Quick-hits: What to know about ConfCarolinas teams for 2019 season

Photo by Jay Sowers

[Editor’s note: Off the Block will preview each NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball conference leading up to the 2019 season opener on Dec. 30. This conference previews examines every team in the ConfCarolinas.]

The average college men’s volleyball fan may not be name every team in the ConfCarolinas. However, the ConfCarolinas in recent years has been one of the nation’s most drastically improved men’s volleyball conferences.

Off the Block associate editor Jonathan Bates and Off the Block editor Vinnie Lopes breakdown the ConfCarolinas and what to know about each team entering the 2019 season.

Barton

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Receiving votes
2018 record: 21-8 (15-1 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals
Notable losses: Middle attacker Charles Hyde (had 28 blocks primarily coming off the bench)
Notable returners/additions: Opposite Angelos Mandilaris (ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year, 2018 Division II National Player of the Year finalist); Outside attacker Aleksa Brkovic (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Outside attacker Vasilis Mandilaris (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Setter Oscar Fiorentino (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Top non-conference match: Long Beach State at Barton on Jan. 11
OTB bold prediction: The Bulldogs will finish the regular season with one of the top three win totals of any team in the nation. Barton is not only a good ConfCarolinas program but capable of pulling off some non-conference upsets. — Vinnie Lopes
 

Belmont Abbey

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 13-16 (8-8 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: Libero Rob Valentine (ConfCarolinas Defensive Player of the Year)
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Liam Maxwell (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Top non-conference match: Belmont Abbey vs. St Francis (at Queens) on Feb. 9
OTB bold prediction: Maxwell will once again put up huge offensive numbers and finish in the nation’s top five for kills. The Crusaders also have right pieces to make the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals for the first time in program history — Vinnie Lopes

King

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 23-6 (15-1 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Won ConfCarolinas Tournament and lost in NCAA Tournament play-in match
Notable losses: Outside attacker Jeff Sprayberry (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas and 2017 ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year); Setter Nick Drooker (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Opposite Kiel Bell (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Notable returners/additions: Middle attacker Jon Wheaton (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Top non-conference match: King at Hawai’i on March 7
OTB bold prediction: King plays Loyola, Lewis and Quincy at home this season. The Tornado will win at least one of those matches against MIVA opponents. — Jonathan Bates

North Greenville

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 13-16 (7-9 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Middle attacker Matthew McManaway (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Jackson Gilbert (Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Top non-conference match: North Greenville at Lewis on Jan. 4
OTB bold prediction: The Crusaders’ tough non-conference schedule will have them ready to make a run at a top-four seed and a first-round home match in the ConfCarolinas Tournament. — Jonathan Bates

Limestone

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 8-20 (5-11 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Libero Florian Ruhm (Freshman All-American); Outside attacker Anthony Savage (Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas)
Notable returners/additions: Opposite Francisco Salinger Cenzual (ConfCarolians Freshman of the Year)
Top non-conference match: Limestone vs Lindenwood (at the Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge) on Jan. 18
OTB bold prediction: Salinger Cenzual will be on the First-Team All-ConfCarolinas selection and could be a dark-horse candidate for the conference player of the year. — Jonathan Bates

Mount Olive

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 16-13 (11-5 Conf.Carolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the Conf.Carolinas Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: Opposite Robert Poole (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Libero Josh Donahue (First-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Outside attacker Bret Rutledge (Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Setter Jeff Yasalonis (Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas); David Heller (head coach)
Notable returners/additions: Middle attacker Luke Visgitis (Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Outside attacker Brad Monaghan (Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas); Ali’s Keohohou (head coach)
Top non-conference match: Long Beach State at Mount Olive on Jan. 10
OTB bold prediction: Life without Heller and four all-conference starters will be rough at first but it will get better throughout the season. — Jonathan Bates
 

Emmanuel

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 9-16 (5-11 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Ineligible due to transition to NCAA Division II
Notable losses: Opposite Ackeem West (second on team in 2018 with 183 kills); Chad Nelson (head coach)
Notable returners/additions: Middle attacker Don Thompson (fifth in the nation with a .398 attack percentage); James Friddle (head coach)
Top non-conference match: Emmanuel at St. Francis on Jan. 11
OTB bold prediction: Emmanuel will finish the year with its first non-conference winning record in program history. — Jonathan Bates

Lees-McRae

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 3-22 (2-14 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Outside attacker Wes Rogman (team-high 2.77 kills per game average last season)
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Ethan Gardner (as a freshman last season had a team-high 78 blocks)
Top non-conference match: Purdue Fort Wayne at Lees-McRae on Jan. 11
OTB bold prediction: With five of their six starters returning, Lees-McRae will be improved and not end the year with its second straight last-place finish. — Jonathan Bates
 

Erskine

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
2018 record: 7-21 (4-12 ConfCarolinas)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in the ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Outside attacker Daniel Hermida (eighth in the nation with a 0.5 aces per game average last season).
Notable returners/additions: Keegan Sullivan (among the team leaders last season averaging 2.65 kills per game)
Top non-conference match: Erskine at Ohio State on Jan. 19
OTB bold prediction: All but three players on Erskine’s roster are freshmen. There are going to be a lot of growing pains this year that will eventually pay off. — Vinnie Lopes