Story Courtesy of George Mason
LORETTO, Pa. – The George Mason men's volleyball team closed out its trip to Pennsylvania with a 3-1 win over the Saint Francis (Pa.) Red Flash. The victory was Mason's fourth in a row and elevated them to the program's best conference start since 2011.
Junior Kyle Barnes (14), RS-senior Christian Malias (13) and sophomore Hayden Wagner (11) each logged over 10 kills to mark the third time this year Mason has had three players with double-digit kills in a match. Barnes hit .500 with his kills total tying his career high. Barnes also recorded a solo block, registering his fourth of the season and setting a new single-season career high.
Senior Brian Negron followed up Friday night's performance with a 43-assist night against the Red Flash, his third match this year of 40 or more. Negron also snagged three service aces to set a new season high, including a key one in the fourth set to tie the score at 22-22.
The variety of characteristics from set to set when it came to team attack percentage was never more apparent in Saturday's match. In the first two sets, Mason out hit SFU .511 to .063, while Saint Francis held a .300 to -.040 edge in the third, leading to an attack friendly .538 to .406 advantage for Saint Francis in the fourth. All of that brought the cumulative team attack percentages to .343 to .245 in favor of Mason.
Graduate student Johnny Gomez collected 15 digs to set a new season high. The total was his highest since Apr. 1, 2017 in a win vs. Sacred Heart.
"I like the resolve that our boys showed tonight," head coach Jay Hosack said. "St. Francis pushed us in the third and fourth games, and we had to come from behind to win. We are learning how to be better every match, and that will help us down the road."
Jack Reese and Malias got the Patriots' first two kills of the set and the team was off to the races from there. Mason strung together four straight kills to take a 7-3 lead, and later extended it to 12-7 to force a Red Flash timeout. Soon after the break, Mason embarked on a 4-0 run that was highlighted by Barnes' career high fourth solo block of the season to put Mason in front 16-8. After the Red Flash cut it to 16-10, the Patriots started collecting points at a rapid pace, beginning with runs of 5-0 and 3-0 while taking nine of the next 12 points on the way to a 25-13 victory.
Just like he did in the previous set, Reese notched a kill for the first point in the second set to get the offense going. The frame was a tightly-contested one with the Patriots holding a slim lead to the 115-13 mark, setting up a 3-0 run containing a Malias kill and Wagner, Malias and Reese factoring into blocks to put the Patriots up 17-13. They weren't done there, as the run was just beginning. From the 15-13 point, Mason enjoyed an 11-1 run with three Reese kills to clinch a 25-14 win for Mason. At the end of the second set the Patriots were hitting .511 with all three of their pin hitters hitting at least .400.
The Patriots' quest for their fourth straight victory would have to wait, as set three was all Saint Francis - taking control of the tempo with an early 11-4 lead. Some bright spots for the Patriots included Barnes and Bryce Gatling getting a block, Travis O'Gorman logging his first career kill with the Patriots and Luis Velez getting adding another ace to his season total, but Saint Francis won the set handily 25-15.
Barnes would lead the Patriots with eight kills in the fourth set, and he went to work early by posting two to put Mason in front 3-2. Unlike any of the three sets before it, set four was a back-and-forth affair from start to finish - with six ties and a lead change to the 14-14 mark coming via Langston Payne kill. A Red Flash block gave them a 15-14 lead immediately after, and they held on to that lead for the next 14 points scored. Down 22-19, Mason dug deep and went on a 3-0 run that was capped off by Negron's third ace of the night to tie things up at 22-22. Following a Red Flash timeout, the point trading continues into extras, with both teams having an opportunity to seal the deal before the 26-26 mark. With the score tied there, Barnes and Malias made sure that would be the end of the match by compiling their 14th and 13th kills respectively to clinch a 28-26 victory, and give Mason its fourth consecutive win.
Mason continues the road swing with a trip to the Northeast next weekend with back-to-back matches against Sacred Heart. Last season the Patriots won both matchups by scores of 3-1 and 3-2.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• In addition to tying his career high in kills, junior Kyle Barnes tied his career high in total blocks with four (one solo).
• Barnes hit an even .500 on the night (14-2-24), the second time this season he's hit the .500 mark in a match (Min. 9 TA). He's done it five times in his career.
• George Mason is now 6-0 when winning the first set of the match, and 8-0 when its attack percentage is higher than the opponent's.