Off the Block reveals ConfCarolinas All-Decade Team

Photo by Jay Sowers

The 20 best ConfCarolinas men’s volleyball players from this decade have earned a new conference honor.

Off the Block announced Monday the ConfCarolinas All-Decade Team that recognizes the best players to compete in the conference since 2010.

Barton, the 2017 and 2019 ConfCarolinas champions, and Lees-McRae led all ConfCarolinas schools with four All-Decade Team selections. Erskine, King, Mount Olive and former ConfCarolinas member Pfeiffer each also had multiple recipients.

Along with these programs, both Belmont Abbey and Limestone have a representative on the team.

The ConfCarolinas at the start of the decade became the first multi-sport conference in the nation to sponsor NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball. In addition, the ConfCarolinas in 2014 became the nation’s fourth conference to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and has expanded to 10 teams to close out the decade.

A nationwide voting committee of 10 men’s volleyball coaches and volleyball media members determined the ConfCarolinas All-Decade Team. The top 10 vote-getters made the First-Team All-Decade, while the next top 10 vote-getters earned Second-Team All-Decade honors.

In order to ensure representation of all positions — libero, middle attacker, opposite, outside attacker and setter — the top-two vote-getters at each position were assured spots on the All-Decade Teams.

Off the Block is a national award winning website that launched in 2011 and is the nation’s leader in college men’s volleyball coverage.

Off the Block annually presents college men’s volleyball national awards to recognize outstanding individual performances in the sport. Along with the ConfCarolinas All-Decade Team, Off the Block will present the National All-Decade Team later this month.

ConfCarolinas First-Team All-Decade

Setter: David Specian, Pfeiffer
Opposite: Angelos Mandilaris, Barton
Outside attacker: Nolan Albrecht, Belmont Abbey
Outside attacker: Angel Dache, Mount Olive
Outside attacker: Vasilis Mandilaris, Barton
Outside attacker: Brady Markle, Lees-McRae
Outside attacker: Mike Michelau, Erskine
Outside attacker: Jeff Sprayberry, King
Middle attacker: Jon Wheaton, King
Libero: Michael Schneck, Erskine

ConfCarolinas Second-Team All-Decade

Setter: Federico Pagliara, Barton
Setter: Nick Drooker, King
Setter: Randy Ramirez, Lees-McRae
Opposite: Chad Mercado, Lees-McRae
Outside attacker: Aleksa Brkovic, Barton
Outside attacker: Caleb Brophy, Pfeiffer
Outside attacker: Eric Zaun, Limestone
Middle attacker: Fabio Diniz, Pfeiffer
Libero: Josh Donahue, Mount Olive
Libero: Efrain Negron, Lees-McRae

ConfCarolinas First-Team All-Decade

Nolan Albrecht, Belmont Abbey (2013-16)
Awards and honors:
2016 Karch Kiraly Award finalist, 2016 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2016 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2015 ConfCarolinas Comeback Player of the Year, 2015 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas
Player bio: Albrecht still holds the Belmont Abbey program record with 1,185 career kills — a record he set despite missing his entire sophomore season because of an injury. In addition, Albrecht led the nation and set the school’s single-season record with a 5.03 kills per game average in 2016 as he led Belmont Abbey to its first postseason win in program history. This was the second-most kills per game average in ConfCarolinas history. The future Belmont Abbey head coach that season also had a career-best .350 attack percentage and 13 matches with at least 20 kills, including a season-high 33 kills against King.

Angel Dache, Mount Olive (2011-14)
Awards and honors:
2011 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2014 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year, 2014 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2014 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Along with being the school’s all-time career kills leader, Dache finished second in program history with a .304 career attack percentage. Dache ended his senior season leading the conference and being third in the nation with a 4.19 kills per game average en route to becoming the last Trojan to win the ConfCarolinas Player of the Year. The outside attacker that season had at least 20 kills in six matches, including a match-high 21 kills on a .385 attack percentage in a road loss to Lewis. Dache during the previous season was in the conference’s top five with both a 3.60 kills per game average and a .336 attack percentage as he led the Trojans to the ConfCarolinas regular season championship.

