01/09/13 — Loss fuels Mount Olive's fire

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Loss fuels Mount Olive's fire

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 9, 2013 1:47 PM

David Heller refuses to shelve one video that stays close to his DVD player whenever he -- or the Mount Olive College men's volleyball team -- needs a little extra motivation.

He'll pop it in, press the play button on the remote and cringe.

Although it's a moment he didn't experience in person, he understands the pain and hurt it caused the Trojans last April. In-state rival Pfeiffer University denied MOC its third straight Conference Carolinas men's volleyball tournament championship.

Watching the Falcons' celebration is gut-wrenching.

And it's undoubtedly stoked a fire in the Trojans' belly.

"Losing that match is huge motivation for us right now," said Heller, who was hired last fall to take over the men's volleyball program.

"Regardless of who we play in conference, we need to treat it like it is a recap of last year's championship match. The intensity is here, but we still need to find a way to play with intensity and control.

"In last year's final, there was intensity but they were unable to pull through at the end of a tight match."

Heller and the Trojans are focusing on ball control and defense. Many teams, regardless of height, can terminate points quickly. MOC hopes to counter that with a great offense, solid defense and blocking.

The team has shown improvement during preseason practices and fall tournaments.

The Trojans return three full-time starters off last year's team -- senior outside hitter Adam Miracle, libero Dan Arnold and opposite Alex Rivero. Miracle earned first-team all-Conference Carolina accolades a year ago after ringing up a team-high 337 kills.

Arnold recorded a team-best 217 kills last season and grabbed a spot on the all-tournament team. Rivero cranked out 250 kills and emerged one of four MOC players to log 60 total blocks in 89 sets of action.

Joining Miracle and Rivero are junior Angel Dache and two freshmen -- Lewis Einarson and Andreas Lengler. Dache sat out last season with an injury after picking up all-conference honors in 2011.

Einarson, who hails from Australia, adds depth at the middle blocker position and can place the ball well. Lengler has transitioned from middle blocker to opposite and will rely on his knowledge he gained while playing with international development teams in Germany.

"I think that our offense will be one of the top-performing teams across the country," Heller said. "We have exceptional hitters at all positions and are finally getting our ball control and defense to catch up. This is also one of the closest-knit group of players that I have had the privilege to work with, and will work to our advantage in all of our matches."

Einarson and part-time returner Tim Ebbecke should lead the defense. Ebbecke averaged 1.4 blocks per set a year ago. Einarson's jumping ability and wingspan from his 6-foot-5 frame will challenge opposing hitters.

Mount Olive launches its 2013 season Thursday evening at Conference Carolinas foe King (Tenn.) College. The Trojans play perennial power Quincy (Ill.) on Friday and visit league opponent Barton on Jan. 16.

The home opener is Jan. 19 against Erskine.

"Every match this season will be important, but I'd really like to make a statement that we are here to win the conference in our first few matches," Heller said. "The guys and myself won't be happy with anything less. We are all ready for a long and grueling season, but we are ready for our shot at a conference title."