BRISTOL, Tenn. – Needing a win to keep its postseason hopes alive, the King University men's volleyball team took a dramatic 32-30 first-set victory over Erskine College before the Flying Fleet came back to take the match 3-1 and win the Conference Carolinas regular season championship.
The Tornado (9-18, 4-10 Conference Carolinas) were led by Eddie Moushikhian and Nick Serowski, who finished with 11 kills each. Jeremy Funk also totaled 11 digs for the match. For the Fleet (18-6, 11-2 Conference Carolinas), Roberto Perez Vargaz had a match-high 20 kills, including recording at least five kills in three of the four sets. He was followed by Michael Michelau, who totaled 15 kills after coming into the match ranked fourth nationally with 4.12 kills per set.
King struggled to get into an offensive rhythm, hitting just .089 overall. The Tornado were out of sync for much of the match due to Erskine's serves. The Fleet, who came into the match ranked fourth among NCAA Division I teams in service aces per set, served up 10 aces. Vargas led the way with five.
The first set saw the Tornado jump out to a large lead in the early going, forcing an Erskine timeout as the Tornado held a 6-1 advantage just moments into the match. King led 13-6 after a block by Moushikhian and Matthew Lychock before the Fleet took an 18-16 lead after a 12-3 run. Neither team was able to gain a lead of more than two points through the rest of the set. The Tornado trailed 28-27 after an attack error before a Mason Casner kill and a thunderous solo block by Lychock gave the advantage back to the Tornado. The teams traded points before a Moushikhian kill and a Vargas error gave King a hard-fought 32-30 win in the first set.
The Fleet, however, came out and gained a stranglehold on the second set early. After a Fleet service error gave King a 4-3 advantage, Erskine went on a 12-3 run, its second such streak of the match, to lead 15-7 and force a King timeout. The Tornado never made a serious run at the lead and fell 25-13. The fourth set was close in the early going before Erskine began to gradually pull away, eventually taking a 25-15 win.
King controlled much of the fourth set, taking a 15-10 lead midway through. But a 5-1 Erskine run pulled the Fleet to within a point, and Erskine took a 22-19 lead on a 4-0 run sparked by a Michelau kill. King would get no closer and fell 25-21 to close the match.
Three Tornado seniors played the final match of their careers on Friday night. Justin Crane, whose career has been riddled by injury, plans to return as a student assistant coach next season. Setter Jeff Bosslet will leave King in possession of second place on the all-time assists list with 624, including 17 on the evening. He also ranks third all-time in assists per set. Jeremy Funk ranks third in King history with 350 digs and is King's all-time leader with 247 sets and 84 matches played.