Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – Looking to close out the Uvaldo Acosta Invitational on a high note, the George Mason men's volleyball team took on No. 14 Ball State Sunday evening at the RAC. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 3-1 and were guided by 15.0 team blocks and 18 kills from Christian Malias.
"I couldn't be more proud of my team tonight," head coach Jay Hosack said. "They undersstand that they're right there with some of the best teams in the country – they understand they need to sustain a high level of play for longer periods of time and I thought they did a nice job of that tonight. It was an overall great team win, but it won't get any easier from here."
Malias recorded career highs in kills (18) and total blocks (7) while tying his season high of two solo blocks and 10 digs. The RS-senior hit .556 on the night (18-3-27) which was his highest percentage since 4/21/16 vs. Harvard.
RS-freshman Jack Reese shared the team lead with seven total blocks, marking his second highest single-match total of the season. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native is now up to 36 total blocks with an average of 1.24 blocks per set.
Sophomore Sam Greenslade contributed 12 kills, tying his career high. Sunday was his sixth career match of double-digit kills.
Senior Brian Negron tallied 40 assists in the win and factored into six blocks, which tied his career single-match high. Negron also notched two of Mason's seven service aces to set a new best for 2018.
Just like they did Saturday night, Ball State came out strong in the first set by jumping out to a 14-8 lead. After a timeout, Mason answered with a 3-0 run to cut the score to 14-11. However, Ball State regained its rhythm and extended its lead to 20-14. Mason fought back with a 4-0 run that contained kills from Payne and Malias, as well as a Greenslade service ace that forced Ball State to use a late timeout. The Patriots cut the Cardinals lead to one point twice at 22-21 and 24-23, but the Cardinals held on to take the set by a slim 25-23 margin.
After notching four kills in the first set, Greenslade continued his fast start into the second frame by collecting a kill to help Mason grab the early 6-3 lead. Greenslade later recorded back-to-back kills to put Mason up 11-8 and force a Cardinals timeout. Once a Malias kill put Mason on top by five, Justin Coleman snagged his first ace of the season to give Mason a 16-10 lead, one that would prove large enough to stay in control the remainder of the set. Greenslade led the Patriots with four kills in the second stanza as they won handily 25-20.
The third set proved to be Malias' exclamation point in the match as the Orlando, Fla. native compiled seven kills, four of which came in the first half of the set that gave Mason a 16-12 lead – the largest margin of the set to that point. After a Cardinals timeout, Malias and the Patriots kept their foot on the gas pedal not letting Ball State get within three the rest of the way, and led by six when a Negron service ace put the team up 22-16. Malias had the final point in the third set, as his kill gave Mason a 25-19 victory.
Looking to avoid a fifth set, Mason went toe-to-toe with the Cardinals in the early portions of a fourth frame, the set's first trend leading the score to be tied at 9-9. Ball State recorded the first 3-0 run of the set which made Hosack take a timeout relatively early. Mason made the necessary adjustments as the team exploded for a 6-1 run out of the pause in the action, anchored by a Hayden Wagner service ace. With the Patriots up 15-13, the Cardinals answered and fought back to take a 19-18 lead that was capped off by a service ace. The immediate aftermath of the Ball State momentum saw the score tied 20-20 until Malias tallied his 17th and 18th kill for a 23-20 lead, one that proved large enough for the Patriots the rest of the way. Greenslade notched the final kill of the night to give Mason a 25-22 set victory, as well as the match in 3-1 fashion.
The Patriots welcome the two-time defending National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes to the RAC Saturday night for their next match. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Patriots hold Ball State to .207 hit percentage, the lowest total against a ranked team since Jan. 21, 2017 vs. No. 9 Loyola-Chicago.
• The Patriots recorded seven service aces, tying their season high.
• With Greenslade posting 12 kills, the Patriots are now 5-1 the past two seasons when he reaches double-digit kills.