04/17/10 — Mount Olive wins volleyball title

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Mount Olive wins volleyball title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 17, 2010 11:16 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The two-week layoff was definitely worth the wait.

And even sweeter Saturday afternoon.

Christiaan Rombaut just missed a triple-double as Mount Olive College turned back archrival Lees-McRae 30-20, 27-30, 30-23, 30-22, and claimed the inaugural Conference Carolinas men's volleyball tournament championship at Kornegay Arena.

Rombaut, the league player of the year, supplied 14 kills, 10 digs and nine blocks in the four-set affair. Fellow all-conference selection Jose Lanier contributed a team-leading 15 kills and seven blocks.

All-conference pick Noel Garcia and Camilo Guerci collected 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Alex Hoekstra spread 58 assists among six hitters and Adam Miracle, the league's freshman of the year, posted nine digs.

The top-seeded Trojans (18-4 overall) beat the second-seeded Bobcats for the third time this season and seventh time overall in their last 11 meetings.

"It was a challenge," said Miracle. "They know what we're going to run and we know what they're going to run. They know our strengths and weaknesses, and we know their strengths and weaknesses.

"It was tough and I'm glad we pulled it out."

Mount Olive, which set a single-season school record for wins, used a 15-6 run to take control in the opening set. Miracle's solo block capped the surge and the Trojans easily finished off LMC.

The Bobcats (8-11) dictated the tempo in the second set with a short service game that threw the Trojans out of rhythm. All-conference selection Chad Mercado, who cranked out a match-high 32 kills, provided most of the offense as LMC evened the best-of-five match at 1-all.

"The first set we came out with a lot of energy," said Lanier, one of six MOC seniors who played his final match. "The second set, I think our intensity went down. Coach (Tallman) said to get our heads together and get back in it."

The teams battled through nine ties in the pivotal third set.

Tied at 15-all, the Trojans reeled off a 3-0 spurt that ended with Miracle's solo block. A Lanier-Rombaut double block and Lanier's monster kill off a combination play extended the lead 21-17.

Lees-McRae stayed within four points, but could never put together a set-changing run. Guerci, Lanier and Rombaut combined for three consecutive kills to close out the third set.

"We realized it was more us than them," said Guerci. "Don't get me wrong, they're a good team. But we started making our mistakes and we decided not worry about them, but just take the game into control ourselves."

MOC raced to a five-point advantage to start the third set. LMC pulled within 14-13 and gave a point back on a service error. Rombaut's kill off a great diving save by Guerci and Garcia's kill off Rombaut's assist put the Trojans in command.

The Bobcats never recovered.

Rombaut and Lanier accounted for the final four points as MOC notched the historical victory.

"This is one of those moments that you're always going to remember," said a smiling Guerci. "All that hard work finally paid off."

It was worth the wait, indeed.