Tigerville, SC – The spectators in Hayes watched history tonight as the Crusaders defeated the Lions of Emmanuel College for the second time this season. With the victory over the Lions, the Crusaders set a program record for the most conference wins in a season. The Crusaders, led by captain Aaron Campbell (Senior) and Jackson Gilbert (Sophomore), beat the Lions in straight sets making the historic victory brief, but monumental. Coach Fred Battenfield's team never gave the Lions hope as they built up four to five-point leads in each of the sets. Campbell and Gilbert built on their season leading kill totals as the duo are the only two Crusaders over 200 kills at this point.
The first set was all about responding as the Crusaders played like a veteran team scoring multiple points after a Lions point. After a kill by Cade McGee (Freshman) the Crusaders rattled off five unanswered points in the early going of the first set stifling any momentum that the Lions had coming into the match. Kills by Campbell and Gilbert electrified the gym as the hitters placed the ball in between the block. The Lions scored a couple of points to bring the game within reach, however, the Crusaders rattled off another three points demoralizing the Lions in the early going. Within the first fifteen minutes of the match, the Crusaders had taken a 9 – 3 lead and never looked back. The Lions did not help themselves as critical service and hitting errors plagued the team throughout the match; many times, Emmanuel was unable to respond to a Crusader point due to hitting or passing errors. At the 11 – 5 mark Gilbert rocketed two back-to-back kills through the Lion block that brought Hayes Gymnasium to its feet and gave the Crusaders the eight-point advantage. The rest of the set followed suit as the Crusaders got kills from Ben Hamsho (Sophomore), McGee, and Gilbert. The set ended with a decisive and efficient Crusader victory at 25 – 14.
Sergio Carrillo (Freshman) has been absolutely sensational this season for the Crusaders once he stepped into the starting rotation nearly 10 games ago. Carrillo has “hands of silk” as Coach Battenfield would point out and has delivered some remarkable balls to hitters everywhere on the court. It is no surprise that the setter is leading the team with 457 assists on the year and is averaging nearly 23 assists per match. A team is built from the ground up and without a setter like Carrillo to deliver the ball to North Greenville’s outstanding hitters the team may not be in the middle of such a historic season.
The second and third set for the Crusaders was much more of the same as the team dominated offensively imposing their will on the Lion defense. In the second set, North Greenville rattled off three points in a row thanks to consecutive kills from Gilbert, Carrillo, and Hamsho. Then just 14 points later Campbell blasted two kills over the Emmanuel block once again energizing all of the fans in Hayes. Coming down the stretch the Crusaders sealed the second set with a three-point run thanks to a kill and ace from Gilbert then another kill from McGee. To finish the set the Crusaders scored five of the last six points in the set to seal the 25 – 18 victory. In the third set, the game seemed much closer than it truly was. The Crusaders gave the Lions multiple points thanks to hitting errors, but still managed to build a three-point lead at the halfway point in the set. Brandon Baker (Sophomore) got in on the action as he scored two kills in the first half of the set responding to some of the hitting errors. North Greenville sealed the victory in the match scoring four of the last six points. Campbell and Gilbert took it upon themselves to lead their team to the win as both the players scored two kills apiece to complete the historic win (25 – 21).
Together, Campbell and Gilbert combined for 22 kills on the evening and a staggering 26.5 points. The duo leads the Crusaders as well posting a .444 and .524 hitting percentage in the match. As a whole, the starting rotation shared the ball extremely well as all six starters posted kills on the evening with Sergio Carrillo finishing with 33 assists. Arlind Rojba (Sophomore) led the defense with 9 digs.
The Crusaders will now head on the road looking to make more history as they travel to North Carolina to take on Barton and Mount Olive this weekend. The Crusaders defeated both teams at home earlier in the season and will look to repeat the magic they made in Hayes. North Greenville will return home to Tigerville on Tuesday, March 26th to take on the Tornado of King University at 7 pm.