01/14/14 — UMO men's volleyball tabbed to win Conference Carolinas

View Archive

UMO men's volleyball tabbed to win Conference Carolinas

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 14, 2014 1:47 PM


HIGH POINT -- Winner of three Conference Carolinas regular-season championships during a four-year span, the University of Mount Olive wears the proverbial bulls-eye again this season.

At least, the league coaches think so.

The Trojans garnered five first-place votes and 47 points overall in the preseason poll released Monday. Two-time defending tournament champion Pfeiffer drew one first-place nod and is picked second in the eight-team conference.

Limestone, the tournament runner-up in 2012 and '13, is projected to share third place with in-state rival Erskine. The Saints and Flying Fleet collected one first-place vote and 35 points apiece. Lees-McRae (22 points), Belmont Abbey (20), King University (18) and Barton (11) round out the poll.

"I do expect us to perform well in conference, I really do," second-year UMO head coach David Heller said. "I think we have a lot of players who turned down offers from other schools to come here and be part of something really special this year."

Special, indeed.

The Conference Carolinas tournament winner earns one of four automatic bids and an opening-round home game in the NCAA tournament, which expanded to six teams this season. Champions from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) and Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) will each receive an AQ.

A second at-large selection will complete the six-team field.

"(Expansion) is great for men's volleyball and to add two more teams to the format is phenomenal," Heller said. "It's great for West Coast volleyball because their chances for getting those at-large bids are really good. Any time you're getting more people into a championship, the better because it adds exposure for the sport."

That exposure benefits Division II programs like UMO, which has five nationally-ranked Division I teams on its non-conference schedule this season. After Wednesday's opener against Barton, the Trojans travel to No. 8-ranked Lewis and No. 2-ranked Loyola-Chicago within a three-day period.

UMO also faces perennial power Penn State, which is No. 12 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll; No. 14 IPFW and No. 15 Ohio State. National vote-getter Princeton pays a visit to Kornegay Arena on April 16.

The Trojans are 3-20 all-time against Division I schools since 2006.

"I think it's a good kind of pressure," Heller said. "I've already noticed in the few practices that we've had there is a determination in their eyes and in a lot of their hearts. There's a few more dives instead of watching a ball land.

"There's a few more people coming in for an extra rep here and there. It's a constant battle in the gym every day ... constant competition for (starting) spots. We're tweaking things a little bit to make sure we have everybody in the right position in order for us to do as best as possible."