Tornado advance to CC final with win over Limestone

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Win and advance. When it comes to postseason play, that's what it's all about, and that's exactly what the King University women's volleyball team did on Wednesday night at the Student Center Complex. The Tornado fought through some adversity as their defense carried them to a 3-1 win over sixth seeded Limestone College to advance to the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match on Saturday.

The first set was played very tight before Kelsey Griffitts ignited the Tornado offense with her first of three kills in the first set to even the frame a 9-9. Summer Kremer followed with back-to-back to kills to give King (32-4) at 11-9 advantage. Kremer posted another kill and the Saints took a timeout trailing 14-10. The Tornado ended 8-1 as Limestone (13-16) began to comeback. Limestone got back within two at 16-14 before Kremer gave momentum back to the Tornado with her fifth kill of the frame. Mariah Herington forced another Saint timeout with one of her three kills in the frame as King led 22-16. The Tornado went on to take the frame 25-19.

The Tornado trailed 14-13 in the second set before they went on a 4-1 run and looked to take control of the set as Limestone took a timeout trailing 17-15. King stretched their lead to 23-18 following a Maribeth Kern ace and it looked as though the Tornado would go up 2-0 as Griffitts gave King five chances at set point with a kill. However, Limestone came storming back, scoring six straight points to take a 25-24 lead. King rallied back to even the frame at 25, but the Saints scored the final two points to take the set 27-25.

In the third set, King held a 10-7 advantage before the Saints score three straight points to even the set. With score tied at 12, Limestone again rolled off three straight to take a 15-12 lead and force a King timeout. Out of the break, Lauren Willoughby sparked the Tornado offense with a kill, and evened the set at 15-15 with another kill. However, Limestone answered with three straight before King scored three straight behind kills from Griffitts and Olivia Underwood. King then trailed 20-19 before the offense went on a run as Kremer gave King a 20-19 lead with a kill. Underwood gave the Tornado a chance a set point with a kill before King took the set 25-21.

The Saints started the fourth set on roll, opening up an 8-3 lead before King gradually came back. Willoughby finally evened the set at 11-11, and the rest of the set was tight. King again held a three point lead at 18-15, but the Saints came back to even the set at 20. After a ball handling error Jordan Baty put King up by two, and Willoughby forced a Saint timeout at 23-21. Griffitts gave King their first chance at set point with her 13th kill of the match. After a Limestone point, Kremer came up with back-to-back kills to send King to their first Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match with the 26-24, 3-1 win.

Kremer paced the Tornado with 14 kills, and added 11 digs for her second double-double of the season. Griffitts was the only other Tornado to reach double figures with 13 kills while Willoughby chipped in with six kills in two sets. Payton Tipton led four King defenders in double figures with 22 digs. Casey Williams and Kern rounded out that group with 16 and 13 kills, respectively. Olivia Underwood dished out 42 assists.

With the win, King advances to take on top-seed Belmont Abbey College on Saturday in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship. The match will be played at Belmont Abbey with first serve scheduled for 2:00 p.m. King has won 12 straight matches since falling at Belmont Abbey on October 23 while the Crusaders have won 21 straight matches. Their last loss came at King on September 20.