BRISTOL, Tenn. – A monumental moment in King College and Tornado athletic history is about to begin in Bristol, Tennessee. King College nears the beginning of its second season of NCAA Division II membership and first season as a member of Conference Carolinas in 2011. Twenty-four varsity sport programs ready themselves for a successful 2011-12 athletic campaign and it all begins with Tornado soccer taking the pitch this week.
Not only does King welcome the challenges and benefits of NCAA Division II competition and a brand new conference, but also introduces many new faces among its competing teams. Three new head coaches will take the reins of their respective teams this season and three additional coaches return from last season in either a new capacity or for their first full season.
The Tornado Athletic Department is also under new leadership. Overseeing and leading King Athletics in its adventure into NCAA Division II is Athletic Director David Hicks, most recently of Rhodes College (Memphis, Tenn.). Hick served as both assistant athletic director and the head coach of Lynx softball.
“This is an electrifying time to be a part of Tornado athletics," said Athletic Director David Hicks. "There’s a buzz among our student-athletes and our coaching staff about competing in Conference Carolinas. Everyone’s eager to hit the fields and courts and show the Conference what we can do.”
Josh Thompson (women’s basketball), Simon Duffy (women’s soccer), and Kethan Darbar (men’s and women’s tennis) come to King for their first seasons with the Tornado. Louie Thorpe, who was named NCCAA Mid-East Regional Coach of the Year last season, has assumed a new role. After leading the women’s soccer team last season he begins his first year as head coach of the men’s soccer team this year. Blaine Brown served as assistant baseball coach last season and was promoted to the top step of the dugout over the summer and Ryan Booher was named head coach of the men’s volleyball team after serving as an interim midway through the 2010-11 season.
Hicks continued, “We have a lot of new faces leading our programs, but our staff has been extremely diligent during the search and hiring process, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction our programs are headed. We have assembled some of the best and brightest young coaches in the country at King.”
The fall athletic season begins with a flurry of soccer and volleyball action but is highlighted by a new conference for King to call home. Conference Carolinas has welcomed King, in addition to North Greenville University, to its 12-team league though the Tornado have already made a splash before even gaining full entrance. Last year, King Men’s Volleyball was granted special admission into Conference Carolinas to create a five-team conference. King advanced all the way to the conference postseason tournament championship game and nearly earned a tournament victory, falling just short to Mount Olive College. Between the men’s and women’s volleyball programs, who were perennial contenders at the NCCAA level, expect King Volleyball to compete atop Conference Carolinas.
Before teams hit the hardwood, Thorpe and first-year head coach Simon Duffy look to leave their imprints on the conference on the soccer field. Duffy and the women’s soccer team signal the start to Tornado Athletics with a home friendly against Carson-Newman College on Tuesday, Aug. 23 at Parks Field (Bristol, Tenn.). Thorpe and the men play two home exhibition matches on Aug. 27 and 30 against Tusculum and Carson-Newman, respectively. Both teams play first regular season home matches as part of a doubleheader at Parks Field against new conference foe, Limestone College, on Sept. 10.
Men’s and women’s cross country, led by head coach Peter Dalton, set the bar high last year making a statement among the nation’s best in the sport. The men’s team narrowly missed a trip to NCAA competition after placing fourth in a regional match in Charlotte, N.C. but return many of last year’s runners to lead the Tornado forward in 2011. On the women’s side, the team got the job done both on and off of the track. The Lady Tornado went to the NCAA Division II nationals last season and placed 22nd in the country, not to mention represented King atop all Division II schools in team grade point average with an astounding 3.77 mark. Cross country begins its season Sept. 2 at the Covered Bridge Invitational (Boone, N.C.).
Follow King College Athletics online at www.kingtornado.com or follow Sports Information Director Ryan Gasser on Twitter, @KingGasserSID .
For a complete schedule of all King College Athletics as they are updated, click here.