Tornado Conquer Trojans in First Round

Photos courtesy Katie Bowels
MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – The first round of the Conference Carolinas Women's Volleyball Tournament may prove to have hosted the most exciting and drama filled match of the entire tournament. King College took to the road as the No. 3 seed in the West Division to play at Mount Olive College (No. 2 East). On the Trojan's home floor, the Tornado fought through a two-game deficit and won the final three games to earn passage into the second round of the Conference Tournament.
 

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The fifth and final game of the match brought the crowd and each sideline to its feet with volume inside Kornegay Arena hitting its peak. The two teams battled to an 8-7 score with Mount Olive leading before swapping sides of the court and King beginning to ride the momentum it built up in their previous two sets. Kelsey Griffitts (Bristol, Va.) began turning the tide in King's favor with a monster spike and kill to tie the game at eight points and then followed with a second powerful kill to tie the game at nine. The teams continued to battle to an 11-point tie before Mount Olive scored in consecutive possessions to take a 13-11 lead.

After King took its first time out, Ashley Pittman (Norris, Tenn.) took over and recorded two of her 17 kills to tie the game once again, 13-13. Mount Olive took its first timeout but Pittman continued to shoot lasers on the Trojan side of the court and with her third consecutive kill gave the Tornado a one-point lead. Mount Olive took its second straight timeout with match point lingering and scored two straight points to regain a 15-14 advantage. Following a King timeout, Jessica Hammond (Kingsport, Tenn.) served up an ace and Pittman changed it up with a rain drop from the center of the court, finding a soft spot in the Trojan defense to put the Tornado up 16-15. After a long rally, Mount Olive's Destiny Ma'ave-Kuewa slipped up and sent an attack into the net giving King match point and a decisive fifth set win, 17-15. King hit .550 in the final set and only committed one error in the decisive fifth frame.

The previous two sets were just as exciting as the last due to King fighting back from a 2-0 setback after dropping the first two games of the match. King began the third set with an 11-4 run, set up early by a pair of overpowering kills by Kelsey Griffitts. Griffitts registered four of her nine kills in the third set alone to help turn the tide of the match. The Tornado used their early cushion to sustain a lead to the end in a 25-15 momentum-shifting set victory.

King benefitting from 12 Mount Olive attack errors in the fourth game but also played well defensively, tallying three of their six team blocks in the set. Shannon Earwood (Carson City, Nev.) and Kelsey Griffitts each had two block assists from the front row, aiding the comeback.

Pittman led the Tornado with 17 kills on 35 attempts (.343) and committed only five errors in the match. She steadily contributed all match but turned in seven kills on 10 attempts (.700) in the fifth set. Sarah Van Goethem (Aurora, Colo.) tallied16 kills and was responsible for a team high 19.0 points. She added 11 digs, good for her 12th double-double performance of the year and second straight. She also had a pair of block assists.

Kirsten Hamel (Weaverville, N.C.) and Kelsey Griffitts each finished with nine kills. Griffitts hit a team-best .500 kill percentage, making only one error the entire match while adding two block assists. Hamel led the team with four block assists.

Payton Tipton (Cleveland, Tenn.) was once again all over the floor, leading the team in digs with 15 on the night. Joining her on the defense effort was Shannon Earwood who added six digs and two block assists to her 46 assists.

The win marks King College's first Conference Carolinas postseason victory since becoming a full member in May 2011.

The Tornado are now primed for a second road match in the Conference Tournament against rival Lees-McRae on Friday, Nov. 11 in Banner Elk, North Carolina. First service is set for 6:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the Conference Championship on Sunday, Nov. 13.