Tornado edge Bobcats in five-set thriller

Box score

BRISTOL, Tenn. --- The King College men's volleyball fought back for a five-set victory over visiting Lees-McRae College on Tuesday night in Conference Carolinas action.

King (9-8, 3-3 CC) won the contest by scores of 17-25, 29-27, 25-19, 23-25, and 15-10 to move within one match of second place in the conference standings. The Tornado tallied 11 blocks and held the Bobcats (15-10, 4-3 CC) to a .128 hitting percentage, while also posting five service aces and 57 digs.

Eduardo Gonzales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Chad Mercado each tallied a match-high 16 kills to pace the Bobcats, as libero Efrain Negron (Orlando, Fla.) posted a contest-best 19 digs. Randy Ramirez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) also tallied a match-high 46 assists for Lees-McRae, while Mercado and Chris Flood (Louisville, Ky.) each posted three blocks.

Eric Glenn paced the Tornado with 11 kills and a match-best .579 hitting percentage, while Alex Oliveria added nine kills and three blocks. Brandon Rorer and Michael Koebel each added eight kills, while Glenn posted a match-high five blocks. Rorer chipped in a team-high 12 digs, as Joel Salva, Morris Cephas, and James Friddle each added 11 savers.

Lees-McRae started strong, opening an early 18-8 lead in the first set on a Mercado kill before pushing the margin to 21-10 on a solo block by the burly senior. After a pair of King kills, the Bobcats held off a late Tornado rally to notch the 25-17 first-set win on a kill by Mercado.

The second set proved to be one of the most closely contested of the night, featuring several impressive runs as neither team led by more than two points during the last stages of the frame. With King leading by a slim 23-22 margin, the Bobcats stormed out of a timeout with a 3-1 spurt to take a 25-24 lead on a Gonzales kill. King responded with a pair of points to claim a 26-25 advantage, and after the teams traded a trio of markers, the Tornado closed out the set on a Bobcat miscue to even the match at 1-1.

King jumped out to a 16-11 lead in the third set, claiming the five-point advantage on a Bobcat miscue before Lees-McRae answered with a 6-2 run to cut the margin to 18-17 on a solo block by Mercado. The Tornado responded, launching a 7-2 run of their own to claim the set and a 2-1 advantage in the match on a solo block by Rorer.

Lees-McRae answered in the fourth set, going on a 5-0 spurt midway through the frame to claim a 15-11 advantage on a Ramirez service ace and force a Tornado timeout. After King trimmed the margin to 15-14 with a 3-0 spurt, the Bobcats answered with three straight points of their own to kick-start a 7-2 run to take a 22-16 lead on a kill by Mercado.

The Tornado fought back, cutting the margin to 22-21 with a 5-0 spurt before Gonzales pushed the set to the brink with a kill to give the Bobcats a 24-21 lead. After King answered with back-to-back points to cut the margin to 24-23, Gonzales countered with another kill to cap the set and force a deciding fifth frame.

The fifth set proved to be a thrilling affair, featuring several runs by each team as King jumped out to a 12-9 kill on a Koebel kill, which forced a Bobcat timeout. After Lees-McRae answered with a kill by Matt Harpenau (Cincinnati, Ohio) out of the break to cut the lead to 12-10, King countered with three straight points to quell the rally and close out the match on a Friddle kill.

Lees-McRae returns to the court on Thursday, April 14 as the Bobcats travel to Misenheimer, N.C. to take on Pfeiffer University in their regular season finale. First serve is slated for 7 p.m.

- LMC -