BRISTOL, Tenn. – When the Tornado Men's Volleyball season opens on Thursday, Jan. 10, those reflecting on last season will notice many new faces on the court and a new attitude among those wearing the Navy and Scarlett. The addition of seven explosive freshmen, redshirts, and those returning from injury the Tornado expect to re-establish themselves as one of Conference Carolinas most threatening teams.
The 2013 King Tornado men's volleyball team will roll out the carpet for the Mount Olive Trojans and when they do they will also introduce a host of new faces that are expected to contribute to the team's success. Freshman Matthew Lychock (Las Vegas, Nev.) will help reload the front line with his 6-5 frame, complimenting a pair of 6-8 sophomores, Mason Casner and Matthew Harper, in the middle.
After losing one middle one of the best hitters in the program's short history, James Friddle, the Tornado will introduce four freshman hitters that will earn playing time to help fill the void. Zach Prexta (York, Pa.), the all-time and single-season kill leader at Red Land High School, will join Eddie Moushikhian (Atlanta, Ga.) and Pele Ili (Long Beach, Calif.) on the outside. Moushikhian was part of an AAU team that won back-to-back SRVA regional championships while Pele comes off of a First Team All-Conference senior season from one of the top high school programs in Southern California.
2013 Men's Volleyball Season Preview
"We brought in seven freshmen this past season," said third year head coach, Ryan Booher. "They are a great group of young gentlemen. For the next four years they will be a big part of our program."
Senior defensive specialist Ned Parker said of the freshman class, "All of these guys are awesome. They are all hard workers. Once they get the experience down, they are going to be going crazy [good]. All of them are going to contribute in their own ways."
Also joining the offense after redshirting in 2012 is Adrian Lopez (Houston, Texas), who is expected to start as a power hitter on the outside. Ashton Hippenstiel (Yucaipa, Calif.) returns after taking a medical redshirt last season and will begin the season as the team's starting setter.
Though the freshman class will largely contribute to the team's expected success, leadership on and off of the court from the upperclassmen will be essential. Ned Parker, Michael Koebel, and Hippenstiel will serve as senior tri-captains this season and all expect large improvements to be made.
"We've put a lot of work in all fall semester. We've been going hard," said Parker. "We're ready to get started and turn over a new leaf.
Koebel said, "It should be a good season. It will definitely be better than last year. We are going to be very competitive in the conference this year with all the strong teams we have to play."
'Defense' has been the resounding response when asked about what will be the strength of the 2013 Tornado team. After playing out of position most of last season due to injuries on the team, Parker will serve as the starting libero this year. In 2012, he registered 181 digs and averaged 2.13 per game to finish second on the team. Parker also added 25 block assists and two solo blocks in 85 sets played.
|Ned Parker (DS)|
|Michael Koebel (OH/MB)|
Though much of the front line effort will be reliant on the play of the freshman class, Koebel and sophomore Mason Casner will spend much time on the front row. Koebel, who also specializes in serve-receive, tallied 27 block assists and three solo blocks while Casner has 21 total blocks in limited playing time last year. Koebel also led the team with 24 service aces.
"I feel like we're right now at solid blocking," said Booher. "I feel like we need to improve a little on offense but the best thing about this group of young men is that they get along and they play for each other."
Adding to the depth of veterans that will return is outside/right side hitter Stephen Brown (Lawrenceville, Ga.). Last year, the junior put up 81 kills, 14 service aces, and 17 total blocks.
King looks to improve upon last year's disappointing 10-20 overall record and 2-8 finish against Conference Carolinas opponents. After three teams started men's volleyball programs and joined the conference this year, the league has expanded to nine teams. The Tornado were picked to finish fifth in the conference which has given players much to play for in order to prove the voters wrong.
"It should be a good season," said Koebel. "It will definitely be better than last year. We are going to be very competitive in the conference this year with all the strong teams we have to play."
"We're looking forward to a great season," said Booher. "We are going to improve from last year and work as hard as we can. I know with the caliber of young gentlemen I am able to coach that they are going to do all they can to make this a better season."
Belmont Abbey, Coker, and Erskine comprise the Conference Carolinas schools new to hosting a men's volleyball program.
The expansion of the conference to nine teams has changed the conference playoff format, as well. The 2013 will sport a six-team playoff pool where the top six finishers based on conference record will advance to the postseason. The conference schedule will also add six matches to each team's schedule, totaling 16.
King's first match of the season is Thursday, Jan. 10, inside the Student Center Complex when the Tornado host the conference preseason favorite, Mount Olive. First service is set for 7 p.m. The Tornado invite all local club volleyball teams and their families to the Student Center for 'Club Volleyball Night', where admission is free for those that wear your club team shirt.
The Tornado open the season playing four matches in three days, all at home. After the season opener on Jan. 10, they will host Rust College (Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.) and play a doubleheader against Belmont Abbey (10 a.m.) and Quincy (12 p.m.) on Jan. 12.
Admission for Tornado Men's Volleyball games is $5. King students, faculty, and staff members can attend all men's volleyball and King Athletic contests free of charge with a valid King ID.
View the 2013 Men's Volleyball season preview video embedded in this story for clips of the team in action. Click here to view the King Tornado YouTube page to find the full, unedited interview with Coach Booher talking about the rest of the conference and the landscape of men's volleyball. Interviews with team captains Michael Koebel and Ned Parker can also be found on the YouTube page.