Within five years coach Jeff Lennox went from inheriting a Barton team that went winless in its inaugural season to the Bulldogs now being preseason favorite to win the Conference Carolinas.
Barton received six of nine first-place votes to finish atop the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches Poll that was released Wednesday morning.
The Bulldogs finished last season a program-best third place in the Conference Carolinas and advanced to the conference tournament finals for the first time in its program’s history. Among the starters returning for Barton includes setter Federico Pagliara and outside attackers Aleksa Brkovic and Vasilis Mandilaris, who all received multiple votes for the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Preseason All-American Teams.
This is the first time in its six-year program history that Barton has been ranked No. 1 in the conference’s preseason poll.
Mount Olive earned two first-place votes and 72 points — six fewer points than Barton — to finish at No. 2 in the poll. The defending conference champions Erskine was the only other school to receive a first-place vote and ended the conference preseason rankings at No. 6.
King, Limestone and Belmont Abbey round-out the top five of the preseason poll.
The Conference Carolinas season begins in January and concludes with the eight-team Conference Carolinas Tournament in April. The winner of the conference tournament advances to the six-team NCAA Tournament in May at Ohio State.
2017 Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Barton — 78 (6) points
2. Mount Olive — 72 (2) points
3. King — 59 points
4. Limestone — 53 points
5. Belmont Abbey — 51 points
6. Erskine — 48 (1) points
7. North Greenville — 43 points
8. Lees-McRae — 35 points
9. Pfeiffer — 29 points
*Emmanuel ineligible for preseason poll and postseason because it is transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
2017 Conference Carolinas Players to Watch
Setter: Caleb Bonaventure, Emmanuel
Setter: Nick Drooker, King
Setter: Federico Pagliara, Barton
Setter: Alexander Schinzing, North Greenville
Setter: Mark Shayka, Lees-McRae
Setter: Jeff Yasalonis, Mount Olive
Opposite: Aaron Campbell, North Greenville
Opposite: Bruno Kretzschmar, Limestone
Opposite: Angelos Mandilaris, Barton
Opposite: Robert Poole, Mount Olive
Opposite: Andres Talavera, Erskine
Outside attacker: Aleksa Brkovic, Barton
Outside attacker: Daniel Fralix, Erskine
Outside attacker: Kian Hollevoet, Mount Olive
Outside attacker: Vasilis Mandilaris, Barton
Outside attacker: Liam Maxwell, Belmont Abbey
Outside attacker: Eddie Moushikhian, King
Outside attacker: John Sobel, Lees-McRae
Outside attacker: Jeff Sprayberry, King
Middle attacker: Brennan Beyner, Belmont Abbey
Middle attacker: Evan Blair, Pfeiffer
Middle attacker: Ben Hamsho, North Greenville
Middle attacker: Dylan Lavner, Limestone
Middle attacker: Matt McManaway, North Greenville
Middle attacker: Joel Muhlbach, Limestone
Middle attacker: Austin Quinn, Belmont Abbey
Middle attacker: Hector Serviat, Lees-McRae
Middle attacker: Jon Wheaton, King
Libero: Josh Donahue, Mount Olive
Libero: Dustin King, North Greenville
Libero: Robert Valentine, Belmont Abbey
Libero: Nick Wildes, Limestone