BRISTOL, Tenn. – Behind three Lady Tornado players posting double-digit kills, King faced elimination but rallied to take the final two sets in a 3-2 win over Lees-McRae College on Wednesday night. The victory marked the first head-to-head competition in the inaugural Blue Ridge Cup and snapped a Conference Carolinas 58-match win streak once possessed by the Bobcats.
The Lady Tornado found themselves down two games to one to the defending Conference Carolinas champions when Mariah Herington (Jonesborough, Tenn.) provided a spark with five kills in the game, prompting the comeback. King broke away from the Bobcats early and kept them at arm's length with a 25-17 victory to tie the match at two games each. Olivia Underwood (Pearland, Texas) led the final charge from the service line as part of a 7-0 run to close out the fourth game. Herington has two of her five kills in the set during the run to propel King.
In the decisive fifth set, both team battled to a 7-7 tie before King made its move to create a five-point lead, 14-9. Lees-McRae committed five attack errors, one reception error, and one ball-handling error all the in the fifth set aiding King's victory. Sophomore Summer Kremer closed the match out with a strong right-handed swing from the left side that found the floor, clinching the match with a 15-12 win.
Lees-McRae entered the match with 58 consecutive wins in Conference Carolinas regular season and postseason play. In their first league match of the season, King snapped that streak with a win in their first conference match of the season for the second year in a row.
The win also marks the first points awarded in the inaugural battle for the Blue Ridge Cup. At stake are bragging rights between the two schools that have built a natural rivalry since King's introduction into Conference Carolinas in 2011. With the victory, King is awarded one point toward their count with one more on the line this women's volleyball season. A total of 25 points are available over the 20 categories represented in both team and head-to-head competition plus multiple academic and athletic achievement marks.
Kremer was one of three players for King to post double-digit kill counts in their win versus Lees-McRae. The sophomore continued as the team's workhorse with 15 kills on 48 attempts, both team highs, while adding two block assists at the net, defensively.
Freshman middle blocker Grace Underwood (Pearland, Texas) hit at a remarkable .500, converting 14 kills on 22 attempts and committing only three errors. She led the team with four total blocks (1 solo).
Mariah Herington tallied 12 kills and was a major cause of the turnaround in the fourth set. She registered at .318 attack percentage on 12-of-22 hitting with five errors while adding a pair of digs and a block assist.
Also cashing in notable performances were Payton Tipton (Cleveland, Tenn.) who scoured the floor with 20 digs. Olivia Underwood led the team with 41 assists and added five kills and nine digs. She also led the team with four service aces from the line.
Defense was a major asset of the Lady Tornado as five King players tallied seven or more digs. While Tipton led with her 20, freshmen Heather Harvey (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Maribeth Kern (Buchanan, Va.) combined for 19 more and Brooke Calhoun added seven digs. The team combined for 10 total blocks, two solo, keeping up with Lees-McRae's 12.
The Bobcats had three players finish with 10-plus kills, led by Dana Oliver's 13 on 37 attempts (.270). Haydn Beatty and Taylor Clendenin each had 11 kills for LMC while Beatty led the Bobcats with four blocks.
King (4-3, 1-0) will head to Banner Elk, N.C. this Friday (Sept. 14) to play USC-Aiken in a nonconference, neutral site match that begins at 7 p.m. They will jump back into Conference Carolinas play when they head to Gaffney, S.C. on Sept. 15 to play Limestone College with a 2 p.m. first service.