Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – George Mason had its eyes on a fifth consecutive victory when the team rolled into Sacred Heart. While reaching numerous superlative milestones in the process, the Patriots defeated the Pioneers 3-1.
Senior Brian Negron tallied 44 assists for his 30th career match of 40 or more. The feat was complimented with three teammates notching 10 or more kills, the fourth time this season the team accomplished that. Negron also guided the Patriots to a .349 team attack percentage, the second straight match Mason has eclipsed .300 or greater, and fourth time in the last five outings.
Sophomore Hayden Wagner led the Patriots in kills for the seventh time this season, totaling 18 on Friday night. Wagner also led the team with 33 attempts and hit .364 to increase his EIVA attack percentage to .323 (67-26-127). The reigning EIVA Offensive Player of the Week is also just shy of four kills per set in conference play, sitting at 3.94.
Junior Kyle Barnes tied his career high of 14 kills for the second consecutive match, making it three times the Virginia Beach, Va. native has reached that mark. Barnes has hit over .300 in all five EIVA matches this season, and is leading the team with a .459 attack percentage in conference play.
Graduate student Johnny Gomez compiled 14 digs for his 40th career match of double-digit digs. The performance was his sixth of the season and fell one short of tying his season high. The Indialantic, Fla. native has now posted 78 career digs over 20 sets against the Pioneers for an average of 3.90 digs per set.
RS-senior Christian Malias picked up 13 kills for his 25th career match of double-digit kills.
"Although it was not out best volleyball, I am proud that we figured out the gut check and dug in to take back control of the match." head coach Jay Hosack said.
It was Sacred Heart that was in control in the first set, grabbing an early 4-1, but back-to-back kills from Barnes and an ace from Jack Reese tied the score at 4-4. Mason followed up that 3-0 run with another one immediately after to go up 7-5 and force a Sacred Heart timeout. Sacred Heart wouldn't let that sequence turn into any extended Patriots momentum, as the Pioneers traded points with the Patriots and eventually took a 13-12 lead. Barnes recorded his fourth kill of the set to tie things at 13-13 to kick-start another 3-0 run, but the Pioneers clicked from there and collected five of the next six points to take an 18-16 lead they wouldn't lose. Mason cut the deficit to 21-19 with a Sam Greenslade kill, but Sacred Heart finished the set strong, taking the next four points to put a stamp on a 25-19 set one victory.
Sacred Heart grabbed an early 4-2 lead in the second frame, but Mason responded with a 7-2 run behind two kills apiece from Malias and Barnes to go up 9-6. Following a Pioneer timeout, the Patriots kept the pressure on with three quick points featuring a kill and an ace from Wagner to extend the lead to 12-6. After taking advantage of two Pioneer attack errors, Malias caught fire with three kills in a span of four points, and factored into a block that put Mason up 18-9. From there, Mason's other two pin hitters did the heavy lifting on the attack, with Barnes collecting a kill and Wagner picking up two down the stretch – including the final one to secure a 25-16 second set win.
Langston Payne got the start in the third set and immediately made his impact felt, picking up his third solo block of the season for the first point of the set. That spark got the Patriots off and running with three straight kills from Wagner and Barnes to put Mason up 4-1 and force an early SHU timeout. The Mason attack forced another Pioneer timeout not much later, with Negron distributing the ball evenly to Barnes, Malias and Wagner resulting in more kills to go up 9-5. Payne continued to make an impact in the game, notching a block and a kill in the middle portions of the set, keeping Sacred Heart guessing as to who will get the ball on the attack. Up 12-6, Mason held steady in the driver's seat and worked the lead to 16-12. Four of the next five points went to the Patriots, beginning with a Barnes kill and a Wagner ace, and ending with back-to-back kills from Bryce Gatling to go up 20-13. Malias added a kill and an ace down the stretch as the Green and Gold used the seven-point cushion to their advantage and won set three 25-17.
Mirroring the second set, Sacred Heart jumped out in front 4-2, this time benefiting from attack errors. However, Mason quickly regrouped and went on a 4-0 run with two Wagner blocks mixed in the sequence. Sacred Heart called timeout to try to stop the momentum, but it was to no avail with Mason going on another 4-0 run – this time with kills from Wagner and Malias being the forte behind the burst of points. Up 10-6 and already forcing two Pioneer timeouts, it was Gatling who was the catalyst behind the third Mason 4-0 run of the set to extend the lead to 14-6. Gatling factored into two blocks and registered a kill to add to his three kill, four block night. With the ensuing play showing patterns of point collecting between the teams, Wagner was in the mix for his 16th and 17th kills to help guide Mason to a 19-12 lead. Sacred Heart notched two straight kills to bring it back to 19-14, but Malias kept up his hot hitting with his 12th and 13th kills to set the lead back to six points at 22-16. Sacred Heart wouldn't go down without a fight, collecting to more kills to make the score 22-18, but Wagner and the Patriots slammed the door shut with his match-leading 18th kill, followed by his fourth block of the night to claim the fourth and final set 25-19.
The Patriots will chase win number six in a row Saturday evening at 5 p.m. to complete their back-to-back with Sacred Heart. No live stream will be available, but fans can keep up with the match via live stats through Presto Sports.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Through five matches, the Patriots have three players with a kills per set average over 3.00 in conference play: Hayden Wagner (3.94), Kyle Barnes (3.24) and Christian Malias (3.09).
• Hayden Wagner notched three service aces on Friday night, tying his career high.
• Langston Payne logged four total blocks (one solo) in just two sets of work. His solo block was the second time this season he was the only player in the match to record one.