Nov. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Carson Newman Athletics

The sixth-seeded Carson-Newman volleyball team bounced back from a first-set loss to win three straight sets as it knocked off third-seeded Tusculum, 3-1 (17-25, 25-22, 25-23, 27-25), on Friday afternoon in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Southeast Region Tournament at Cuddy Arena.

With the win, the Lady Eagles (20-10) advance to the Southeast Region semifinals for the second consecutive year and second time in school history. C-N will face second-seeded Flagler (28-8) on Saturday at 5 p.m. Flagler defeated seventh-seeded Armstrong Atlantic, 3-1 (25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 25-23) to advance. Tusculum's season comes to an end as it finished the year at 25-7.

Senior Carly Mozgai (Greensboro, N.C.) paced the Lady Eagles with 16 kills and 13 digs, while junior Carly Swisher (Fort Collins, Colo.) added 13 kills with a hitting percentage of .324, eight digs and two blocks. Junior Nikki James (Cookeville, Tenn.) pitched in 11 kills and 11 blocks. Senior Lara McDonald (Salem, Va.) delivered 47 assists and 11 digs, and sophomore Angelle Hayes (Brentwood, Tenn.) tallied a match-high 24 digs in the win.

Rhayne Smitherman (Columbus, Ohio) recorded a match-high 19 kills to lead Tusculum, while Bailee Price (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Allyson Ray (Hudson, Fla.) contributed 11 kills apiece. Ashley Sarmiento (Dayton, Ohio) dished out a match-high 51 assists and had 10 digs. Sam Underwood (Muncie, Ind.) and Caitlyn Dean (Fort Wayne, Ind.) each produced 23 digs in the loss.

The teams played through seven ties and four lead changes in the first set. C-N held a 16-13 advantage late, but Tusculum went on a 12-1 run to close out the set and claim a 25-17 win.

The Lady Eagles responded in the second set as they came out strong to build a 7-3 lead behind three kills and an ace by Swisher and never trailed. Tusculum scrapped back to tie things on three occasions with the last being at 20-20. A kill by James then gave C-N the lead for good, as it went on a 5-2 run to win the set, 25-22.

The third set saw seven ties and three lead changes, as the teams played to an early 10-10 tie. The Pioneers seemed to take control of the game with a 9-2 run, but the Lady Eagles refused to go away. A kill by James ignited C-N, as the Lady Eagles stormed back to win the set with a 13-4 run. James and Mozgai combined for seven kills during the decisive run.

Tusculum controlled the fourth set early on after building a 5-0 lead and eventually pushing it to 16-10 on a kill by Smitherman. The Pioneers were a point away from sending the match into a fifth set, as Smitherman later delivered another kill to give Tusculum a 24-21 lead. However, C-N made one last run to propel it into the next round behind a gutsy effort by Mozgai. Mozgai came through with three straight kills to tie the match at 24-24 and added another two points later to tie the match at 25-25. Sophomore Rachael Bowlin (Morristown, Tenn.) and freshman Lindsey Bryant (Gainesville, Ga.) followed with back-to-back kills to seal the win for the Lady Eagles.

Saturday's matchup with Flagler will be just the second all-time against the Saints and first in the postseason. Flagler defeated the Lady Eagles, 3-0, last season in the programs' only matchup. Flagler is the defending Southeast Region champion.