BRISTOL, Tenn. – After seeing Barton College come back from a 1-0 deficit in the match to take a 2-1 lead, the King University men's volleyball team attempted to mount a comeback of its own in the fourth set. But the Tornado's effort came up just short as Barton hung on for a 25-23 fourth-set win to clinch a match for the Bulldogs that featured 33 ties and 12 lead changes.
King (8-16, 3-8 Conference Carolinas) had fallen behind 23-18 in the fourth set with Barton (8-14, 4-6 Conference Carolinas) leading the match 2-1, making a Bulldogs' win seem inevitable. But King rattled off three straight points, taking advantage of a Zach McCalla attack error to spark the run that included a thunderous kill from Nick Serowski and a block by Mason Casner and Kiel Bell. After Barton reached match point, King used a block from its entire front line of Bell, Casner, and Serowski and an Eddie Moushikhian kill to pull within a point. Barton's Ladislav Lelkes, however, ensured that there would be no fifth set as his kill ended the match and dimmed King's hopes of earning a conference tournament bid.
Lelkes was one of four Bulldogs to reach double figures in kills. His .429 attack percentage was surpassed by Chad Stanback, Jr., who hit at a .433 clip and had a match-high 17 kills. Michael McMahon, the nation's leader in digs per set, had 18 on the evening. Both teams excelled defensively at the net, combining for 27.5 total blocks.
The turning point of the match came in the second set. Barton, trailing 1-0, scored four straight points to take a 21-17 lead in the set. King then traded two points for every Bulldogs point scored, leading to a 24-24 tie after the Tornado reached set point on a Casner solo stuff. The teams then played 12 more points before either team could gain a two-point advantage to take the set. With the score tied at 29, Barton's Stanback, Jr. gave the Bulldogs the lead with a kill, then combined with Lelkes on a block to give the Bulldogs a 31-29 win, tie the match at one set apiece, and deflate the momentum King had gained from its comeback to reach set point.
The Tornado were led by Serowski and Moushikhian, who had 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Serowski hit at a .303 clip and had a career-high six blocks on the evening. Casner totaled seven blocks, his most since King and Barton's previous meeting on February 7 in Wilson, N.C. Four Tornado had at least four blocks, while the team's 14.0 total blocks were its second-highest total of the season.
With its win, Barton leads King by 1.5 games for the sixth and final qualifying spot for a Conference Carolinas tournament bid. The Tornado will face second-place University of Mount Olive on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Bristol before closing out its regular season schedule with matches against fifth-place Lees-McRae College and conference leaders Erskine College.