Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – George Mason took on No. 12 Pepperdine in the opening match of the inaugural Uvaldo Acosta Invitational. The Patriots got 12 kills from Christian Malias, but ultimately fell to the Waves 3-0.
"I think there's a lot of positives to take from tonight, we just need to do a better job of sustaining a higher level of play for longer periods of time," head coach Jay Hosack said. "If we do that we'll be okay, and that's why we play these matches. Pepperdine is a tough team that was in our own gym and we need to learn a lot from tonight."
Malias' 12 kills led the Patriots, marking the third time this season he's done so. He also needed just three kills to be the ninth player to in program history to reach the 500 kill milestone in the rally-scoring era. The RS-senior eclipsed that mark with his performance and now sits at 509 in his career.
Graduate student Johnny Gomez logged 14 digs to tie his highest career total in a three-set match. Gomez picked up seven of them in the second set to help increase his season average to 2.67 digs per set.
Friday was the lowest total blocking match of the season between both teams involved, with just five team blocks between each team.
Despite going down 4-1 early in the first set, Mason quickly made the necessary adjustments to make the set a highly contested one, narrowing the deficit to 14-13 with a Kyle Barnes service ace for Mason's 13th point. The Waves later went on a 3-0 run to take a 18-14 lead that gave them a large enough cushion to stay in the driver's seat for the remainder of the set. The Patriots showed fight with a late 3-0 run to make the score 22-20 and forcing a Pepperdine timeout, but it was too little, too late as the Waves held on 25-21.
Mason came out clicking on all cylinders in set number two by jumping out to a 7-3 lead that was highlighted by service aces from Sam Greenslade and Langston Payne. The fast start forced Pepperdine head coach David Hunt to burn an early timeout, which proved effective as the Waves countered with a 4-0 run to quickly tie things at 7-7. Both teams benefited from a 3-0 run to take the score to 15-15, setting up a stretch where 10 of the next 12 points came from kills, including eight straight to make the score 21-21. After three straight service errors between the two teams, Pepperdine closed out the set with a 4-1 run to give them a 26-24 victory.
Malias stepped up as the team's best player on the attack in the third set, beginning the stanza with a kill and an ace to give Mason a 2-1 lead. Payne notched two kills after Malias' early burst to guide the score to a 6-6 tie, but Pepperdine caught fire from there enjoying a 9-2 run that was later extended to 12 of the previous 16 points going to the Waves. Down 18-10, Payne stopped the bleeding with his third kill of the set that was complimented by two Malias kills and another from Barnes. However, a 4-0 run by the Waves was the last hot stretch of the night, enough to give them a 25-14 victory and a 3-0 match win.
The Patriots are off on Saturday to allow Pepperdine and Ball State to square off for the middle portion of the invitational. Mason will return to the court at 5 p.m. on Sunday evening to face No. 14 Ball State in the Uvaldo Acosta finale at the RAC.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Friday marked the fourth time this season Mason got a service ace from four different players.
• Junior Kyle Barnes picked up his 300th career point and sophomore Hayden Wagner tallied his 100th career kill.
• Senior Brian Negron was 2-for-2 in kills while playing setter, the first time he was perfect on the attack since Mar. 25, 2017 vs. Charleston (W.V.). Negron also surpassed 300 career sets played for the Green and Gold.