Angelos Mandilaris, Barton (2017 – present)
Awards and honors:
2017 ConfCarolinas Freshman of the Year, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 Division II National Player of the Year finalist, 2018 ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year, 2018 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 Division II National Player of the Year finalist, 2019 All-American Honorable Mention, 2019 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year, 2019 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Mandilaris finished each of the last two seasons in the nation’s top five for kills and with a year still remaining in his college career is already second in Barton’s program history with 1,143 career kills. The opposite was second in the nation with a career-best 4.40 kills per game average in 2019 as he helped lead the Bulldogs to their second conference championship in the last three years. Among his top performances that season included a season-high 32 kills on a .674 attack percentage in a victory against Belmont Abbey. He also ended last season in the nation’s top 20 hitting .355 — the second time in college career Mandilaris had more than a .300 attack percentage. Along with his performance last season, Mandilaris finished the 2018 season fifth in the nation averaging 3.97 kills per game.

Vasilis Mandilaris (2016-19)
Awards and honors:
2016 Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2018 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2019 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Player bio: Mandilaris set the program record with 1,165 career kills en route to leading the Bulldogs to two ConfCarolinas championships during his college career. The outside attacker during his senior season was in the nation’s top 30 with both a career-best .341 attack percentage and a 3.40 kills per game average. In addition, Mandilaris had 23 kills while hitting .333 in a five-game overtime victory against King in the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals. Mandilaris in 2017 also was in the nation’s top 30 averaging 3.27 kills per game and helped the Bulldogs win their first conference title. To accompany his offensive performance, Mandilaris finished in the program’s top five with 509 career digs.

Brady Markle, Lee’s-McRae (2013-15)
Awards and honors:
2014 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2015 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year; 2015 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2015 All-American Honorable Mention
Player bio: Markle remains the only player in Lees-McRae program history to win the ConfCarolinas Player of the Year. The outside attacker earned the top conference honor in 2015 after finishing with a nation-best 5.23 kills per game average. He also had at least 20 kills in 10 matches that season, including a career-high 38 kills on a .526 attack percentage in a victory against North Greenville. Along with his performance during his final college season, Markle in 2014 finished in the nation’s top 10 with a 3.92 kills per game average and earned all-conference honors.

Mike Michelau, Erskine (2013-16)
Awards and honors:
2013 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2014 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2014 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player, 2014 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2015 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2016 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year, 2016 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2016 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Michelau finished each of his final three seasons in the nation’s top five averaging more than 4.00 kills per game. The opposite in his senior season had a career-best 4.47 kills per game average and had more than 20 kills in seven matches as he led the Fleet to the ConfCarolinas championship and the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Michelau during his last two seasons was in the conference’s top 10 with more than a .300 attack percentage. In addition, he had 148 career aces highlighted by being seventh in the nation averaging a career-best 0.46 aces per game in 2016.

Michael Schneck, Erskine (2013-16)
Awards and honors:
2013 ConfCarolinas Defensive Player of the Year, 2013 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2014 Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2015 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2016 ConfCarolinas Defensive Player of the Year, 2016 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2016 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player, 2016 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Schneck as a senior was second in the nation averaging 2.95 digs per game, including having a match-high nine digs in a ConfCarolinas Tournament finals sweep against Barton. The libero finished all four seasons in the conference’s top 10 for digs and had 972 career digs. Among his top performances featured a match-high 18 digs in a victory against Mount Olive in the 2015 ConfCarolinas Tournament semifinals.

