PREVIEW -- MOC men's volleyball ready for season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 28, 2010 1:46 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- "First-ever champion."
Mount Olive College would like nothing more than to put that phrase before its name once the men's volleyball season concludes this spring. With six returning seniors, including a quartet of four-year starters, the Trojans are definitely a favorite to claim the inaugural Conference Carolinas crown.
Four league schools and affiliate member King (Tenn.) College begin the historic journey this weekend. MOC entertains King on Friday during its two-day, season-opening invitational at Kornegay Arena.
"It is hard to put into words how important this new challenge has become not only for the men's volleyball program at Mount Olive College, but the sport at the national level as well," said Trojans head coach Cole Tallman. "With even more conference and regional schools in position to evaluate the advantages of this unique and life-time sport for current and prospective athletes, it is one more opportunity for young people to walk away with even more positive memories of an outstanding college experience."
And MOC has the experience.
Back for their senior campaigns are opposite Noel Garcia, setter Alex Hoekstra, outside hitter Christiaan Rombaut, middle blocker Jose Lanier, OH/MB Camilo Guerci and libero Felix Reimundo. Garcia, Lanier, Guerci and Reimundo are four-year performers.
A 6-foot native of Cuba, Garcia pounded out a team-high 260 kills last season and logged 100 digs defensively. Lanier recorded 215 kills and 75 blocks, while Reimundo picked up a single-season, career-high 203 digs.
Hoekstra dished out a school-record, single-season 921 assists.
"We have 16 elite athletes in the gym with depth charts up to five people at some of the positions," said Tallman. "Every starting job has players competing daily to move to the top of the depth chart. We have also avoided injuries, which has the made the practices even more productive."
Tallman wants to put a fast-paced team on the court. He hopes to see the players execute first-kill balls and consistently score points on the opponent's serve. The Trojans rattled off 1,124 kills as a team a year ago and finished the season with a .249 hitting percentage.
Hoekstra is expected to direct an offensive system, which includes dozens of attacking options and combination plays.
"We are getting close to our goal," said Tallman.
Mount Olive had four players to record 100-plus digs defensively in 2009 and three return -- Garcia, Hoekstra and Reimundo. The Trojans averaged 10.1 digs and 2.91 blocks per set, and served 123 team aces.
"We have to be among the nation's leaders in team defense with individuals creating point-scoring opportunities from digs and blocks," said Tallman. "Too often, even good volleyball teams are stifled by a match flow where attacks are terminated, but not stopped.
"We have spent a great deal of time on all fundamentals, but especially those in the areas of ball control, defensive techniques and tactics, and tough but strategic serving."
An athletic and close-knit team, Mount Olive plays a 19-match schedule that includes seven conference contests before March 4 and a weekend road match at Ohio State. The top two finishers in Conference Carolinas play meet for the league championship on April 17.
"There will be many championships contended for in the future, but only one will be the 'first ever,'" said Tallman. "Like all the conference schools, we would love the opportunity to have that banner added to our arena."