King made a statement last season, ending the season on the three-game winning streak that propelled them into the Conference Carolinas championship game against Mount Olive College. Though the Tornado lost the Trojans in three games, the Navy and Scarlett garnered the attention they deserved having finished with an 11-9 overall record and a 5-3 ledger against league opponents.
It is amazing what just one year's time will do to a team and a league. Last year, the Tornado housed the Libero, Setter and Player of the Year. Unfortunately, the two players that garnered these awards have graduated and one playing professionally in Puerto Rico (Joel Salva). Conference Carolinas has added Barton College as a full-time member, extending the number of teams in the league to six and have commitments from three more schools to be added to the mix and increasing the conference to nine teams.
First things first, the Tornado have to play the refill the 2012 roster and play out the season before we talk expansion. Having lost setter Joel Salva and libero Morris Cephas to graduation, the team will look to fill some large holes with some young and sizeable talent in addition to building upon the returning members of last year's team.
Team tri-captain James Friddle (Carterville, Ga.) was an All-Conference selection in 2011 and having played three of the four seasons of the program's existence, is by default the all-time kill leader and looks to widen the margin this season. He will lock down the opposite hitter position and be a strong candidate for Conference Carolinas Player of the Year honors if history repeats itself.
Eric Glenn (Portsmouth, Va.) is as enthusiastic as they come and his energy and skillset led him to finish the year inside the top-10 in blocks per set (1.14). Hard hitting and high hands have locked the senior into the top middle blocker position while he tutors a pair of 6-foot, 8-inch middles in Mason Casner (Culpepper, Va.) and Matthew Harper (Matoaca, Va.).
The two lengthy freshmen will not be allowed much of a learning curve since Coach Booher is expecting them both to contribute to the team's success almost immediately out of the gate. Booher describes Casner and Harper as great compliments to one another and that where one lacks, the other has strong attributes. The pair is expected to begin the season playing in a rotation but will likely see their playing time increase quickly as they mature and grow into more complete collegiate players.
The most returning experience will be on the outsides where Stephen Brown (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Michael Koebel (Richmond, Va.) and Brandon Rorer (Richmond, Va.) will rotate for the offense. Koebel had the second-most kills last season (126) and will be a main weapon to use from either side of the court. Rorer played in 16 matches and registered 83 kills and 73 digs over that time but had an intense offseason training session and has looked incredibly impressive entering the final week of practice. Brown played in eight non-conference matches last season but looks to see his playing time increase to help compliment Koebel and Rorer.
There will be a battle for the starting setter position between redshirt-freshman Justin Crane (Richmond, Va.) and newly added senior Adrian Kibsey (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Kibsey joins the team after finishing a standout fall season with Tornado golf team and will add depth to the roster, though Crane will likely take the majority of the reps. Kibsey may also see time as an outside hitter, adding even further depth at the position.
Junior Ned Parker (Richmond, Va.) will step in as the team's libero following Cephas' departure following a season he trained as a setter and defensive specialist. Parker's versatility and intense training are expected to make the transition a seamless one as he moves into a full-time role.
The Tornado, ranked third in the coaches' preseason poll, have 30 games slated on their 2012 schedule with 10 coming against the six teams that now make up Conference Carolinas. Barton College enters their first year of sponsoring a men's volleyball team and meet King on the first day of the season. King will open the season on Friday, Jan. 13, against Limestone College at the Mount Olive Invitational this weekend with first service at 5:00 p.m. They conclude the tournament with hard-nosed Quincy College (Ill.) before heading to the Buckeye State for the Charlie Wrubezki Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio.
King will play its first Conference Carolinas game of the season against Pfeiffer on Feb. 4 on the road before heading out west to play Johnson and Wales and Grand Canyon University on Feb. 10-11. Their first home game will played against rival Lees-McRae College on Feb. 23 inside the Student Center Complex to break up a streak of 14 games away from home to begin the year. The latter half of the schedule will be heavy with home games. The Tornado will play six of their last seven and seven of their last 10 games at the Student Center before the first ever Conference Carolinas Tournament begins on April 15.