by Doug Page
WILSON, N.C. – Junior Aleksa Brkovic tallied a match-high 16 kills and recorded eight digs as the Barton College men's volleyball team defeated Coker College 3-1 (25-15, 25-16, 20-25, 25-17) on Tuesday night in non-conference action inside Wilson Gymnasium.
Barton (5-5) pushed its winning streak to five matches and moved its record to .500 in defeating the Cobras. Coker (4-2) rebounded from a slow start in the match to hit .400 as a team in winning the third set against the Bulldogs. The Cobras hit less than .100 as a team in the other three sets on the night.
Brkovic finished the match with a .467 kill percentage, committing just two errors on 30 total attempts. The native of Belgrade, Serbia also recorded three aces and two block assists. Sophomore Angelos Mandilaris notched 11 kills for BC while tallying seven digs. Junior Vasilis Mandilaris added nine kills and two digs for the Bulldogs, while redshirt junior Oscar Fiorentino tallied 32 assists and six digs. Freshman libero Wilfredo Rivera recorded a match-high 13 digs for BC.
Gabriel Castro and Joao Victor Santos each recorded a team-high 11 kills for Coker. Castro tallied once ace and two digs, while Santos notched one solo block and four block assists for the Cobras. Stephen Porras added 10 kills and seven digs in the match and Aleksa Bijelic tallied 33 assists, 10 digs, three block assists, and three kills.
The Bulldogs faced little resistance from the Cobras in the opening set, taking a 5-1 lead after going on a 3-0 run. Coker would answer with a pair of points to trim the deficit to 5-3 before BC went on a 4-0 rally to up the lead to 9-3. The Cobras found some momentum trailing 13-7, cutting the deficit to 13-10 after consecutive kills by Parker Oldham and Porras. Barton put its stamp on the set with a 6-0 run that increased the BC lead to 21-12. Coker kept the set alive by getting a kill from Santos to make it 24-15 on the scoreboard. BC took the 1-0 lead in the match following a service error by Santos to give the Bulldogs a 25-15 win.
Set two featured a pair of tie scores as Coker knotted the set at 3-3 after tallying consecutive points. Barton countered with a 7-0 run to take a 10-3 lead in the set. The run featured six straight serves from senior Charles Hyde, who also recorded an ace following a timeout by the Cobras. Santos stopped the run by Bulldogs with a kill but would see the Bulldogs tally back-to-back points to increase the lead to 12-4. Coker rallied late in the set to cut the deficit to 21-15. BC followed with a 3-0 rally to pull within a point of taking the set. The Bulldogs secured a 2-0 lead in the match two points later as V. Mandilaris delivered a kill for the 25-16 victory.
Coker played its best volleyball of the night in the third set, leading early and often against BC. Trailing 2-0, Coker went on a 4-0 run to take a two-point lead on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs rallied to tie the set at 4-4 and later at 6-6. Consecutive kills by Porras and Castro, coupled with an ace from Bijelic gave the Cobras a 9-6 lead. Barton kept things close on the scoreboard, trimming the deficit to 11-10 before the Cobras used a 4-0 rally to take a 15-10 advantage. Three straight errors by BC amid a 4-0 run would give Coker a 22-14 lead in the set. Trailing 24-17, BC held the Cobras from taking the set with a run to trim the deficit to 24-20. Following a timeout by the Cobras, an attack error by Barton gave Coker a 25-20 win and a fourth set to play.
The fourth set featured five lead changes as both teams battled back and forth trying to gain momentum. BC took a 4-3 lead after back-to-back errors by the Cobras but saw Coker go on a 3-0 run to retake a 6-4 advantage. The Bulldog offense that was present during the first two sets of the night reemerged as Barton tallied six straight points to take a 10-6 lead. After seeing its lead trimmed to 10-8, Barton rallied for three points to make it 13-8. The Cobras wouldn't go down without a fight as they worked to pull within a point of Barton at 17-16. Brkovic appeared to have enough of the Cobras keeping things close on the scoreboard as he recorded consecutive kills to give BC a 19-16 lead. Brkovic then tallied two more kills during a 7-0 run to put the Bulldogs in full control of the set. Coker would keep the set going as a service error by Fiorentino cut the score to 24-17. Barton secured the set and the match with the next point as an attack error by Castro gave the Bulldogs the 25-17 victory.
Junior middle-blocker Nick Leary recorded two of Barton's three solo blocks on the night and four of the team's 10 block assists. Barton tallied seven aces and 15 service errors on the night, while Coker tallied 4 aces and 20 service errors. The Bulldogs hit .292 as a team in the match, while Coker hit .139.
The Bulldogs travel to Fairfax, Va. on Friday to face NCAA Division I member George Mason University at 7 p.m. The Patriots received votes in last week's AVCA Division I-II Men's Volleyball Poll.