The Conference Carolinas Tournament isn’t the first to start up – which was the MIVA and MPSF – but it is the first to get going this week with matches starting tonight. That sets up a three-round event this week with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line. The first round tonight takes place at the higher seed with the final four teams remaining moving on to the site of the highest remaining seed – which if they win would be King.
Tuesday, Apr. 17 (at Higher Seed)
Match 1: No. 8 Lees-McRae vs. No. 1 King – 6:30 p.m.
Match 2: No. 5 North Greenville vs. No. 4 Belmont Abbey – 6:30 p.m.
Match 3: No. 6 Limestone vs. No. 3 Mount Olive – 6:30 p.m.
Match 4: No. 7 Erskine vs. No. 2 Barton – 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Apr. 20 (at Highest Seed Remaining)
Match 5: Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner TBA
Match 6: Match 3 Winner vs. Match 4 Winner TBA
Saturday, Apr. 21 (at Highest Seed Remaining)
Match 7: Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner TBA
#17 King Tornado & (RV) Barton Bulldogs
The two teams that split the regular season Conference Carolinas title are obviously the favorites to win this tournament once again. King may have the slight edge because they would be at home, where they won (as opposed to a road loss), but also the Bulldogs have the experience advantage after winning this even last season while King was upended in the semifinals. In terms of their paths to setting up a third meeting in the Conference Carolinas Championship, King has to go through a pair of teams (in Lees-McRae and the winner of the #4/#5 match) that they won every set against this season. Barton meanwhile would have a bit tougher road, especially if they take on Mount Olive in the second round who took Barton to five sets in one of their previous two meetings. These two should be on a collision course though as by far the two top offenses in the league.
Mount Olive Trojans
The Trojans went 0-4 against King and Barton combined this season, but 11-1 against everyone else. If they can add to that mark against the rest of the league then they will likely get another crack at one of the co-league champions in Barton. They actually played the Bulldogs a bit closer among the two, as they went 3-6 in sets compared to a 2-6 mark against King – although they had a match against both that went to five sets. That means that if they can muster up enough offense to come near King or Barton, their stellar serve (tops during Conference Carolinas‘ play) and solid defense gives them a chance to legitimately break through the seal and knock off one or both of the projected favorites.
8-seed Lees-McRae (4-21, 2-14) at 1-seed/#17 King (20-5, 15-1) – 6:30 p.m.
- Season series: King, 2-0 (King 3-0 vs. Lees-McRae; King 3-0 at Lees-McRae)
- As expected in an 8-1 match, it could be tough sledding for the 8-seed Lees-McRae facing one of the top offenses in the league. That’s because Lees-McRae is bottoms in Conference Carolinas in aces per set and has failed to put pressure on opposing teams, which plays right into a strong Tornado attack that hit .424 and .345 in the two matches against their opponent earlier this season.
5-seed North Greenville (13-15, 7-9) at 4-seed Belmont Abbey (12-15, 8-8) – 6:30 p.m.
- Season series: Tied, 1-1 (BA 3-2 vs. NGU; NGU 3-1 vs. BA)
- These teams literally played just last week, with North Greenville coming out on top. You wonder how that changes things this go around on neutral court right after both sides got to scout each other up a bit more. The biggest difference in the two matches that went in different directions too was one offense was a lot more efficient and in-tune than the other, so in an affair where most of the season stats are close setter play and serving teams out of system will be crucial.
6-seed Limestone (8-19, 5-11) at 3-seed Mount Olive (15-12, 11-5)
- Season series: Mount Olive, 2-0 (UMO 3-0 at Limestone; UMO 3-0 vs. Limestone)
- Limestone has the least efficient offense during Conference Carolinas play in the league, so when they find success a lot comes from a solid block and defense. That means if Mount Olive can play clean and smart offensively – they rank third in the league in hitting percentage – and avoid giving away points, their powerful serve – which ranks tops in the league in aces per set – could have a field day on Limestone. Things could be a lot different though if UMO is off or if Limestone finds success in serve receive.
7-seed Erskine (7-19, 4-12) at 2-seed/(RV) Barton (19-7, 15-1)
- Season series: Barton, 2-0 (Barton 3-1 vs. Erskine; Barton 3-0 at Erskine)
- Both of these teams met for their first Conference Carolinas match all the way back in January, so it’s tough to take many lessons from that. In the second meeting though Erskine served well and played pretty solid defense while the Barton serve created some difficulties for both sides (17 serve errors but kept Erskine off balance at times). In total, Erskine hit just .055 even though they held the Bulldogs below their season average and a .270 hitting percentage. Still, that wasn’t enough to nab a set, as Barton may be looking for a sweep once again.