Bobcats rally past Saints in five-set thriller

Box score

GAFFNEY, S.C. --- Chad Mercado (Orlando, Fla.) posted a match-high 15 kills, and the Lees-McRae College men's volleyball team rallied from a two-frame deficit to defeat Limestone College in an epic five-set thriller on Wednesday night in Conference Carolinas action.

Lees-McRae (6-6, 2-1 CC) posted its second straight conference win, tallying 11 team blocks while holding Limestone (5-5, 0-3 CC) to a .187 attacking percentage on the night. The Bobcats won the match by scores of 19-25, 12-25, 25-13, 28-26, and 15-13.

Mercado paced the Bobcats with 15 kills, but the story of the night for Lees-McRae was freshman Eduardo Gonzales (San Juan, Puerto Rico), who tallied 11 kills, nine digs, and five blocks in the contest. Fellow rookie Chris Flood (Louisville, Ky.) also notched nine kills, while Randy Ramirez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) tallied four blocks and a match-high 42 assists. John Lucas (Cincinnati, Ohio) chipped in eight kills and five blocks, as Matt Harpenau (Cincinnati, Ohio) posted a match-high six stuffs.

Kevin Hart (Menifee, Calif.) and Scott Schweihofer (Marysville, Mich.) paced Limestone with 14 and 13 kills, respectively, as Hart notched a double-double with a match-high 13 digs. Andrew Pile (Macungi, Pa.) notched 32 assists, nine digs, and five blocks, while Danny Gruszczyk (Orlando, Fla.) chipped in 11 digs.

Limestone jumped out to an early 8-5 lead in the first set, and after Lees-McRae cut the margin to 11-9 on a block by Harpenau and Ramirez, pushed the advantage to 18-11 with a 7-2 run that was capped by back-to-back aces by Schweihofer. The Bobcats answered with a 7-4 run of their own, trimming the margin to 22-18 before Limestone closed out the set with a 3-1 spurt.

Neither team held more than a two-point advantage in the second set before Limestone took command, launching a 14-2 run to take a 24-11 lead on a Bobcat miscue. The Saints then closed out the second set win with a Pile kill to claim a 2-0 lead in the match.

Lees-McRae responded in impressive fashion in the third set, opening the frame with a 10-2 run before Limestone answered with a 5-0 spurt to cut the margin to 10-7. The Bobcats countered with an 11-4 run, claiming a 21-11 advantage on a block by Lucas and Mercado before closing out the 25-13 victory to cut the match margin to 2-1.

The Bobcats showed tremendous poise in the fourth set, overcoming several late Limestone runs en route to a 28-26 win to even the match at 2-2 on a decisive block by Lucas and Ramirez. The fifth and deciding set proved to be a tightly contested one, with neither team opening more than a two-point lead as Lees-McRae took the frame and the contest on a Saints service error on match-point.

Lees-McRae returns to the court on Thursday when the Bobcats travel to Takoma Park, Md. for a 7 p.m. matchup with Washington Adventist University on the second leg of their road trip.

- LMC -