ANDERSON, S.C. – Following a brief one-match homestand, the Anderson University volleyball team will close out its regular-season slate with four of its final five regular-season matches on the road, beginning with a pair of South Atlantic Conference matches this weekend in the Volunteer State. The Trojans will square off against Tusculum, Friday night at 7 p.m., then travel to the Tennessee-Kentucky border to take on Lincoln Memorial, Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Anderson (22-3, 13-2 SAC) has won six of its last seven outings and has posted a sterling 12-3 record away from home this season. The Trojans enter the regular-season home-stretch trailing first-place Wingate by one game (two in the loss column) and leading third-place LMU by three games in their quest for a second straight conference championship.
The Trojans have reached the 22-win plateau for the second consecutive season and the seventh time in program history and are looking to become just the sixth team in school history to post 23 victories after winning a school-record 28 victories a year ago.
The Pioneers, who posted a 15-16 overall record a season ago, including a 10-10 mark and a fourth-place finish in the conference, were a preseason pick to finish sixth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Tusculum (3-15, 1-11 SAC) has dropped back-to-back decisions after knocking off Catawba in five sets a week ago on the road and has lost 15 of their last 16 outings.
The Pioneers returned seven letterwinners from last year's squad, including senior outside hitter Cassie Born and senior libero Melissa Mazur. Born was named First-Team Preseason All-Conference after leading the Pioneers in total kills and kills per set last season while earning a spot on the All-SAC Second Team. Her 320 kills were sixth in the conference while her 2.96 kills per set average was ninth-best in the league. She averaged 3.21 digs per set and tallied 13 double-doubles and posted season-highs with 26 kills and 26 digs against Lincoln Memorial.
Mazur surpassed the 2,000 career dig plateau earlier this season at LMU, becoming only the third player in program history to achieve the feat.
The Series vs. Tusculum
Tusculum owns a 15-10 advantage in the overall series that dates back to the 1997 season, with eight of AU's victories coming since the 2013 campaign. The Pioneers claimed the first-ever meeting in 1997, with the series lapsing for six years before the two squads met again, with AU taking a 3-1 win in Greeneville, Tenn., during the 2004 campaign.
Tusculum had won 12 consecutive decisions past the Trojans, with eight coming since Anderson joined the SAC in 2010, before AU defeated the Pioneers twice in the 2013 postseason. The Trojans outlasted Tusculum in five sets in the SAC Tournament semifinals, then upset the fourth-seeded Pioneers, 3-1, in the opening round of the NCAA Southeast Regional, marking Anderson's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
The Trojans have won five straight and seven of the last eight matchups on the strength of sweeping the last two seasons' regular-season matchups.
In the earlier matchup this season, sophomore Regan Duty posted six kills behind a .429 hitting percentage. Senior Jayln Knight tallied five kills and eight digs, with redshirt-sophomore Hailee Wilhelm adding five kills and four block assists. Junior outside hitter Kathryn Hughes notched five kills, while junior setter Emily Conlin recorded 33 assists, nine digs and a pair of service aces. Freshman Meghan DeVaux notched a match-best 14 digs.
The Lady Railsplitters, who posted a 13-16 overall record a season ago, including an 8-12 mark and a seventh-place finish in the SAC, were a preseason pick to finish fifth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
LMU (13-6, 9-4 SAC) has won four straight and five of its last six decisions to climb into third place in the league standings, three games behind the Trojans. The Lady Railsplitters are 9-3 at home on the season.
Junior right-side hitter Rylee Storms and senior libero Erica Whiteaker swept SAC Player of the Week honors earlier this week, as Storms had double-digit kills in two of LMU's three matches, combining for 35 total to go along with 28 digs and eight blocks. Whiteaker tallied 80 digs, 18 assists and eight aces across the three matches.
Earlier this season, redshirt junior Tone Gill was named the SAC Player of the Week after recording 11 kills on a season-high .333 hitting percentage in LMU's 3-1 home victory over Queens.
The Series vs. Lincoln Memorial
The Trojans and Lady Railsplitters have met 23 times over the last 15 seasons, including 18 meetings since AU joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2010 campaign.
LMU holds a 15-8 advantage in the overall series between the two schools, with Anderson snapping a nine-match skid at the hands of the Lady Railsplitters in the first meeting five seasons ago and defeating LMU three times during the 2014 campaign, including a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-13) decision in the opening round of the SAC Championship. After LMU swept the 2015 and 2016 matchups, the Trojans returned the favor by blanking the 'Splitters twice last season and defeating LMU, 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-21) earlier this season at the Abney Athletic Center.
In this season's first matchup, Knight and junior Conlin each posted double-doubles, with Knight leading all players with 16 kills on a .412 hitting percentage and adding 11 digs, while Duty tallied 10 kills. Redshirt freshman Hannah Worsham and Wilhelm each added eight kills apiece, with Worsham committing just one attack error in 15 attempts for a .467 hitting percentage. Conlin recorded 37 assists and a team-high 15 digs, with DeVaux tallying 13 digs. Senior Emily Conard notched 12 digs.