Quick hits: Team-by-team breakdown of Grow the Game Challenge tournament field

The 11-team tournament field is set for the 2018 Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge. Check out what to know about each team traveling to Nashville in January for this inaugural college men’s volleyball non-conference tournament.

BARTON
School’s location:
Wilson, North Carolina
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
2017 record: 23-6 (16-2 ConfCarolinas)
2017 standings: First place in ConfCarolinas
2017 season recap: Barton for the first time in its program history won the ConfCarolinas championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs were in the nation’s top five with both a 1.83 aces per game average and a .320 attack percentage. It also finished the season ranked No. 4 in the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll and received votes in the AVCA Division I-II National Coaches Poll.
Player to know: Outside attacker Vasilis Mandilaris was among the national leaders with a 3.27 kills per game average and is one of three returning Bulldog starters who earn First-Team All-Conference Carolinas honors. Mandilaris, along with his brother and Freshman All-American Barton teammate Angelos Mandilaris, represented Greece at the U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship in June and advanced to the Round of 16.

CHARLESTON
School’s location:
Charleston, West Virginia
Conference: Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA)
2017 record: 12-17 (0-14 EIVA)
2017 standings: Eighth place in EIVA
2017 season recap: Charleston under new head coach Ken Murczek won a program-record 12 matches and went 12-3 in non-conference play. The Golden Eagles in the program’s third season and second year as a member of the EIVA finished in last place in the conference but almost pulled off a road upset against Princeton.
Player to know: Libero Darrin DePellegrini finished the season second in the EIVA and sixth in the nation with a 2.48 digs per game average, including having double-digit digs in four conference matches.

ERSKINE
School’s location:
Due West, South Carolina
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
2017 record: 4-21 (4-14 ConfCarolinas)
2017 standings: Ninth place in ConfCarolinas
2017 season recap: Erskine one-year removed from making the NCAA Tournament reached for the ConfCarolinas Tournament in 2017 and almost upset the eventual conference champions Barton in the quarterfinals. The Flying Fleet under new head coach Justin Brubaker competed last season with a roster almost exclusively comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
Player to know: Outside attacker Isaac Lanier finished the regular season in the nation’s top 20 averaging 3.46 kills per game and had double-digit kills in 15 matches. In addition, Lanier was selected as an Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshman All-American.

GRAND CANYON
School’s location:
Phoenix, Arizona
Conference: Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)
2017 record: 19-11 (11-5 MIVA)
2017 standings: Third place in MIVA
2017 season recap: Grand Canyon set a single-season program record with 19 victories and advanced to the MIVA Tournament finals for the first time in program history. The Antelopes made their program’s debut in the national coaches poll and ended the season ranked No. 14. This was Grand Canyon’s final season in the MIVA, a conference comprised of Midwest teams, and it will begin the 2018 season as a member of the West Coast-based MPSF.
Player to know: All-conference outside attacker Shalev Saada last season was in the top 20 of the MIVA with a 2.39 kills per game average and among the team leaders averaging 1.28 digs per game. Saada spent this off-season playing with the Israeli Men’s National Team.

HAWAI’I
School’s location:
Honolulu, Hawaii
Conference: Big West
2017 record: 27-6 (14-4 MPSF)
2017 standings: Third place in MPSF
2017 season recap: The Rainbow Warriors earned the final at-large bid to the six-team NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Hawai’i had 17 victories against nationally ranked teams last season, including a five-game win against Penn State in the NCAA Tournament play-in match. In addition, the Rainbow Warriors finished No. 4 in both the AVCA National Coaches Poll and the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Media Poll. This tournament also will be one of the first times in the last 20 years that the Rainbow Warriors have played a non-conference match on the continental United States.
Player to know: Opposite Stijn van Tilburg finished the 2017 regular season third in the nation averaging 4.32 kills per game and in the nation’s top 15 with a .382 attack percentage. He also earned All-American honors and was named the 2017 recipient of the Bryan Ivie Award as the nation’s top opposite.

