Tornado defense key in win over Belmont Abbey

BRISTOL, Tenn. –In what was a big early season match for the King University women's volleyball team traded blows with defending Conference Carolinas champions Belmont Abbey College on Friday night in the Student Center Complex. The Tornado dropped the first set 25-22 before rolling off three straight set wins, 25-19, 25-15, 25-23 to take the 3-1 win and move to 1-0 in league play.

The Crusaders (6-3, 0-1 CC) used a 4-0 run to earn separation at 11-7 in the first set, only to see King comeback and get within one point. King eventually evened the set at 14 apiece, but the Crusaders had an answer as they went on a 3-0 run to regain the lead and force a Tornado timeout. Belmont Abbey held the lead there, and went on to take a 1-0 lead with the 25-22 first set victory.

The Tornado offense came alive in the second set behind Summer Kremer and Kelsey Griffitts. Griffitts opened the set with a kill, and Maribeth Kern followed with a service ace. Kremer ended the 4-0 run to start the set with one of her four kills of the frame. The Tornado (8-3, 1-0 CC) stretched their lead to five before the Crusaders mounted a comeback. Belmont Abbey got within a point on four occasions, but King had an answer every time. The final time came at 17-16, and the Tornado answered with four straight points, capped by a Casey Williams service ace. Following back-to-back kills by Lauren Willoughby and Kremer, Kern served up consecutive aces to even the match at one set apiece with King's 25-19 second set win.

King didn't slow down in the third set, posting a .389 attack percentage in the frame. Kern and Griffitts started the set with back-to-back kills, and King held an early 3-0 advantage. The lead grew to 10-4 after consecutive kills by Kremer that forced a Crusader timeout. The Tornado extended the lead to as many as 10 points following a Kremer kill at 24-14 as King took the set 25-15 to take a 2-1 lead.

The fourth set was just as tight as the first set, with nine ties and four lead changes. The Crusaders looked to have the upper hand early as Hannah Schellenberg gave Belmont Abbey an 8-5 lead with a kill. However, Grace Underwood answered with one of her five kills in the match to bring service back to King. The Tornado worked their way back into the set, and Kremer evened the set at 12-12 with consecutive kills.

With the score tied at 16, Mariah Herington sparked a King run with one of her 10 kills in the match. Underwood followed with an ace before a Crusader attack error forced a Belmont Abbey timeout. King held a one point advantage for the remainder of the set until Kremer sent home a thunderous kill, her sixth of the final set, to give King a chance at match point. The Crusaders fought off one set point, but Kern mad sure the match didn't go to a fifth set as she ripped her 11th kill of the night to give King the 25-23 fourth set win.

The Tornado were led by Kremer who posted a season-high with 20 kills on 46 attempts while making just five errors for an attack percentage of .326. Griffitts, Herington and Kern all reached double figures as well. Kern registered 11 kills while Griffitts and Herington chipped in with 10 kills apiece. Olivia Underwood was dishing out assists all night as she set a career-high with 53 helpers. It also marked the first time in her career she reached the 50 assist plateau.

Defensively, Tipton posted a season-high 26 digs, coming within two of her career-high while Williams and Kern also reached double figures. Kern posted 16 digs for the double-double while Williams recorded 14 digs.

King will have little time to recover as they host Pfeiffer University on Saturday afternoon. First serve is scheduled for 2:00 p.m., in the Student Center Complex.