After a hot 5-0 start against Southeast Region opponents, the Newberry Wolves volleyball team will take their talents out of region play for their toughest tournament in years.
The Scarlet and Gray will face two Florida schools and two schools from the Midwest in their final tournament action of the season.
The Wolves aim to continue one of the hottest starts in program history, as a win in the first match Friday would tie for the longest winning streak to start a season since joining the South Atlantic Conference in 1996. The trip to St. Petersburg, Fla., will tie for the longest trip in program history. Newberry made the 545-mile trip to Eckerd in 2005 for a solo match.
Newberry also sits in great position in the Southeast Region and the state. The Wolves are the only 5-0 team in the region and one of only six regional squads without a loss. Newberry is also one of three remaining unbeatens in collegiate volleyball in the state of South Carolina as the University of South Carolina Gamecocks (8-0) and Anderson University Trojans (3-0) have yet to be tagged with a loss.
Entering this weekend’s action, Newberry’s SAC Player of the Week in Samantha Parrish (Angola, Ind.) leads the conference with 3.82 kills per set and is tied for third in the league with eight service aces. She also ranks 10th in the conference in digs with 3.18 per set.
The 6-2 offense will be directed by setters Blair Browning (New Lexington, Ohio) and Rachel Moran (Cypress, Texas). With their time split, the duo both rank in the top 10 in the conference in assists per set with Moran in ninth handing out 4.94 per set and Browning just behind her in 10th with 4.82 per set. Moran is also tied for the conference lead at the service line with nine aces.
Joining Parrish on the outside attack is Lauren Prachar (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who averages 2.06 kills and 2.69 digs per set with seven aces this season. Amanda Soper (Simi Valley, Calif.) averages 1.65 kills per set and Chelsea Mayor (Sugar Land, Texas) averages 1.41 kills per set.
In the middle, Jessica King (Los Angeles, Calif.) currently ranks third in the league with 13 total blocks and averages 1.4 kills per set. Freshman Alexus Horton (Austin, Texas) had a big match against Lander on Tuesday night and has averaged 1.71 kills per set in her two starts and Madison Schultz (Bellmont, Ind.) is the team leader in hitting percentage at .353 with 1.23 kills per set.
NORTHWOOD (Mich.), 3-1 overall - Friday, 1 p.m.
A lupine matchup will start the tournament action as the Wolves face off against the Northwood Timberwolves. NU went 3-1 in the Ferris State Invitational last weekend with wins over three West Virginia schools (West Virginia State, Glenville State and Alderson-Broaddus) and a loss to Mercyhurst.
Northwood is led on offense by Juliia Pakhomenko, a redshirt freshman from Ukraine, who is averaging 3.64 kills and 2.73 digs per set with 11 aces in 11 sets played. Another Ukranian player in Zina Liubymova has 2.8 kills and a team high 3.4 digs per set. Jordan Dunn runs the offense and averages 9.09 assists per set. The Timberwolves have 14 blocks in 11 sets.
No. 22 ECKERD, 3-1 overall - Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Newberry faces the host Tritons in their toughest matchup of the season. EC lost their opener to Minnesota State-Moorhead at the Rollins Invitational before pounding Chestnut Hill (Pa.), California (Pa.) and Kentucky State. The Tritons will have a rematch with MSU-Moorhead Thursday night at home prior to the tournament action.
A hot-hitting team, all of the Tritons’ regular hitters hit over .250, with Lindsay Biggs averaging 3.91 kills per set. Alex Laton averages 2.82 kills per set and Ali McAlvany averages 2.80 kills per set. Eckerd averages 1.5 blocks per set and Madison Burr hands out 12.10 assists per set, with Kaliegh Humphrey averaging 3.5 digs per set.
MINNESOTA STATE - MOORHEAD, 4-1 overall - Saturday, 10 a.m.
The MSUM Dragons close a two-week Florida trip with the match against the Wolves. After a 3-1 Rollins Invitational with wins over nationally-ranked Eckerd and Rollins and unranked Chestnut Hill, with a loss to California (Pa.). On Tuesday on their way west to St. Petersburg, the Dragons defeated Florida Southern and play Eckerd Thursday.
Heidi Lensing leads the team with 3.43 kills per set, Kaitlin VanWinkle has 2.57 kills and a team-high 1.14 blocks per set and Katy Ness leads with 6.43 digs per set. The Dragons also run a 6-2 offense with Sam Sullivan averaging 6.0 assists and Anna Olson averages 5.57 assists.
ROLLINS, 2-2 overall - Saturday, 3 p.m.
Tournament action closes with the Rollins Tars, who fell from the national rankings with losses to California (Pa.) and MSU-Moorhead. Rollins swept Kentucky State and Pace in its home tournament.
Megan Hodges leads the Tars with 4.0 kills, 1.0 aces and 2.15 digs per set. Another 6-2 offense, Rollins’ setters are Kiana Parks with 7.2 assists per set and April Jackson with 6.5 assists per set. Jill Lau and Collyn Welsch each average 2.08 kills per set.