LIMESTONE
School’s location:
Gaffney, South Carolina
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
2017 record: 13-11 (12-6 ConfCarolinas)
2017 standings: Fourth place in ConfCarolinas
2017 season recap: Limestone had its first winning season since 2014 and had a regular season victory against the eventual ConfCarolinas champions Barton. Limestone in the postseason defeated Belmont Abbey to advance to the conference tournament semifinals — the program’s third semifinals appearance in the last five years.
Player to know: Outside attacker Kevin Rocklein ended last season among the ConfCarolinas leaders with a 2.43 kills per game average. He also had eight matches with double-digit kills, including a team-high 10 kills against Barton in a ConfCarolinas Tournament semifinals loss.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL
School’s location:
Harrogate, Tennessee
Conference: No conference affiliation (Independent)
2017 record: 10-17
2017 standings: Third best record among independent teams
2017 season recap: Lincoln Memorial in 2017 became the second college in Tennessee to have a NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball program. The team in its inaugural season had 10 victories highlighted with a five-game win against Limestone in March. The Railsplitters concluded its season going 0-2 at the inaugural IVA Tournament, an end-of-season event for independent men’s volleyball programs without a conference affiliation.
Player to know: Opposite Evan Cory as a freshman earned All-IVA Team honors and ended the regular season with a team-high 2.87 kills per game average, including having a double-digit kills in 14 matches. Cory also has spent this off-season competing as an amateur on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour and reached the third round of the four-round qualification tournament for the New York City Open.

LINDENWOOD
School’s location:
St. Charles, Missouri
Conference: Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA)
2017 record: 5-19 (4-12 MIVA)
2017 standings: Seventh place in MIVA
2017 season recap: Despite opening the season with 13 straight losses, Lindenwood rebounded and went 5-5 in its final 10 regular season matches. Lindenwood also pulled off an upset victory against then-No. 9 Loyola in March and in the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals almost upset No. 7 Lewis before losing in five games. The Lions in the off-season promoted assistant coach Joe Kosciw to be the head coach following the departure of former head coach Kris Dorn.
Player to know: Middle attacker Sam Schindler finished in the nation’s top 20 with a 1.01 blocks per game average and was among the national leaders with a .315 attack percentage. He also was one of 11 players to be named to the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshmen All-American Team.

McKENDREE
School’s location:
Lebanon, Illinois
Conference: Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA)
2017 record: 11-19 (6-10 MIVA)
2017 standings: Sixth place in MIVA
2017 season recap: McKendree a season removed from winning its first postseason match in program history finished 2017 in sixth place in MIVA and had an upset conference victory versus No. 12 Ball State in March. The fourth-year program also opened its season almost upsetting No. 8 Pepperdine before losing the non-conference road match in five games. McKendree concluded the season ranked No. 5 in the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll.
Player to know: Setter Pasquale Fiduccia finished last season in the nation’s top 10 with a 10.05 assists per game average and helped guide the Bearcats offense to at least a .300 attack percentage in nine matches.

NORTH GREENVILLE
School’s location:
Tigerville, South Carolina
Conference: Conference Carolinas (ConfCarolinas)
2017 record: 8-19 (7-11 ConfCarolinas)
2017 standings: Seventh place in ConfCarolinas
2017 season recap: North Greenville for the third consecutive year in the program’s three-year history qualified for the postseason and reached the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals. In addition, North Greenville had a home non-conference victory against Lincoln Memorial.
Player to know: All-conference middle attacker Matthew McManaway finished last season third in the ConfCarolinas with a 0.95 blocks per game average. He also was in the conference’s top 10 averaging 2.86 kills per game, including three consecutive matches with at least 15 kills and a .500 attack percentage.

SACRED HEART
School’s location:
Fairfield, Connecticut
Conference: Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA)
2017 record: 15-11 (8-6 EIVA)
2017 standings: Third place in EIVA
2017 season recap: The Pioneers made their first postseason appearance since 2010 as they qualified for the four-team EIVA Tournament. Sacred Heart during the regular season had two conference victories against Penn State — the first time in their program history they defeated the Nittany Lions — and nearly pulled off a road non-conference upset versus USC. In addition, Sacred Heart received votes in the national coaches poll throughout the season.
Player to know: Libero Joshua Ayzenberg was second in the nation with a 2.92 digs per game average, including having a season-high 22 digs in a four-game victory against Penn State in February. He also was named one of the three finalists for 2017 Erik Shoji Award, which is presented to the top libero in college men’s volleyball.