WILSON, N.C. – The Barton men's volleyball survived a scare in the opening round of the 2017 Conference Carolinas Men's Volleyball Tournament with a 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 15-11) win over defending league champion Erskine College on Tuesday night in Wilson Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs (21-5) entered the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, earning the right to host the No. 8 seed Flying Fleet (4-21). After winning their opening match, the Bulldogs will now host both the semifinals and finals on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 in Wilson.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the opening set of play as the scoreboard saw five total ties and five lead changes. The Bulldogs led by a score of 13-9 midway through the set, but an 8-2 run from the Fleet put them ahead by two points. Erskine held onto its lead, ending the set on a kill from freshman Isaac Lanier.
Barton responded with four unanswered points to open the second set of play, extending its lead to 18-12 late on a Nick Leary service ace. The BC lead continued to hold steady as an Erskine service error ended the set at tied the match at 1-all.
The third set of action played out much like the second with Barton gaining an early lead and never trailing. Erskine was able to put together a 5-1 run late in the frame but a kill from sophomore Vasilis Mandilaris ended the threat with BC in front.
A back-and-forth affair ensued in the fourth set of play, as neither side was able to gain an advantage of more than three points until four consecutive points put Barton ahead 15-9.
Erskine battled back to tie the score at 19-19, taking the lead on a Barton attack error and opening up its advantage to three points. The Bulldogs closed within one point late, but the Fleet scored three of the set's final four points to tie the match and force a fifth and deciding set of play.
In the fifth set, Barton jumped out a 6-2 lead and extended the margin to a 12-5 count on an ace from V. Mandilaris. A 6-1 run from Erskine cut the BC lead to just two points, but back-to-back kills from sophomore Aleksa Brkovic ended the match and helped the Bulldogs advance into the postseason.
As a team, Barton hit .365 and forced the Fleet into 21 attack errors, but 20 service errors by the Bulldogs kept the match close.
Freshman Angelos Mandilaris had a career-high 21 kills and hit .417 in the match, while brother V. Mandilaris followed with 15 kills and a .440 hitting percentage to go with seven digs.
Brkovic chipped in 12 kills, four digs and three service aces, as senior setter Federico Pagliara totaled a season-high 54 assists and eight digs. Senior libero Jonathan Novoa-Miralles led the defense with nine digs.
Barton will now turn its focus to its next opponent in the semifinals, No. 4 seed Limestone College. The two teams split the regular season series with each winning on its home floor. The match is scheduled for Friday, April 21 in Wilson at 7:30 p.m.
Fans can follow all of the Conference Carolinas Men's Volleyball Tournament action via the Tournament Central page here: http://bartonbulldogs.com/sports/mvball/2016-17/2017_MVB_Conference_Tournament/index