BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Chad Mercado (Orlando, Fla.) recorded 33 kills and a .625 hitting percentage, and Eduardo Gonzales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) nearly posted a double-double with 11 kills and nine digs against New Jersey Institute of Technology to pace the Lees-McRae College men's volleyball team to a pair of three-set victories over Eastern Mennonite University and NJIT on Friday night in Williams Gymnasium.
Lees-McRae (11-7) took the first match against Eastern Mennonite (9-13) by scores of 25-13, 25-17, 25-18, before sweeping NJIT (3-12) by scores of 25-16, 25-15, and 25-22 to notch its seven win in its last eight matches. The Bobcats posted a combined hitting percentage of .385 on the night, including a blistering .426 clip against Eastern Mennonite.
Mercado continued his impressive senior season with a pair of outstanding performances, tallying 18 kills and just one error on 21 swings against Eastern Mennonite for a scorching .810 hitting percentage. The senior opposite then added 15 kills, two errors, and a .481 attacking clip against the Highlanders to post his 17th 10-kill performance of the season.
Freshman setter Randy Ramirez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) chipped in a pair of 30-assist performances, notching 38 helpers against NJIT after a 32-assist showing against the Royals. Gonzales posted 13 kills and 10 digs on the night, attacking at a .308 clip, as John Lucas (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ramirez each tallied six blocks.
Match One: Lees-McRae 3, Eastern Mennonite 0 - 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 (Box Score)
Mercado tallied a match-high 18 kills on 21 swings to pace the Bobcats, attacking at a .810 clip, as Ramirez posted 32 assists, five digs, three service aces, and two blocks. Lucas chipped in five kills, while Mercado recorded a match-high eight digs.
Lees-McRae opened the match strong, taking a 15-8 lead in the first set on back-to-back kills by Mercado. After the Royals cut the margin to 15-10 on a kill by Chris Moise (), the Bobcats responded with a 10-3 run to close out the 25-13 first-set victory.
The Bobcats carried the momentum into the second frame, opening a 16-7 advantage on an EMU miscue following back-to-back blocks by Edmund Walkley (Glenbrook, Australia), and Ramirez and Matt Harpenau (Cincinnati, Ohio). Lees-McRae then closed out the set on an EMU miscue to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
Eastern Mennonite stuck with the Bobcats early in the third set, cutting the margin to 12-10 on a kill by Frankie Coto () before Lees-McRae responded, opening a 20-12 lead on a Ramirez service ace. The Bobcats then closed out the match on a Sam Sheers (Centerville, Ohio) kill to cap the 25-18 third-set win.
Match Two: Lees-McRae 3, NJIT 0 - 25-16, 25-15, 25-22 (Box Score)
Mercado and Gonzales led the way for Lees-McRae in the night cap, tallying 15 and 11 kills, respectively, as Ramirez posted 38 assists and four blocks. Lucas chipped in six kills and a match-high five blocks, as Gonzales posted a contest-best nine digs.
Lees-McRae took control early, opening a 10-3 lead on an NJIT miscue. After the Highlanders cut the margin to 16-10 on a block by Kevin Van Oss () and Doug Battersby (), the Bobcats responded with a 5-3 spurt, pushing the lead to 21-13 on back-to-back Gonzales kills. NJIT battled back, trimming the margin to 23-16 before the Bobcats closed out the 25-16 first-set win on a solo block by Harpenau.
The Bobcats carried the momentum into the second set, taking a 15-5 lead on a block by Lucas and Ramirez. Lees-McRae would push the margin to 20-8 on a Mercado kill, and after NJIT trimmed the margin to 20-12 with a 4-0 spurt, closed out the set with a 5-3 run that was capped by a Gonzales kill.
The Highlanders battled back early in the third set, taking a 7-5 lead on a Bobcat miscue before Lees-McRae responded, claiming a 9-7 advantage on back-to-back blocks by Ramirez and Lucas. NJIT would stay within striking distance for the remainder of the set, evening the score at 13-13 before Lees-McRae launched a 10-4 run to take a 23-17 lead on a Lucas service ace. The Bobcats then closed out the sweep with a Mercado kill and an NJIT miscue following a 4-0 spurt by the Highlanders.
Lees-McRae returns to the court on Monday, Mar. 14 when the Bobcats host Limestone College to resume its Conference Carolinas schedule. First service is slated for 3 p.m. in Williams Gymnasium.
- LMC -