David Specian, Pfeiffer (2012-15)
Awards and honors:
2012 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2012 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2013 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2014 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2015 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2015 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Specian in his senior season had a nation-best 11.75 assists per game average and guided Pfeiffer’s offense to the nation’s fifth best attack percentage at .317 as the Falcons advanced to the NCAA Tournament play-in match. The setter also led Pfeiffer to hit .360 in a sweep against Erskine in the conference tournament finals to capture the ConfCarolinas championship. Specian finished in the nation’s top 10 for assists in three of his four seasons at Pfeiffer. He was sixth in the nation averaging 10.74 assists per game during his sophomore season and led the Falcons to repeat as ConfCarolinas champions.

Jeff Sprayberry, King (2015-18)
Awards and honors:
2016 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas Offensive Player of the Year, 2017 All-American Honorable Mention, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2018 All-American Honorable Mention, 2018 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Outstanding Player, 2018 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Sprayberry is the only player in program history to earn an All-American accolade and in 2017 became the second individual from King to win a ConfCarolinas Player of the Year honor. The outside attacker set the program record with 1,249 career kills — the only player to surpass the 1,000 career kills milestone. In each of his final three seasons, he also was in the conference’s top 10 for kills. Sprayberry during his senior season was in the nation’s top 15 with a career-best 3.73 kills per game average en route to leading the Tornado to a ConfCarolinas championship. He also had a team-high 13 kills against Ohio State in the program’s only NCAA Tournament appearance.

Jon Wheaton, King (2016-19)
Awards and honors:
2017 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Wheaton set the program record with 409 career blocks and had back-to-back seasons in the nation’s top 15 for blocks. The middle attacker in his senior season was third in the nation with a 1.28 blocks per game average, including having a match-high 10 blocks against Barton in the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals. Wheaton also hit more than .325 in every season and is second in program history with a .366 career attack percentage. In his junior season, Wheaton was in second in the ConfCarolinas and in the nation’s top 15 with a .354 attack percentage.

ConfCarolinas Second-Team All-Decade

Aleksa Brkovic, Barton (2016-19)
Awards and honors:
2016 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2018 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2019 ConfCarolinas Defensive Player of the Year, 2019 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2019 Elite 23 Award
Player bio: Brkovic displayed his versatility throughout his college career starting his first three seasons at outside attacker before transition to libero for his senior season. In his three seasons as an outside attacker, he had 735 kills on a .315 attack percentage. The Serbian native finished his junior season in the nation’s top 40 with a career-best 3.06 kills per game average and was in the country’s top 20 averaging 0.42 aces per game. In addition, Brkovic during his freshman season had a nation-best 0.64 aces per game average highlighted by season-high seven aces in a sweep against Pfeiffer. He led Barton in 2017 and 2019 with 1.95 digs per game and 2.65 digs per game — the later mark ranked second nationally. Brkovic’s 24 digs versus in King in 2017 was the most for any player in the nation during a single-match that season.

Caleb Brophy, Pfeiffer (2012-13)
Awards and honors:
2013 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year, 2013 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player, 2012 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2012 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player
Player bio: Brophy had a nation-best 4.24 kills per game average in 2013 and at least 20 kills in four of the final eight matches of the season. He also had a season-high 30 kills on a .509 attack percentage as Pfeiffer defeated Limestone in four games in the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals to repeat as conference champions. The outside attacker the previous season was in the nation’s top 25 averaging 3.45 kills per game, including a match-high 17 kills in a sweep against Mount Olive in the conference tournament finals.

Fabio Diniz, Pfeiffer (2013-16)
Awards and honors:
2016 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2015 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2015 ConfCarolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player, 2014 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas
Player bio: Diniz concluded his college career second in Pfeiffer’s program history with a .423 attack percentage and hit more than .400 in each of his final three seasons. In addition, Diniz in 2015 led the nation with a .517 attack percentage as he helped Pfeiffer win its final ConfCarolinas championship before the program disbanded two years later. Among his top performances that season included a match-high 14 kills and zero attack errors on a .737 attack percentage as Pfeiffer swept Erskine in the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals. Along with his offensive performance, Diniz set the program record with 335 career blocks.

