Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – The George Mason men's volleyball team looked to go 1-for-1 in its matches this weekend against the Mount Olive Trojans. Benefiting from their best attacking night of the young season, the Patriots defeated the Trojans 3-1.
The Patriots' attack was led by Hayden Wagner's 24 kills on 37 attempts (.459 hit percentage). Just one match removed from having a career night against Loyola-Chicago on Jan. 12, Wagner set new career highs Friday night in kills as well as his three service aces.
Mason got outstanding production from the middle blocker position behind Jack Reese and Langston Payne. The two combined to hit .828 on the night, including Reese's perfect 10-for-10 performance. Defensively they factored into 11 blocks – 1 BS-5 BA for Payne, 5 BA for Reese.
The Patriots had four players with double-digit kills for the first time since 2/11/17 at Harvard. The players who fit that department were Wagner (24 kills), Payne (14 kills), Kyle Barnes (12 kills) and Reese (10 kills). Three of the four individuals reached career highs in kills, with Barnes falling one kill shy of tying his.
Graduate student Johnny Gomez picked up his second 14-dig match of the season, increasing his season total to 50 – an average good for 2.38 per set.
"I'm extremely proud of my guys with the way they showed resilience tonight. Mount Olive is a very good team and we came out in the first set and didn't play at the level we normally do, but we dug in and played well in sets two, three and four," head coach Jay Hosack said. "I'm extremely proud of our middle blockers hitting close to a combined .900. Additionally, Hayden Wagner had a great night tonight and Johnny Gomez was the spark plug we needed in game three and I was really proud of the way they played."
Mount Olive came out clicking in the first set, going toe-to-toe with the Patriots and taking a 14-10 lead out of the gate. That early stretch featured two 3-0 runs for the Trojans, including a sequence of notching back-to-back service aces for their 13th and 14th point. Mason got back on track with a 3-0 run of their own via kills from Barnes, Wagner and Sam Greenslade to narrow the deficit to one. Mason tied the score three times before taking a 21-19 lead late, but an 8-3 run propelled Mount Olive to a 27-25 first set victory.
After the second set saw the teams tied 5-5 early, Mason took advantage of two 3-0 runs to put them up 12-8. The Green and Gold kept the pressure on behind Wagner logging seven kills and a service ace in the set. With an 18-13 lead after a Trojan timeout, Mason kept its foot on the gas pedal and didn't allow the lead to become fewer than three en route to a 25-18 victory. The second set was Mason's best from a blocking perspective, picking up four as a team – including a solo block from Payne.
With the match tied 1-1, Wagner continued to stay hot by adding eight kills to his total, his highest in a single set on Friday night. The two teams battled for points early on taking the score to 10-10. Starting with a Reese kill, Mason went on a 7-3 run anchored by three Reese kills and two from Wagner. After the Trojans called timeout down 17-13, Mason collected eight of the next 13 points to mirror the second frame with a 25-18 victory. The Patriots' 25th point was a Wagner service ace, giving him a career high third on the night.
Looking to avoid a fifth set, Mason came out on fire jumping out to an 11-4 lead. The fourth set saw the Patriots hit .536 as a team and hold the Trojans to .080 with just six kills. Barnes recorded six kills on nine attempts, marking his highest kill total on the night in a set. Down the stretch, neither team scored more than two points in a row, allowing Mason to win 25-15, their largest margin of victory in any of the four sets.
The Patriots resume play a week from Friday night. Pepperdine serves as Mason's first opponent in the Uvaldo Acosta tournament at the RAC, followed by a Sunday evening match against Ball State. The Waves have just played two matches thus far, currently sitting at 1-1, but will play UC Santa Barbra Saturday night prior to their visit to Fairfax on Jan. 26.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Brian Negron's 57 assists is his highest total in a four-set match, tied for the second highest single-match total overall.
- Patriots record 12.0 total team blocks, their highest total since 3/31/17 vs. Sacred Heart.
- With all the blocks, kills and aces the Patriots compiled, their 80.0 team points marks the highest total on the season.