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Patriots Take Care of Business in EIVA Opener

Patriots Take Care of Business in EIVA Opener

Story Courtesy of George Mason

FAIRFAX, Va. - George Mason opened EIVA play against NJIT on Friday night. Looking to get off on the right foot in conference play, the Patriots did exactly that by defeating the Highlanders in straight sets behind a .377 hit percentage.

"Starting out in the EIVA conference 1-0 is always a good start," head coach Jay Hosack said. "[Saturday] is going to be a dogfight. Princeton is going to be good and will come in with a chip on their shoulder from last year, as well as from going 0-1 last week against Charleston (W.V.), so I'm excited to see how we respond Saturday night."

Sophomores Hayden Wagner and Sam Greenslade each tallied nine kills - tied for the match high. Followed closely behind them was junior Kyle Barnes who picked up eight.

In his first start of the season, sophomore Bryce Gatling had a team high four blocks (1-3), with the solo block being the third of his career. Three Patriots notched a solo block, Langston Payne and Wagner being the others, the highest amount this season.

Graduate Johnny Gomez hauled in seven digs in set three alone, tying the team high this year for most digs in a set. Gomez and Will Calaman each had seven digs to lead the match.

Sam Greenslade picked up the Patriots first kill of the match, and he was off and rolling in set number one, logging five kills in the set. As a team the Patriots logged three service aces and hit .407 in the set. Down 8-7, the Patriots went on a 7-0 run to grab a 14-8 lead that served them well the rest of the set. In the run alone, Greenslade had four kills and Brian Negron notched a service ace. The Patriots kept the pressure going with a 4-0 run later on to take a 20-14 lead, followed by two late kills from Kyle Barnes to take the set 25-17.

The second frame was statistically the Patriots' best on the attack, hitting .526 as a team and getting five kills on eight attempts from Barnes (.500 hit percentage). After Gatling's kill was the first point of the set, the Patriots were rolling from there. Gatling followed up with an ace to start a 5-2 run to take an early 7-3 lead. Mason didn't take its foot off the gas pedal with Barnes contining his stellar play with a kill to give Mason a 15-10 lead - one that later turned into a 16-11 lead via Wagner's fifth kill of the night. From there the Green and Gold didn't let the lead dip below four and rattled off a late 6-0 run with a Negron and Wagner block sealing the deal. Mason took the second set 25-16.

While set two was Mason's best offensive set, set three was its best defensively. The Patriots held NJIT to a .000 hit percentage and forced eight errors. However despite the stout defense, NJIT was in control for the early portions of the set, leading 7-4 early. Greenslade's second ace of the night turned out to be a momentum changer that led to a 5-1 run to take an 11-9 lead and forcing a NJIT timeout. NJIT's Luca Berger and Ricardo Whitaker teamed up for a block that tied the score at 13-13, but it was all Mason from that point on, starting with a 6-0 run that had kills from Wagner and Greenslade. Up 19-13, the Patriots had a slight slip-up and saw the score read 20-16, but put an end to any Highlander momentum - taking the last five points for a 25-16 set win to earn a straight sets victory.

Mason is right back at it Saturday with a 7 p.m. match against Princeton. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the EIVA this year and took both matches from the Patriots last year in 3-1 fashion.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE

• Sophomore Hayden Wagner's nine kill night put him either tied or alone at the top of the team leader board in kills for the fourth straight match.
• Friday marks the second time this season the Patriots have had three players with at least five digs in a three-set match.
• Mason's .377 team hit percentage is the highest in a EIVA match since Mar. 25, 2017 vs. Charleston (W.V.).