Josh Donahue, Mount Olive (2014-19)
Awards and honors:
2015 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas Defensive Player of the Year, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2017 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2018 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Donahue set the program record with 1,008 career digs — more than 400 digs than any other Mount Olive player. The libero finished each of his four seasons in the ConfCarolinas top five for digs. As a sophomore Donahue led the nation with a 3.29 digs per game average and had a season-high 26 digs in a victory versus Barton. In addition, Donahue was third in the nation averaging 2.79 digs per game in 2017.

Nick Drooker, King (2015-18)
Awards and honors:
2017 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2018 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Drooker holds three of the program’s career records with 3,892 assists, 179 aces and 747 digs. In his senior season, Drooker was in the nation’s top 15 with a 9.74 assists per game average and guided the offense to the team’s best attack percentage during the decade at .285. The setter in 2017 was fifth in nation with a 0.59 aces per game average, including having a season-high seven aces against Barton. In addition, Drooker had a career-best 232 digs in 2016 — the third-most single-season digs in program history.

Chad Mercado, Lees-McRae (2008-11)
Awards and honors this decade:
2010 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2011 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2011 National Player of the Week; 2011 ConfCarolinas Player of the Year
Player bio: Mercado in his senior season was second in the nation with a 4.69 kills per game average and had a career-high .309 attack percentage as he finished his college career with more than 1,000 kills.The two-time all-conference opposite averaged 5.00 kills per game during his junior year and led the Bobcats to the 2010 ConfCarolinas Tournament finals. Mercado in that championship loss had a match-high 32 kills — one of 20 matches in his career with at least 20 kills. Also among those matches includes Mercado having a match-high 24 kills as Lees-McRea beat Ball State in 2011 for one of its biggest upsets in program history

Efrain Negron, Lees-McRae (2011-14)
Awards and honors:
2012 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2013 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2014 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas
Player bio: Negron set and still holds the program record with both 773 career digs and a 2.40 career digs per game average. The three-time all-conference libero averaged at least 2.25 digs per game in all three seasons as the team’s starter, including being the nation’s top five with a career-best 2.58 digs per game average in 2012. In addition, Negron in each of his final two seasons had double-digit digs in 10 matches.

Federico Pagliara, Barton (2014-17)
Awards and honors:
2016 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2016 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team, 2017 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas
Player bio: The native of Catania, Italy was a four year starter for the Bulldogs, and tallied 3,673 assists for his career, good for a 10.01 assists per game average. In his senior season, he ranked third nationally with 10.49 assists per game, while Barton ranked five nationally with a .320 attack percentage. He also ranked seventh nationally in 2016 with 10.84 assists per game. His 1,014 assists in 2014 are the most assists in a single season for a Barton player, and Pagliara owns four of the top five single-season assists and assists per game marks.

Randy Ramirez, Lees-McRae (2011-14)
Awards and honors:
2012 First-Team All-ConfCarolinas; 2013 Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas
Player bio: Ramirez concluded his college career setting the program record with 3,347 assists. He also was in the nation’s top 20 in back-to-back seasons for assists per game average, including having a career-best 10.11 average in 2012. In addition, the two-time all-conference setter had a career-best 35 aces in his senior season to finish with the program career record at 95 aces.

Eric Zaun, Limestone (2012-15)
Awards and honors:
2014 Second-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 Third-Team All-ConfCarolinas, 2013 ConfCarolinas All-Tournament Team
Player bio: Zaun is third in the school’s history with 737 career kills and had back-to-back seasons in the conference’s top 10 for kills. Zaun as a junior was seventh in the ConfCarolinas with a career-best 3.41 kills per game average and had at least 15 kills in eight matches. The outside attacker that season also led the ConfCarolinas averaging 0.42 aces per game, including a season-high five aces in a victory against Coker. Zaun in the previous season finished in the conference’s top 10 with both a 3.14 kills per game average and a 0.29 aces per game average.