King intensifies non-conference schedule for upcoming season

Coach Ryan Booher has taken non-conference scheduling to a whole new level for King.

The Tornado after having the nation’s lowest strength of schedule last season announced recently that it will play three projected nationally ranked teams in non-conference play during the upcoming season.

King will open its season with the program’s sixth match since 2013 versus a nationally ranked team as it travels to play UCLA. In addition, King will play both Lewis and Loyola on the road in March for two of its final two non-conference matches of the regular season.

King finished last season winning a program-record 24 matches and had the second-best winning percentage in the nation as it won a share of the ConfCarolinas regular season championship. However, the Tornado was outside of the top 15 in the RPI in part because it had the lowest rated overall strength of schedule in the nation at a .372 winning percentage.

Four all-conference starters return for King, including outside attacker Jeff Sprayberry. Sprayberry was named the 2017 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year and was among the national leaders with a 3.48 kills per game average.

Both UCLA and Lewis finished in the top 10 of the national rankings last season, while Loyola was ranked inside the top 10 at times during the season before ending at No. 14

UCLA overcame an injury-plagued season to finish in fifth place in the MPSF and reach the conference tournament quarterfinals. All-American setter Micah Ma’a and All-American outside attacker Jake Arnitz return to the Bruins following an off-season of playing for the United States in various international tournaments.

All-American outside attacker Ryan Coenen highlights the returning starters for Lewis that ended the 2017 season in second place in the MIVA. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the Flyers defeated the Tornado at the 2016 Outrigger Invitational.

Loyola similar to its in-state rivals Lewis have multiple starters returning for the upcoming season. All-American middle attacker Jeff Jendryk also spent the summer making his international playing debut as he helped the United States reach the FIVB World League Finals.

Along with these non-conference opponents, King will play McKendree and UC San Diego as part of the season-opening non-conference tournament at UCLA.

UC San Diego ended last season ranked No. 2 in the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll, and McKendree finished at No. 5.

King concluded its best season in program history receiving a vote in the Division II coaches poll.