Bulldogs drop season-opener at home against No. 15 Grand Canyon, 3-1

Archived photo of junior Vasilis Mandilaris, who finished with 12 kills and six digs in Barton's 3-1 loss at home on Thursday night against No. 15 Grand Canyon. | Photo by Keith Tew
Archived photo of junior Vasilis Mandilaris, who finished with 12 kills and six digs in Barton's 3-1 loss at home on Thursday night against No. 15 Grand Canyon. | Photo by Keith Tew

by Doug Page

WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College men's volleyball team opened its 2018 campaign by taking nationally-ranked No. 15 Grand Canyon University to a fourth-set as the Lopes prevailed 3-1 (25-20, 17-25, 25-18, 25-21) against the Bulldogs on Thursday inside Wilson Gym.

The Bulldogs (0-1) gave the Lopes all that they could handle in the opening set as it featured four lead changes and 10 tie scores. BC also held GCU's Cullen Mosher, who lead the Lopes in kills last season, to just two kills on the night. GCU (1-0) committed a total of 12 errors through the first two sets but rebounded by hitting .500 as a team to take a 2-1 lead after three sets.

Sophomore Angelos Mandilaris was one of three BC players to finish the match with 12 kills, hitting .276 to go along with six digs. Junior Vasilis Mandilaris tallied six digs to go along with his 12 kills, while junior Aleksa Brkovic added five digs and five block assists to his 12 kills. Redshirt junior Oscar Fiorentino recorded 41 assists for the Bulldogs, while junior Nick Leary tallied a match-high six block assists.

The Lopes were paced by a match-high 18 kills from Will Schwob, who hit .324 to go along with three digs and three block assists. Cody Williams notched 16 kills and committed just three attack errors on the night for a .481 hitting percentage. Williams also added two service aces and four digs, while Shalev Saada recorded eight kills and four digs. Puna Kaniho tallied a match-high 46 assists for Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon came flying out of the gates in the opening set as Schwob gave the Lopes a 7-3 lead following a kill. Trailing 9-4, the Mandilaris brothers recorded back-to-back kills to trim the deficit to two points. BC would shift the momentum in the set by using a 4-0 run to knot the score at 10-10. A. Mandilaris capped the run for the Bulldogs with a kill off a set from Fiorentino. An attack error by the Lopes would give Barton its first lead of the night as Williams saw BC take a 12-11 edge. BC took a two-point advantage until GCU used a 3-0 spurt to regain the lead at 15-14.

Barton stayed close in the set and would take a late lead following an attack error by GCU which made it 20-19. The Lopes would run the table to take the opening set, scoring the next six points to rally for the 25-20 victory. The Lopes received back-to-back kills from Mosher to cap the win.

The Bulldogs battled back from several early deficits in the second set after seeing the score tied on four separate occasions through the first 10 points. With the set knotted 10-10, BC rattled off three consecutive points to take a 13-10 edge. Barton would later increase its lead to 16-12 following a bad set by Kaniho and force the Lopes to use a timeout. GCU called its second timeout of the set after falling behind 22-16 and would respond by getting a kill from Schwob. BC composed itself, taking the next three points to claim a 25-17 victory and even the match 1-1.

The third set would see the Lopes turn things around as GCU took a commanding 7-4 lead following a service ace from Williams. Barton rallied to close the gap to 8-7 by capitalizing on consecutive GCU errors, only to see the Lopes use a 3-0 run to regain an 11-7 edge. The big run for Grand Canyon came after Barton cut the score to 15-12 as the Lopes pieced together a 4-0 spurt to jump ahead 19-12. Both sides would trade the next 12 points evenly as an attack error by BC sealed the 25-18 victory for GCU.

Grand Canyon took advantage of the scoreboard in the fourth set with a pair of 3-0 runs to take a 10-5 lead before a timeout would be called by BC. Consecutive errors for GCU allowed Barton to trim the gap to 12-9 but another 3-0 spurt would give the Lopes a 15-9 lead and some breathing room. After a kill by Williams gave GCU a 21-14 lead, Brkovic gave the Bulldogs some life, sparking a 3-0 run that cut the deficit to 21-17. Brkovic tallied consecutive kills later in the set as BC pulled to within three points of GCU at 22-19. The Lopes responded by taking the set 25-21 as Schwob stopped a 2-0 run by Barton to secure the 3-1 victory in the match for GCU.

Barton hit .254 as a team in the match and recorded nine total blocks, while GCU hit .311 as a team to go along with 11.5 total blocks and six service aces. The match featured a total of 21 tie scores and seven lead changes.

Barton will participate in a pair of neutral-site matches as part of the inaugural Grow the Game Challenge on Jan. 12-14 at Allen Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The Bulldogs face the fifth-ranked University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Jan.13 at 8 p.m. and will take-on Lindenwood University on Jan. 14 at 10:30 a.m.