Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – George Mason finished off its eight-match home stand against the Princeton Tigers on Saturday night at the RAC. Numerous Patriots eclipsed individual milestones, as well as junior Kyle Barnes picking up a career high 14 kills on 19 attempts (.684 pct). Overall on the weekend, Barnes totaled 22 kills on 38 attempts for a 3.67 kills per set average and a .500 hit percentage.
Sophomore Bryce Gatling started his second consecutive match and made his presence felt once again. The Norfolk, Va. native notched three total blocks (one solo) and hit a respectable .375 with three kills. Gatling also compiled three service aces in the first set, setting a new career high in a match.
Sophomore Hayden Wagner continued his stellar play, posting another .400 night on the attack (9-3-15) and recorded two service aces. Wagner complimented his offensive effort with five digs and a block.
Graduate Johnny Gomez tallied nine digs, enough to give him 800 in his career.
"I'm very pleased with the way we played tonight. I thought tonight was the overall team effort we've been working toward all season long," head coach Jay Hosack said. "Princeton is a good team and we made them do things that they're normally not used to. Our servers are doing a nice job from behind the service line, our passers are doing a really nice job of controlling their first contacts and keeping us in system – allowing our offense to run smoothly. It was a great weekend and a great way to start EIVA play, but it won't get any easier from here."
Mason had its serve and pass game working Saturday night, posting a team hit percentage of .342 while limiting the Tigers to just .058 – the second consecutive match holding an opponent under .100.
The Patriots established their attack early and often, beginning with kills from Wagner and Barnes to grab an early 2-1 lead. Soon after, Bryce Gatling caught fire from the service line, notching two in a span of three points, and picking up one more after a Princeton timeout to give Mason an 8-2 lead. After Princeton cut the lead to five, Langston Payne got things going back in the Patriots' favor with a kill, followed by Barnes' first of two aces to put Mason in front 12-5. The Green and Gold enjoyed a 3-0 run in the middle of the set, featuring kills from Gatling and Barnes to take a commanding 18-9 lead that would prove to be large enough to stay in control. The two teams traded points to close out the set, a circumstance that favored Mason by way of a 25-15 set one victory.
Mason was in a dogfight to begin the second frame, and looked at a 12-10 deficit when Joe Kelly snuck an ace thorough the back row. Hosack's squad responded with a 4-1 run that was capped off by a Barnes ace and had a Wagner kill mixed in. Up 14-13, the Patriots traded points with the Tigers to the 17-16 mark before they exploded with an 8-2 run that had six kills and an ace. The run brought the team hit percentage to .385 for the set Mason would win 25-18.
Up 2-0 and looking to close things out, Mason came out on fire with an 8-2 start, with the eighth point being Wagner's first of two aces in the set. Princeton fought back to cut the deficit to 10-6, but the Patriots fired back with a kill from Payne leading them to go toe-to-toe with the Tigers, eventually extending their lead to 16-11 and force a Princeton timeout. Out of the pause in the action, Wagner snagged his second ace of the night and the Patriots were off to the races. Mason collected nine of the final 14 points and rolled to a 25-16 set victory, clinching its second consecutive 3-0 match win.
The Patriots will be on the road for the next six weeks, beginning with No. 9 Penn State on Feb. 23.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Mason holds Princeton to a -.040 hit percentage in the third set, the lowest total by an opponent in a set this season.
• In addition to his career high 14 kills, junior Kyle Barnes tied his single-match career high in aces (2) and solo blocks (1).
• Mason's 2-0 EIVA start is its best since 2013. That team went 11-3 in conference play that year.