Barton near unanimous preseason favorite to win ConfCarolinas title

Photo courtesy of Jay Sowers.

Barton a year after coming up one-match short of repeating as conference championship is the official preseason favorite to win the ConfCarolinas in 2019.

The Bulldogs received all but one first-place vote to finish atop the ConfCarolinas Preseason Coaches Poll that was released Wednesday.

Three all-conference starters return for Barton, including opposite Angelos Mandilaris. Mandilaris finished last season fifth in the nation with a 3.97 kills per game average and was named both the 2018 ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Division II National Player of the Year.

Barton won a share of the 2018 ConfCarolinas regular season championship and at one point in the season had a 13-match winning streak. It also advanced to the conference tournament finals before losing on the road to King.

Mount Olive received the lone first-place vote that prevented Barton from being the unanimous No. 1 ranked team in the preseason poll.

The Trojans have two all-conference starters returning from last year’s team that reached the conference tournament semifinals. In addition, Mount Olive during the offseason hired former CSUN libero Ali’i Keohohou to be its new head coach.

Both Belmont Abbey and the defending conference champions King came within five points of Mount Olive for the ConfCarolina’s No. 2 preseason ranking. Belmont Abbey finished at No. 3 with 63 points — one more point than King.

Along with these teams, Limestone rounds out the top five of this poll.

The ConfCarolinas regular season begins in January and concludes with the eight-team ConfCarolinas Tournament in April. The winner of that conference tournament received an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

ConfCarolinas Preseason Poll

1. Barton — 80 (8) points
2. Mount Olive — 66 (1) points
3. Belmont Abbey — 63 points
4. King — 62 points
5. Limestone — 52 points
6. North Greenville — 47 points
T-7. Emmanuel — 34 points
T-7. Erskine — 34 points
9. Lees-McRae — 30 points

ConfCarolinas Players to Watch

Setter: Demitrius Maloney, Emmanuel
Setter: Logan Riley, Limestone
Opposite: Francisco Salinger Cenzual, Limestone
Oppoiste: Angelos Mandilaris, Barton
Opposite: Griffin Spence, Erskine
Outside attacker: Tobi Azeez, Mount Olive
Outside attacker: Robert Bowling, Lees-McRae
Outside attacker: Aleksa Brkovic, Barton
Outside attacker: Jackson Gilbert, North Greenville
Outside attacker: Vasilis Mandilaris, Barton
Outside attacker: Liam Maxwell, Belmont Abbey
Outside attacker: Brad Monaghan, Mount Olive
Middle attacker: Ethan Gardner, Lees-McRae
Middle attacker: Alejandro Irizarry, Erskine
Middle attacker: Dalton Johnson, King
Middle attacker: Brian Long, Belmont Abbey
Middle attacker: William Morris, Belmont Abbey
Middle attacker: Hector Serviat, Lees-McRae
Middle attacker: Keegan Sullivan, Erskine
Middle attacker: Don Thompson, Emmanuel
Middle attacker: Luke Visgitis, Mount Olive
Middle attacker: Jon Wheaton, King
Libero: Caleb Bonaventure, Emmanuel
Libero: Christian Phung, North Greenville
Libero: Michal Podgorzak, Limestone
Libero: Leo de Quadros, King