MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. - Despite Chad Mercado's match-high 32 kills the No. 2 seed Lees-McRae College Bobcats fell to the No. 1 seed Mount Olive College Trojans 3-1 (30-20, 27-30, 30-23, 30-22) in the Conference Carolinas Inaugural Men's Volleyball Championship match in Kornegay Arena.
In the first set, Christiaan Rombaut and Camilo Guerci had two kills apiece during a five-point run to break a 9-9 tie and put Mount Olive ahead to stay. A double block by Jose Lanier and Rombaut gave the Trojans their first double-digit lead at 26-16 and a Lees-McRae attack error on set point gave Mount Olive the first set.
Lees-McRae (8-11) rallied from an early three-point deficit in the second set as three consecutive kills by Mercado gave the Bobcats a 15-14 lead. Mercado had four kills during a 7-1 run that gave Lees-McRae its biggest lead at 19-15. Mount Olive never got any closer than two points as the match was even at one set apiece.
The third set was tied 15-15 when Gureci's ace highlighted a run of three unanswered points and Mount Olive led the remainder of the set. A second-ball kill by setter Alex Hoekstra gave the Trojans a 26-19 lead and Rombaut's kill on set point put Mount Olive one set away from the championship.
Two kills by Guerci and back-to-back solo blocks by Rombaut helped Mount Olive jump out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set. Lees-McRae pulled within 14-13 but after a Mount Olive timeout, Noel Garcia sparked a Trojan run, saving a ball out of bounds to set up a point, then recording a kill to extend the lead to 17-13.
Back-to-back aces by Garcia gave Mount Olive a 22-17 lead and Lanier's kill on match point put Mount Olive's name as the first-ever Conference Carolinas men's volleyball champion.
Garcia and Rombaut finished with 14 kills apiece, while Guerci added 13 kills. Rombaut tallied 10 digs and nine blocks, while Lanier added seven blocks and four aces. Hoekstra finished with 58 assists. Defensively, Adam Miracle had nine digs, Hoekstra added seven digs and Felix Reimundo finished with six digs. Mount Olive recorded a .407 hitting percentage.
Steven Buning finished with 11 kills for Lees-McRae, while Juan Ramirez recorded a match-high 60 assists. Raphael Vieira led all players with 12 digs.