Montgomery Register narrowly missed a school record with 12 blocks and freshman Aubrey McKinney shared match-high honors with six service aces in her collegiate debut as University of Mount Olive rallied for a 20-25, 25-13, 20-25, 25-15, 15-13 victory over Mars Hill in the Trojans' opener at the FMU Women's Volleyball Invitational Friday morning at Florence, S.C. Mount Olive erased a four-point deficit in the fifth set and Britni Johnson scored three of the Trojans' final four points of the match to seal the win.
The Trojans settled for a split on the first day after falling to tournament host Francis Marion 25-14, 25-17, 25-20 later in the day. Ellen Morgan served a pair of aces for UMO.
Mount Olive finished the two-day tournament with a 1-3 mark.
In the opening match, Mount Olive trailed Mars Hill 9-5 in the fifth set before Dezirae Mackey's kill gave the Trojans a side out. A pair of Mars Hill errors pulled Mount Olive within a point and Marissa Turnage's ace tied the set 9-9. Another Mars Hill error put the Trojans ahead to stay and Turnage followed with her third ace of the match. Johnson's kill capped a 7-0 run and gave the Trojans a 12-9 advantage.
After the two teams exchanged side outs, Johnson's kill gave Mount Olive its first match point at 14-11. Mars Hill pulled within a point, but Johnson recorded her team-high 11th kill on match point to give the Trojans the victory.
McKinney got the start at setter after starting setter Nicole Karas suffered an injury in practice two nights earlier. McKinney added 30 assists, four blocks and 10 digs as four Trojans finished in double figures in digs. Casey Feichter led Mount Olive with 19 digs, while Johnson had 18 digs and Sarah Watkins added 17 digs.
Despite getting the last-minute start, McKinney said she didn't have any butterflies going into the match.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous," said McKinney, a 5-8 freshman from Meridian, Idaho. "I was just looking forward to getting going."
Register had two solo blocks and 10 block assists through three sets, but Mars Hill (0-1) did not allow Mount Olive any blocks in the final two sets. While Register came up one block shy of Racey Bartley's school record of 13 blocks, she did surpass Trojan head coach and career blocks leader Colby Mangum for the second highest single-match blocks total.
"I told (Montgomery) after the match that when I said I wanted her to beat my blocks total, I didn't mean today," said Mangum.
Mackey finished with nine kills and five blocks, while Johnson also recorded five blocks. The Trojans finished with 17 team blocks.
Defensively, Mount Olive held Mars Hill to an .071 hitting percentage for the match, including a -.032 hitting percentage in the three sets won by the Trojans.
"Defense was a big key," said McKinney. "'Gummy' (Montgomery Register) and 'Dez' (Dezirae Mackey) were all over the place."
Mount Olive fell to Shorter 25-12, 25-12, 25-20 in its first match Saturday, then concluded tournament play with a 25-18, 25-13, 25-18 loss to Lander. The Trojans were even with Lander in all three sets, but fell victim to set-ending scoring runs.
Against Lander, Mount Olive (1-3) led through the early part of the opening set as Register's kill gave the Trojans a 12-10 advantage. Lander broke a 13-13 tie to take the lead for good as the Bearcats outscored the Trojans 15-6 to end the first set.
In the second set, Mount Olive took its first lead at 7-6 after back-to-back kills by Johnson. Neither team led by more than a point until Lander broke an 11-11 tie with six unanswered points on its way to a set-ending 14-2 run.
The third set was a virtual carbon copy of the first two sets as Mount Olive used an ace by Samantha Winfield and a kill by Johnson to take an 11-10 lead. Lander went ahead to stay after a 4-0 run and led by as many as eight points. The Trojans put together a late run on another kill by Johnson and a block by Winfield and Register, but Lander held on for the win.
Register finished with nine kills and Johnson had eight kills, while Winfield finished with a match-high 26 assists to go with 13 digs.
Mount Olive plays its home opener Wednesday as the Trojans play host to Chowan in a non-conference match-up. The match is the first regular season contest to take place on the newly redesigned Kornegay Arena floor. Match time is 7 p.m.