Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – The George Mason men's volleyball team played its first ranked opponent of the season by way of the Grand Canyon University Lopes. Despite 16 kills from redshirt senior ChristianMalias, the Patriots fell 3-2.
"I thought we came out a little slow in sets one, two and three and that can't happen when you're playing good teams," head coach Jay Hosack said. "I'm proud that we didn't go down without a fight in game four to push it to five. We have a little bit of work to do with our unforced errors in crucial moments, but hats off to Grand Canyon. They played well, they played good defense and forced us to do things that took us out of our comfort zone - and that's what good teams do."
Malias' performance marked his 19th career match of recording double-digit kills. His 19 points was his highest total in a single match since 2/24/16 at Penn State, where his point total in that match was identical to Saturday's.
Jack Reese continued his impressive start to the season by picking up one solo block and eight block assists, increasing his early season number to 15 total blocks. The Pittsburgh native also picked up seven kills on 14 attempts and is now hitting .478 (12-1-23) through eight sets on the young season.
With the first set score favoring GCU 7-6, the first separation in the frame came when the Lopes went on a 5-2 run forcing a Patriot timeout. Mason rebounded and collected six of the next eight points behind kills from Malias, Hayden Wagner and Langston Payne. Not allowing the gap to be closed to one point, GCU went on a 5-1 run that gave them a large enough cushion to be in control of the set. The Patriots showed fight at the end of the set highlighted by a Luis Velez service ace, but ultimately fell 25-22.
The second set did not start in the Patriots favor as the Lopes jumped out to a 6-1 lead, forcing Hosack to use an early timeout. Mason made the necessary adjustments and chipped away at the Lopes lead, eventually tying the set 15-15. Down the stretch the Patriots were anchored by Brian Negron and Jack Reese's two kills apiece. Reese also factored in to four blocks, putting his total at six (0-6) through the first two sets. The Green and Gold also benefited from the attack of Payne and Malias. Payne was tied for the team lead with three second set kills and Malias had two of his own – including the final one to give the Patriots a 25-23 second set victory.
For the second set in a row it was the Lopes who got off to a fast start, this time opening with a 7-2 run that was capped off with a service ace. Two kills each from Malias and Negron cut the GCU lead to 12-10 midway through the set, but from that point forward it was all Lopes, cruising to a 25-18 victory - thanks in large part to Cody Williams' five kills.
Looking to avoid elimination, the Patriots battled back from a 10-9 deficit in the fourth set with 4-0 run to take a 13-12 lead. The run included a service ace and a kill from Malias, one of six kills for the co-captain in the set. After exchanging points, the Lopes retook the lead with a 4-1 run that was quickly countered by a 4-0 run from the Patriots. That stretch saw kills from Negron and Malias, as well as a service ace from Sam Greenslade giving Mason a 19-17 lead. With that two-point lead, the Patriots were the team to come out on top from the ensuing back-and-forth action, winning 25-23 and forcing a decisive fifth set.
Greenslade's kill got the winner-take all fifth set started but Grand Canyon took the next two points after that. The Patriots last lead was 4-3 until the Lopes scored the next two points and held on to the lead the rest of the way. Greenslade added another kill to make him 2-for-3 in the set, but GCU went on to win 15-10, taking the match 3-2.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Jack Reese's nine total blocks (1 BS – 8 BA) is the most by a Patriot in a match since Graham Gresham's nine (1 BS – 8 BA) on 4/6/14 vs. Ohio State.
- In the Patriots two victorious sets (two and four), their hit percentage was .296 and .407 compared to GCU's .097 and .150.
- Dating back to last year, Saturday was the fourth time in the team's last five matches two players recorded double-digit kills.