Story Courtesy of George Mason
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The George Mason men's volleyball team made history on Friday night with the program's first ever 3-0 victory in Happy Valley. Mason defeated No. 7 Penn State for its first 3-0 win against an AVCA Top-10 team since Jan. 24, 1992.
Hayden Wagner had his second 20-kill match of the night, recording exactly that amount with a .485 attack percentage (20-4-33). The performance increased Wagner's season kills per set average from 3.39 to 3.67 with Friday's performance.
In his first match since Jan. 28 vs. Ball State, RS-senior Christian Malias returned to the lineup and finished second on the team with eight kills. The Patriots have won their last two matches against top-15 teams when Malias has been in the lineup.
Sophomore Bryce Gatling made his third consecutive start and led the team in blocks for the third consecutive match. Gatling factored into five blocks to go along with his five kills.
Senior Brian Negron registered 35 kills to guide the team's .270 hit percentage, including a .333 mark in the first set. The assist performance was Negron's second highest in a three-set match this season.
"I'm very proud of my team tonight," head coach Jay Hosack said. "They earned a little bit of respect tonight."
It was evident from the get-go that the first set was going to be a tightly-contested one, with the early action featuring back-and-forth play between the two teams. Mason grabbed the first 3-0 run of the night behind a kill and a service ace from Kyle Barnes, but the NIttany Lions countered with a 3-0 run of their own to retake a 9-8 lead. Neither team could string back-to-back points together to the 13-13 mark until Mason's 3-0 run gave them a 16-14 lead. As they did before, Penn State responded with its own 3-0 run to retake the lead, this time at 17-16. From there, Malias recorded three of his five first set kills to help guide the Patriots to a 20-19 lead. It would be a lead the Patriots would not relinquish, taking five of the final eight points for a 25-22 first set victory.
Mason got off to a fast start in the second set, grabbing an early 5-1 lead and forcing an early NIttany Lion timeout. The Green and Gold kept the pressure on by extending the lead to 10-4 and later 14-7 with Wagner notching four of his nine second set kills within the aforementioned stretch. Wagner and the Patriots didn't slow down as the lead got as great as eight when Barnes' second service ace of the night gave Mason an 18-10 lead they would not let slip below five the rest of the way. Already with an outstanding second set, Wagner put an exclamation point on the pre-intermission performance with last two Patriots' points, coming via service ace and kill. The Patriots won set two 25-19 and took a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
Up 2-0, Mason picked up where it left off by grabbing an early 6-2 lead behind a Wagner service ace. However, the Nittany Lions showed they wouldn't lie down and went on a 6-1 run to take an 8-7 lead. The ensuing 3-0 run by the Patriots showed an early indication the set was going to come down to the wire. With Penn State holding a slim 13-12 lead, Mason went on a went on its third 3-0 run of the set that was capped off by a Jack Reese service ace to grab a 15-13 lead. The lead stayed in the possession of the Patriots until the Nittany Lions took the lead right back with their third 3-0 run of the set to flip the score to 17-16 in favor of Penn State. When Malias' eighth kill of the night tied the score at 20-20, the Patriots caught fire and took five of the final seven points, anchored by three Wagner kills. The final Patriot point to clinch the upset victory was Wagner's 20th kill of the night, securing a 25-22 third set win and a match victory in straight sets.
The Patriots have a quick turnaround with a match Saturday approximately 60 miles southwest against Saint Francis (Pa.). First serve is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the Patriots will be facing a Red Flash team that is coming off a heart breaking 3-2 loss to Charleston (W.V.) on Friday night.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Friday was the second time Mason logged 40 or more kills in a three-set match this season, and the first time against an EIVA opponent since Apr. 7, 2017 vs. NJIT.
• Mason held Penn State to a .067 attack percentage, the third consecutive time the team has held its opponent to under .100.
• Hayden Wagner eclipsed 200 career points with his 24.0 on the night.