WILSON, N.C. – The Barton men's volleyball team has released its 2019 schedule, school officials announced earlier today. The slate features 13 home contests at Wilson Gymnasium and several matches against NCAA Division I schools.
The season opens at home on Saturday, January 5, against George Mason at 7:00 p.m., before a home date with Long Beach State – last year's national champions – on Friday, January 11, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The 49ers are ranked No. 1 in the 2019 AVCA NCAA Division I-II Coaches Top 15 Poll.
"I am very excited about the strength of our schedule this year and the opportunity our guys have to compete at the highest level with the best teams in the nation," said Barton mentor Jeff Lennox. "Even more so, that Barton will play host to George Mason, Long Beach State and Harvard here at Wilson Gymnasium. We will be shown quickly where we need to improve to play consistently at the highest level with those three schools in addition to USC, Grand Canyon and Quincy on the schedule in the first half of January."
The Bulldogs will also play in the annual Grow The Game Challenge at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.: No. 14 Grand Canyon (Jan. 18), Southern California (Jan. 19) and Quincy (Jan. 20).
"We will also learn what our strengths are as we form our identity early in the season," added Lennox. "The opportunity to play these matches is a testament to the hard work our athletes have put in each year to elevate our program to the national stage and the belief I have in them that we belong there."
The Bulldogs will look to continue their success from last season. Barton finished 21-8 last year including a 15-1 mark in Conference Carolinas play. The Bulldogs captured a share of the league regular season crown before falling in the tournament championship finals.
Barton opens league play on Friday, January 25, against Emmanuel (Ga.) at home at 7:00 p.m. The Bulldogs will face King on Friday, February 15, at home and Friday, April 5, on the road. The Tornado shared the conference regular season championship with the Bulldogs and advanced to the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship playoffs.
Barton returns all four players who earned All-Conference Carolinas honors last spring: juniors Angelos Mandilaris (Chalkida, GREECE) and Oscar Fiorentino (Bayamon, PUERTO RICO) and seniors Vasilis Mandilaris (Chalkida, GREECE) and Aleksa Brkovic (Belgrade, SERBIA).
Angelos Mandilaris – the 2018 conference offensive player of the year – and Brkovic were first-team all-league honorees while Vasilis Mandilaris and Fiorentino were named to the All-Conference Carolinas Second Team. Mandilaris led the team in kills (393) while Brkovic totaled 294 kills, 40 service aces and 131 digs on the year. Vasilis Mandilaris (239 kills and 160 digs) and Fiorentino (979 assists and 145 digs) had big years for the Bulldogs as well last spring.
"Last year, throughout conference and conference tournament play, we matured and learned a lot as a group which has prepared us for what lies ahead this season. We will continue to work hard and prepare as always, with the plan to progress and grow as a team. Our goal remains to improve each day in order to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the season. Our schedule from beginning to end will help us do that," said Lennox.