Win over Lees-McRae keeps conference tournament hopes alive
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Needing a win to stay alive in the race for the final berth in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the King University men's volleyball team avenged a February loss to Lees-McRae with a 3-1 win over the Bobcats.
The match turned on a crucial sequence in the third set. With Lees-McRae leading 12-9 and the match tied at a set apiece, Nick Serowski got one of his team-high 12 kills to bring the Tornado to within two points. He then stepped back to serve and sent the ball over the net with more velocity than he had at any point this season. The Bobcats' defense was caught off guard and made an attack error. Serowski then aced his next serve to tie the match. His next blistering serve once again got the Bobcats defense out of position, and another attack error gave King a 13-12 lead. Lees-McRae called a timeout despite only trailing by a point, which energized the Tornado players.
The Bobcats would tie the match at 13 after one of Brady Markle's 23 kills, but two straight King points gave the Tornado the advantage. Lees-McRae would pull within a point of the Tornado five times but would never regain the lead. The set ended on a kill by Eddie Moushikhian that gave King a 25-22 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Despite having the momentum heading into the fourth set, it was the Bobcats that opened up a 12-9 lead in the early going. But a service error and a Moushikhian kill sparked a 5-1 run that gave King a 14-13 lead. The teams traded points and were deadlocked at 16 points before King scored five straight points that opened a 9-3 run to close the set and the match.
Serowski had one of his most effective matches of the season, hitting .417 with 12 kills and compiling five blocks and six digs. Moushikhian had a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. Matthew Lychock his .667 with five kills while leading all players with seven blocks. King dominated at the net, compiling 12.0 team blocks and holding Lees-McRae to a .163 hitting percentage. The Bobcats had 54 team kills to King's 39 and had three players reach double figures, but had 38 more attempts on the night than the Tornado.
King appeared in danger of a loss after falling behind by as many as seven points in the first set. The Tornado went on an 8-2 run to cut Lees-McRae's lead to just a point, but the Bobcats responded to win the set 25-22. The Tornado, however, jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the second set and led throughout on their way to a 25-18 win.
The Tornado collected donations at the match for the DeShaun Greer Memorial Fund. Greer was a former King basketball player and current undergraduate student who passed away Saturday night in Johnson City. Fans at the match raised $1,004, which will be donated to Greer's family to cover funeral costs and other expenses.
With its win, King remains alive in the race for a bid to the conference tournament. Should King defeat Erskine in its final match of the regular season and Barton lose its remaining league contests to Belmont Abbey, Mount Olive, and Pfeiffer, King would secure the final berth in the six-team tournament. King would also earn a conference tournament bid with a win over Erskine, a Barton win in one of its remaining matches, a Lees-McRae split with Pfeiffer and Limestone, and a Bobcats' loss to Erskine in its final contest of the year. A three-way tie between the teams for fifth place or a 5-9 league record for Lees-McRae with a win over Erskine could also yield a bid for the Tornado depending on the outcomes of various tiebreak scenarios.
King closes regular season play with an April 4 match with Erskine College, which currently sits atop the Conference Carolinas standings with a 9-2 mark in league play. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.