earning victories past Lincoln Memorial and stunning Carson-Newman in the 2014 tourney, while advancing to the finals of the event before falling to eventual champion Wingate for the second straight year in the 2014 championship tilt. Two seasons ago, AU extended eventual NCAA Southeast Region Champion Carson-Newman to five sets before succumbing at the Abney Athletic Center, while falling to Queens in last year's quarterfinals.
The Trojans were the No. 6 seed in 2010 and suffered a narrow, 3-2, setback to third-seeded Lincoln Memorial in the quarterfinals. As the eighth seed five years ago, AU dropped a 3-1 decision to top-seeded Wingate.
The Trojans entered the 2013 tournament as the sixth seed and promptly upset third-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne in the quarterfinals and second-seeded Tusculum in the semifinals. The 2014 season's No. 3 seed marked the previous highest seed earned by the Black and Gold, with Anderson reaching the NCAA Tournament for the third time in school history in 2014 after claiming the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory with a four-set win over Tusculum four seasons ago.
AU also reached the NCAA Tournament in 2008 after winning the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
The Trojans have posted a school-record 21 straight wins, while also setting a school record for wins in a season. AU has not lost at the Abney Center since Oct. 18, 2016 and the overall win streak is the third-longest active win streak in the nation, behind just Arkansas Tech (32) and California Baptist (25).
The Trojans rank in the top four in the league in 11 statistical categories, and have posted sweeps in 13 of their last 15 matches, including the last five. In the most recent NCAA rankings, AU is ninth in the nation in opponent's hitting percentage, 11th in the country in assists per set, 22nd in in kills per set and is 24th in hitting percentage.
Sophomore setter Emily Conlin is sixth in the nation in assists per set, with senior Rachel Burts standing 13th in the country in hitting percentage. Conlin leads the conference in assists per set and is third in total assists, while senior outside hitter Marissa Mitter is one of only three players in the SAC to have at least 300 kills and 300 digs on the season. The Redondo Beach, Calif., native paces the SAC with 367 kills and 409.5 points and is second with 3.86 kills per set and 4.3 points per set.
Burts is fifth in the league in solo blocks and ninth in overall blocks, while fellow senior Serena Jackson ranks seventh in total blocks. Junior Emily Conard is eighth in the conference in digs per set.
Coker (14-16, 7-13 SAC) earned the eighth seed with a four-set (28-26, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20) win over Lenoir-Rhyne two days ago in Hickory, N.C. The Cobras have won two of their last three outings and wrapped up the regular season by winning three of their last five contests.
Coker was predicted to finish 11th in the South Atlantic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll following a season that saw them finish with a 13-17 overall record and a 5-17 mark in conference play last year. Entering the season, Coker returned 11 letterwinners from last season, including senior outside hitter Madison Bingle, who led the team with 217 kills a year ago. Junior Kara Overholt led the Cobras with 556 digs a year ago and has nearly equaled that mark this season.
Sophomore Taylor du Bray leads the Cobras offensive attack and ranks fourth in the SAC with 333 kills this season, while senior Christen Bragg is fourth in the league with 1,052 assists this season.
The Series vs. Coker
The Trojans own a 29-7 record versus the Cobras over the past 19 seasons and have won 18 of the last 21 meetings, including 16 straight.
In two matchups with Coker this season, Mitter recorded 27 digs, 26 kills and four service aces, while sophomore Kathryn Hughes has knocked down 16 kills. Jackson and Burts have each posted 15 kills and combined for 10 total blocks against the Cobras. Junior Jayln Knight came up with 10 kills, 16 digs and three block assists in the two contests. Conlin averaged 36 assists and more than 12 digs, with Conard adding 31 digs.
SAC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Tuesday, Nov. 14 (at highest seeds)
Game 1: #1 Anderson vs. #8 Coker, 7 pm
Game 2: #4 Carson-Newman vs. #5 Tusculum 7pm
Game 3: #2 Wingate vs. #7 Lincoln Memorial, 7pm
Game 4: #3 Queens vs. #6 Mars Hill, 7pm
Friday, Nov. 17 (at Carson-Newman)
Game 5: winner game 1 vs. winner game 2, 4pm
Game 6: winner game 3 vs. winner game 4, 6:30pm
Saturday, Nov. 18 (at Carson-Newman)
Game 7: winner game 5 vs. winner game 6, 2 pm
SAC TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINAL INDIVIDUAL DAILY TICKETS:
Quarterfinals: Adult - $ 5.00; Youth (12 and under)/Senior (60+) Active or Retired Military - $3.00; College Students with college ID - $ 2.00
Click here to stay up to date with the 2017 SAC Volleyball Championship
2017 SAC Volleyball Championship Bracket (pdf)