Trojan spikers start strong, can't finish job in tournament
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 9, 2011 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive started strong.
But it couldn't close the deal.
King (Tenn.) College erased a two-set deficit and handed Mount Olive a season-ending 25-22, 25-16, 15-25, 19-25, 15-17 loss in opening-round play of the 2011 NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas women's volleyball tournament Tuesday evening.
In other first-round matches, defending champion Lees-McRae slipped past Belmont Abbey 3-2; Erskine swept Pfeiffer 3-0 and Queens-Charlotte edged Limestone 3-2. The tournament winner earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
MOC concluded the year 16-14 overall.
"We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores with a lot of playing time, but they've never been in this type of experience before," said Trojans assistant coach Sarah Lusk. "We sure did have our chances."
The Trojans cranked out 28 team kills, held the Tornado to a .086 hitting percentage in set two as it grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five, quarterfinal-round contest. Sophomore libero Lauren Lee played superb defense during that stretch and logged 10 second-set digs.
King (23-12 overall) used a 7-0 to seize control of the third set. Mount Olive pulled within 18-15 on Erika Conner's monster cross-court kill and a shanked serve receive by the Tornado, but could get no closer.
The Trojans hit minus .042 for the set.
"That set was crucial," said Lusk.
The teams battled through 12 ties in the fourth set when a phantom reaching over the net call broke Mount Olive's momentum. Instead of leading 19-16, the Trojans watched the Tornado tie the set at 18-18 and pull away for a 25-19 win, which forced the decisive fifth set.
The Trojans built two-point leads at 6-4 and 13-11 in the final set, but couldn't shut the door. King grabbed match point at 14-13 on Ashley Pittman's kill, but MOC moved in front 15-14 on Nicole Powell's off-speed dump and a Tornado hitting error.
Pittman's roll from the back row, a service ace and a Trojans' hitting error capped King's comeback win. Pittman finished with 17 kills and Shannon Earwood dished out 46 assists.
"I told the girls it was going to be point for point, and they have to fight for each point," said Lusk. "Each point mattered in this game and that's what it came down to. It was just a little lack of focus ... getting a little ahead of themselves and that's a matter of just being young."
Carly White led three Mount Olive players in double figures with 17 kills. Conner added 16, while Dezirae Mackey contributed 13. Charnel Austin handed out 48 assists and Lee collected a career-high 19 digs.
It was the final match for the team's lone senior -- Destiny Ma'ave-Kuewa. The Trojans are expected to return five starters and 15 letter-winners overall next season.
MOC logged just five wins in its first 15 outings, but emerged victorious in 11 of its final 15 matches of the season. The Trojans were picked ninth in the Conference Carolinas preseason coaches poll after recording just seven wins a year ago.
"Nobody expected Mount Olive to do well this year ... nobody, and look how far they have come," said Lusk.
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