WILSON, N.C. – The King University men's volleyball team continued its winning ways on Friday night, winning its third consecutive match with a thrilling five-set victory at Conference Carolinas opponent Barton College.
The Tornado (5-3, 2-1 Conference Carolinas) took the first set with relative ease and earned a 25-23 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the match. But the homestanding Bulldogs (2-7, 1-5 Conference Carolinas) roared back with consecutive 25-19 victories to force a fifth and final set. King looked to be in control from the outset, forcing a Bulldog timeout midway through the set as three straight points gave the Tornado a 7-3 lead.
But Barton would rally to tie the set at 10 and eventually take a 13-12 lead before a service error pulled the Tornado even. With the set tied at 13 and the match hanging in the balance, an attack error by Barton's Zach McCalla, who accounted for more than half of his team's 48 kills on the evening, gave King a 14-13 advantage, and Mason Casner and Kiel Bell combined on a block to punctuate the win and begin King's string of 15 straight road matches in winning fashion.
Casner terrorized the Bulldogs at the net all night, finishing with 10 terminations and nine blocks, including one solo stuff. Both teams played fantastic defense, with King totaling 14.5 blocks and Barton 12. The blocking totals were largely responsible for both teams' low attack percentages, as King and Barton finished the match at .118 and .117 respectively.
Casner led the Tornado with a .278 attack percentage, while Nick Serowski and Eddie Moushikhian had 12 kills each. Bell, a freshman, reached double-figures in digs for the first time in his career, accounting for 14 digs and a match-high three service aces to go along with his seven kills and five blocks. Barton's McCalla hit .245 for the match with 25 kills and three blocks.
The first set remained snug through the midway point, with neither team able to pull ahead by more than two points. But a Moushikhian kill would provide a spark for the visiting Tornado, who embarked on an 11-3 run over the set's final 14 points to turn a 14-14 tie into a 25-17 victory.
In the second set, King build a slight lead but saw the Bulldogs slowly mount a comeback. The Tornado advantage hovered near three points for much of the set before Barton scored two straight times on a King set point to cut the advantage to a slim 24-23. But a thunderous kill by Moushikhian stopped the Barton run and handed the Tornado their second victory in as many sets.
King appeared to be headed for a sweep after the Tornado opened the frame with consecutive kills by Moushikhian, then moments later saw Casner combine with Moushikhian and Bell on a pair of blocks to give King an 8-4 lead. But the Bulldogs rallied, going on a 9-3 run to take a 13-11 lead. The Tornado stormed back, eventually recapturing the lead at 17-16, before a 9-2 Bulldog run punctuated by four kills from Zach McCalla gave Barton a 25-19 win. Barton finished the fourth set in the same fashion, using a 13-7 run to turn a 12-12 tie into another 25-19 win before falling in the fifth and final set.
The Tornado return to action tomorrow against preseason Conference Carolinas favorites University of Mount Olive. The Trojans have played a very challenging early schedule but have struggled in the early going. Saturday's opponent will come into the match with an overall record of 3-6, 2-2 in conference play. Tomorrow's first serve is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.