April 14, 2011

Bobcats claw past Falcons in season finale

Box score

MISENHEIMER, N.C. --- Senior Chad Mercado (Orlando, Fla.) recorded a match-high 22 kills, and Chris Flood (Louisville, Ky.) added 14 digs to lead the Lees-McRae College men's volleyball team to a 3-1 win over Pfeiffer University in the Bobcats' season finale on Thursday night in Conference Carolinas play.

Lees-McRae (16-10, 5-3 CC) won the match by scores of 25-15, 25-22, 22-25, and 25-21 to close out the regular season, capping one of the best campaign's in program history. The Bobcats posted a .273 hitting percentage on the night, recording 11 blocks and holding Pfeiffer (8-14, 0-8 CC) to a .179 attacking clip.

Mercado capped a sensational career with 22 kills and a .439 hitting percentage, while recording four blocks. The 6-5, 235-pound opposite concludes his four-year tenure with the Bobcats ranked among the program's all-time leaders in kills (1,090), blocks (187), and digs (428), while entering the week ranked second in the nation in kills per set (4.65).

Eduardo Gonzales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) also recorded 12 kills and five digs, while Dylan Kembre (West Chester, Ohio) tallied a match-high 40 assists while nearly accounting for a double-double with nine digs. Edmund Walkley (Glenbrook, Australia) and John Lucas (Cincinnati, Ohio) chipped in six and five kills, respectively, while Flood posted a match-high 14 digs.

Josh Mahan and Eric Edelman paced the Falcons with 10 and nine kills, respectively, as Michael McLaughlin added 34 assists and four blocks. Drew Burdette added six kills and six digs, while Kevin Anderson and Mark Hess tallied nine and eight digs, respectively.

Lees-McRae opened on a tear, taking an early 10-4 lead in the first set on a Gonzales kill before pushing the lead to 14-6 on back-to-back Pfeiffer errors, forcing a Falcon timeout. Pfeiffer fought back, trimming the margin to 19-13 before the Bobcats closed out the set with a 6-2 run, capping the frame on a Falcon miscue.

Pfeiffer battled back from an early deficit in the second set, evening the score at 10-10 on a Bobcat miscue before Lees-McRae responded, taking a 15-10 lead on the heels of a 5-0 spurt. The Falcons remained within striking distance for the remainder of the frame, cutting the lead to 22-20 on a block by McLaughlin and Micah Bortner before the Bobcats answered with a 3-2 spurt to close out the set and take a 2-0 lead in the match.

The third set proved to be a tightly contested affair, with neither team opening a lead of more than three points throughout much of the frame. With the Bobcats holding a narrow 16-14 lead, Pfeiffer went on a quick 4-0 spurt to take an 18-16 advantage on a block by Burdette and Blake Dowdle. After the Bobcats battled back to even the score at 20-20 on a rejection by Mercado and Eric Jackson (Daytona Beach, Fla.), the Falcons responded with a 5-2 spurt to claim the set on a Mahan kill to cut the Lees-McRae lead to 2-1.

Lees-McRae responded in the fourth set, opening an early 8-6 lead on a tandem block by Gonzales and Matt Harpenau (Cincinnati, Ohio) before Pfeifer answered with a 6-1 run to claim an 11-9 advantage. After Lees-McRae countered with a 3-0 spurt and Burdette answered with a kill to knot the score at 12-12, Pfeiffer went on a 5-3 run to claim a 17-15 advantage on a Bobcat miscue.

Neither team would hold more than a two-point advantage for much of the remainder of the set, with Pfeiffer knotting the score at 20-20 following a pair of Bobcat miscues before Lees-McRae responded, closing out the set and the match with a 5-1 run as Mercado capped his season and career with an emphatic kill.

Lees-McRae is expected to return 13 letter-winners from this year's 16-10 squad, including rising sophomores Gonzales, Flood, Lucas, Harpenau, and Randy Ramirez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico). The Bobcats posted three wins over NCAA Division I opponents this season, including a pair of straight-set victories over New Jersey Institute of Technology while pushing 11th-ranked Penn State University to five frames on Feb. 19.

- LMC -