BRISTOL, Tenn. – A season ago, the King University men's volleyball team narrowly missed a spot in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, giving the Tornado extra motivation in 2014. Head coach Ryan Booher returns two of his top three hitters from a season ago, and adds a talented freshmen class as the Tornado look to earn a Conference Carolinas Tournament berth.
King went 10-18 last season, posting a conference record of 5-11. The Tornado ended the season tied for sixth place in the standings with Belmont Abbey College, but lost the tiebreaker to finish out of the conference tournament for the second straight season.
"I feel very confident, we've had a good fall season, and a good preseason so far," Booher said. "The team is young this year, not as much experience coming back, but there is a lot of energy in this group. The have been a resilient group so, we'll see when it comes to our matches."
The Tornado return two of their top three hitters from a season ago, but Booher will have to replace 2013 team-leader Michael Koebel. Senior outside hitter Stephen Brown and sophomore middle blocker Matthew Lychock will look the fill the shoes of departed Koebel. Brown ranked second on the team with 168 kills in 2013 while Lychock registered 118 terminations. Lychock also ranked third on the team with an attack percentage of .247, and Brown also led King with 21 service aces.
Defensively, Lychock was second among Tornado with a total of 74 blocks. His 11 solo stuffs led the Tornado, and his average of 0.89 blocks per set ranked him seventh in Conference Carolinas. Junior Mason Casner will compete with Lychock in the middle as he posted a .268 attack percentage with 93 kills last season. On the defensive side, Casner also accounted for 40 total blocks.
There should be a good battle for the setter position as Jeff Bosslet and Matthew DeLong compete to replace Ashton Hippenstiel who led the team in assists and blocks while ranking second in digs in 2013. DeLong dished out 121 assists as a freshman while Bosslet accounted for 132 helpers during his junior campaign.
On the defensive side, King will have to replace their two leading defenders in terms of digs. Brown is the team's returning leader with 97 digs a season ago. Senior Jeremy Funk will look to fill the libero position as he accounted for 70 digs last season.
This returning group will be pushed by a solid class of seven incoming freshmen.
King was selected seventh in Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll. University of Mount Olive was picked first while Pfeiffer University was selected second in the eight-team league.
King opens the season at their home tournament, the King University Invitational on January 17 and 18. The Tornado take on Limestone College and Coker College on Friday before facing Belmont Abbey College and Quincy University on Saturday. The six-team Conference Carolinas Tournament will take place on April 9, 12 and 16 with the highest seed hosting each round.