Photo Courtesy of Jacob Turner
BANNER ELK, N.C. – After playing four non-conference matches to begin its 2018 season, the Lees-McRae College men's volleyball team will step into Conference Carolinas action for the first time this week with a pair of road matches. The Bobcats will head to Bristol, Tenn. Wednesday to take on the Tornado of King to open league play before heading to North Greenville on Saturday to round out the week. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Last Time Out – Lees-McRae mounted a valiant comeback against Alderson Broaddus last Saturday at Williams Gymnasium but fell just short in five sets, 3-2. The loss moves LMC's record to 1-3 on the young season.
Conference Opener Stat – The Bobcats will look to accomplish something they haven't been able to since 2014 and that is start conference play with a win. In 2014, Lees-McRae swept Belmont Abbey to begin league play with a 1-0 record. Since then, LMC has dropped decisions to Pfeiffer (2015), Emmanuel (2016) and King (2017) in its first conference tilts of those specific years.
Bowling making an impact – Freshman Robert Bowling has definitely made an impact so far during his young collegiate career. Coming into play this week, Bowling is tied for third in the conference with 57.5 points scored. Only Francisco Salinger Cenzual of Limestone and Barton's Angelos Mandilaris have scored more points than Bowling so far.
Great Performance by Gardner – Like Bowling, Ethan Gardner has enjoyed quite a bit of success so far during his freshman season. Gardner ranks third on the team with 23 kills, second with five aces, while leading in both blocks (13) and hitting percentage (.472).
Key to Success – A possible key for the Bobcats this week is the first set. Over the past two seasons, Lees-McRae has won 11 matches with eight of those coming after the team has won the opening set.
About the Opponents – King currently sits at the top of the league standings after two weeks of play. The Tornado are 2-2 on the season after picking wins over Alderson Broaddus and McKendree, while losing to UCLA and UC San Diego. Pacing the Tornado is two-time Conference Carolinas Player of the Week, Kiel Bell. Bell currently has 46 kills for a 3.29 kills per set average on a .265 hitting percentage, while having a 2.14 digs per set average on 30 digs. His kill and dig totals all rank top five in Conference Carolinas, while his hitting percentage ranks seventh.
North Greenville, meanwhile, comes into this week with a 2-3 record. The Crusaders own victories over Queens and Bluefield College so far.
Series Histories vs. Opponents – LMC will look to snap a seven-match losing skid against King on Wednesday. Lees-McRae's last win over the Tornado came in 2014 in Banner Elk, 3-0. On the flip side, the Bobcats swept the season series last season against North Greenville by identical 3-0 scores.