BRISTOL, Tenn. – Attempting to rebound from a crushing four-set loss to Barton College on Friday night, the King University men's volleyball team fell to the University of Mount Olive 3-0 in a match separated by the slimmest of margins.
The Trojans (12-10, 9-3 Conference Carolinas) took all three sets by a combined seven points, winning by scores of 25-23, 25-22, and 27-25. The match featured 27 ties and 13 lead changes, and both teams were unable to sustain any sort of sizable margin throughout.
King (8-17, 3-9 Conference Carolinas) hit .143 for the match, the Tornado's fifth straight outing below the .200 mark. Eddie Moushikhian, the conference's sixth-leading player in kills, paced King with 10 terminations and finished two digs shy of a double-double. Kiel Bell had nine kills to go along with his seven digs, and Nick Serowski finished with eight kills and four blocks.
The first set was largely a back-and-forth affair. King held a slim lead for much of the set that never swelled to more than a two-point advantage, but Mount Olive scored three straight points to take an 18-17 lead and force a King timeout. The Tornado forced ties at 18, 21, and 22 points, but Mount Olive scored three of the set's final four points on a block by Mike Mann and Angel Dache, a Renzo Rossato kill, and a Dache termination, his fifth of the set, to take the early 1-0 lead.
Dache came into the match ranked fifth nationally in kills per set and topped the conference in kills, adding to his total with 18 kills on 33 attempts in the match. No other Trojan accumulated more than seven kills. Dache also had nine digs and five blocks on the day.
In the second set, the teams traded the lead six times as neither team built a lead of more than three points the entire way. Six of the set's ten ties came between 14 and 19 points, but the Trojans were able to roll off three straight points to take a 21-19 lead on two kills from Dache and another from Steven Cruse. King fought to within a point twice, but the Trojans again closed the set on a 3-1 run behind two King errors and a Dache kill.
The Trojans appeared poised to run away with the third set after building an early 11-4 advantage and leading by as many as seven points in the late stages. But trailing 21-14, the Tornado began to catch breaks as the Trojans were unable to keep the ball in play. Four consecutive attack errors against Mount Olive closed the gap to three points. The Trojans got a point to make the score 22-18, but a Moushikhian kill sparked another 4-0 run to tie the score at 22. The teams were deadlocked at 23, 24, and 25 points, but kills from Lewis Einarson and Dache ended the match and gave Mount Olive the sweep.
King's loss leaves the Tornado still mathematically in contention for a berth in the Conference Carolinas Tournament. In order to earn one of the tournament's six bids, King would need to win both of its remaining matches and have Barton lose all three of its matches yet to be played. The Bulldogs host Belmont Abbey, Mount Olive, and Pfeiffer to close the regular season.
The Tornado will host Lees-McRae on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. before squaring off with Erskine on April 4 in the regular season finale.