BELMONT, N.C. – The King University women's volleyball team's season came to an end on Saturday afternoon as the fell to top seeded Belmont Abbey College in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match. The Tornado came within one point of taking the first set, but the Crusaders scored the final three points of the frame take the set and the momentum as the took the 3-0 win.
The Tornado (32-5) grabbed an early lead behind kills by Olivia Underwood and Kelsey Griffitts to start the match. The whole first set was played within the points, with King holding the advantage most of the frame. Belmont Abbey (28-3) scored three straight points to even the set, and take a 20-18 lead. However, the Tornado bounced back to even the set at 20.
King then was down 23-21 when head coach Chris Toomey took his second timeout of the set. The timeout proved to be a good one as Mariah Herington and Summer Kremer evened the set with back-to-back kills before King took a 24-23 lead. It looked as though King would take the first set, but Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, Hannah Schellenberg registered three straight kills to give Belmont Abbey the first set 26-24.
The Crusaders used that momentum, and fed off the home crowd in the second set, quickly opening up an 11-3 lead before Maribeth Kern registered a kill. King tried to come back and got within four twice, at 16-12 following a Lauren Willoughby kill and again at 19-15 after a Kremer put away. The Tornado couldn't get any closer as the Crusaders took the set 25-16.
The teams traded points early in third set, and the frame was tied at 7-7 before Belmont Abbey began to pull away. The scored four straight points to gain the lead, and stretched their advantage to as many as nine points as they took the three set sweep with a 25-19 third set win.
Payton Tipton anchored a Tornado defense that had 48 digs with 18 digs while Blair Fields followed with eight digs. Kremer paced the offense with 15 kills while Griffitts followed with six and Lauren Willoughby and Grace Underwood chipped in with five kills each. Olivia Underwood dished out a match-high 36 assists.
Griffitts and Tipton were both named to the all-tournament team following the match.
The senior trio of Griffitts, Herington and Tiffany Baines helped the Tornado transition into NCAA Division II from NAIA membership, and contributed to King's first women's volleyball conference title since 2008 and first since joining Conference Carolinas and Division II. Griffitts posted those six kills while Herington registered four kills in the match.
The loss ends King's season, and their 12-match winning streak as they went 32-5 overall while going 17-1 in league play, winning a share of the Conference Carolinas title.