WILSON, N.C. – Playing for the final spot in the Conference Carolinas tournament, the King University men's volleyball team found themselves in a fight at Barton College on Saturday evening. The Tornado fell behind and forced a fifth set, but could not complete the comeback as Barton held off a late Tornado surge to take the contest 3-2 (21-25, 25-19, 27-25, 15-25, 17-15).
King fell behind 2-0 in the first set, but answered with a 3-0 run, and another 4-0 run to take an early 7-4 lead. Stephen Brown recorded a service ace and a kill while Matthew Harper, Jeremy Funk and Michael Koebel all recorded kills on the spurt. Following another 3-0 run, King earned their largest lead of the set at 20-14. Koebel recorded five kills in the set, including the final two that gave the Tornado the 25-21 first set win.
The Tornado (9-17, 4-10 CC) looked to keep the offense rolling in the second set, jumping out to a 6-4 lead. However, the Bulldogs (3-18, 2-12 CC) answered with a 9-2 run to take a 13-7 advantage. King never recovered in the set as Barton evened the match with the 25-19 victory.
The third set was tight until Koebel sparked a quick 6-0 run that vaulted King into an 18-13 lead. The Tornado then held a 21-16 lead before the Bulldogs began a comeback. Barton pulled within one at 22-21 and eventually tied the set at 23 on a Zach McCalla kill. King fought off two Bulldog set points at 24-23 and 25-24, but Barton came through with the 27-25 win.
Holding a slim 13-12 lead in the fourth set, Brown ignited the King offense with one of his six kills in the match. The Tornado went on to score 12 of the final 15 points, including five straight points to take an 18-13 lead. King's run continued as they scored the final six points of the set to force a decisive fifth set with the 25-15 win.
Barton jumped out early in the final set, and held a 12-6 lead before the Tornado offense heated up again. Mason Casner and Funk recorded consecutive kills to start the run before the duo pulled the Tornado within one at 13-12 with consecutive kills. A pair of Barton attack errors gave King a 14-13 lead and a chance a set point. However, the Bulldogs scored back-to-back points to regain the lead and again to take the set 17-15 and escape with the 3-2 win.
Koebel led the Tornado with 18 kills while Casner accounted for 12 kills and Funk chipped in with 11. Ned Parker recorded a match-high 23 digs while Ashton Hippenstiel registered a double-double with 45 assists and 14 digs.
King will be in action again on Friday when they travel to take on Coker College. First served is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.