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BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Barton College men’s volleyball team is down to its last hurdle in its quest to return to the NCAA Division I-II tournament.
But to pull it off, the Bulldogs will have to win on the road.
Barton set up its third meeting with Conference Carolinas rival King University on Friday night, splitting the first two sets in extended fashion before moving on to a 27-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-19 victory over the University of Mount Olive in the semifinal round of the league tournament.
The Bulldogs, seeded No. 2 but the co-regular season champions, improved to 21-7. Mount Olive, the No. 3 seed, ended its year at 16-13. Barton, which split with King during the regular season before losing the tiebreaker for home-court advantage due to percentage of conference sets won, will face off with the Tornado at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Barton took a step back offensively in the only set that it dropped, hitting at a .143 clip. But from there, the Bulldogs attacked at the net for a .406 showing in the opening set, .414 in the third and .424 in the fourth and closing set. The Bulldogs outperformed the Trojans in total kills by a 61-44 margin.
The Mandilaris brothers — Vasilis and Angelos — tallied 15 kills each. Junior Aleksa Brkovic tallied 14 kills. Vasilis Mandilaris finished with nine digs. Setter Oscar Fiorentino, a redshirt sophomore, ran the Barton offense with 53 assists from his setter position.
For the match, Barton outhit UMO .352-.167 and staved off a set point in the opener. Trailing 25-24, a Vasilis Mandilaris kill evened matters, and an Angelos Mandilaris kill placed Barton on set point. A UMO ball handling error gave the first set to Barton.
After the Trojans tied it by winning the second set, Barton’s offense started to gain traction. The Bulldogs constructed a 21-14 lead that UMO slashed to 24-20, but a Vasilis Mandilaris kill ended the third and put Barton up 2-1. In the fourth, Barton sprinted away from a 15-14 edge by winning seven in a row. Brkovic’s kill clinched the match and sent the Bulldogs back to the tournament championship match.
Earlier in the day, Angelos Mandilaris was honored by Conference Carolinas with its Offensive Player of the Year award after hitting .313 in the regular season. He was second in the league in kills with 370 and second in kills per set at 4.02. Brkovic joined Angelos Mandilaris on the first team, while Fiorentino and Vasilis Mandilaris earned second-team honors.