Rock Hill, SC – A trio of Carson-Newman players earned spots on the South Atlantic Conference’s preseason all-league units announced last week. Among them was Weaverville’s own Libero Morgan Ballard.
This campaign marks the most individuals represented on preseason ledgers in the history of the school as the Eagles had a pair of players picked several times, including most recently 2016 when Anna Patton and Natalie Harris were listed.
“Compared to last year we have already improved so much,” Ballard said of the team. “We have extra time growing as a team together because we are coming back together. Everyone is fine-tuning details about their position and finding out how to make it work together. We have raised our expectations. We have come up with some goals that we really want to achieve.”
Ballard returns for her second season at Mossy Creek coming off one of the best seasons by a Libero in C-N history. She became the seventh player in program history to earn an all-region honor from the AVCA and first Libero earning spots on the AVCA and D2CCA units. The Wofford transfer became the first Carson-Newman Libero to be named first-team All-South Atlantic Conference since 2005 when Blaire Young was picked to the top unit for the second consecutive season as Ballard was the 23rd Eagle to earn first-team honor.
As a sophomore, the Tar Heel State native led the league in digs per set with 6.94 ranking third in the nation, a mark that would be the top mark in the history of the program passing Young’s tally of 6.79 in 2004. With 819 total digs on the year, Ballard was the SAC leader and ranked second nationally. The figure is good for second on the school’s ledger, 37 behind Young’s 856 in 2004.
Ballard registered the two highest dig tallies in Division II in 2017 highlighted by a league record of 58 digs in a four-set victory over Mars Hill on Sept. 9, 2017 that was the 10th-most in the history of NCAA volleyball. The previous league mark was set by Jenny Young of Catawba versus Tusculum on Sept. 17, 2011 in a five-set outing. Caitlyn Dean held the mark for a SAC athlete in a four-set affair when she racked up 47 for the Pioneers against Anderson (S.C.) on Oct. 27, 2012. After recording 53 versus Augusta Oct. 14, the sophomore has three of the top six dig efforts in Division II in 2017. She had five matches with at least 40 scoops leading the team in passing 28 times.
“Last year was a really good year for me,” Ballard stated. “There were a lot of numbers put up and all of the accolades and everything, but that just means that I need to improve all the skills that I have already been able to achieve. Nothing is ever perfect in volleyball. That just means that I need to raise my standard.”