Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – For the first time since the EIVA eliminated its divisions format in 2012, George Mason is 6-0 in conference play and are in the middle of its first six-match winning streak since 2016. The Patriots defeated Sacred Heart 3-0 for its sixth straight-sets win of the season.
Mason got another outstanding performance from junior Kyle Barnes and sophomore Hayden Wagner at the pins. Barnes tallied his career high 14 kills for the third straight match and is now hitting .285 on the season. Wagner notched his fourth straight match of 10 or more kills and led the team with a .529 attack percentage to mark the fourth time in his last five matches he's hit .360 or better.
Sophomore Bryce Gatling tied his career high with six total blocks, and set a new career best with two solo blocks. In his six starts this season, the Norfolk, Va. native has tallied 25 total blocks (four solo) for an average of 1.25 blocks per set. He has also helped Mason hold its opponents to an attack percentage under .100 in four of the six matches in that stretch.
During the six-match winning streak, Mason is hitting .337 as a team and holding opponents to a .128 attack percentage. The Patriots' kills per set average is 12.80 while their opponents is 9.10 and have logged 42 aces and given up just 16.
"Our boys continue to put pressure on other teams with their service consistency," head coach Jay Hosack said. "I like what we are doing right now and look forward to going to California next week."
The Patriots picked up right where they left off Friday night with a blistering start to take an early 11-4 lead. The three starting pin hitter combo of Wagner, Barnes and Christian Malias continued their hot hitting by collecting three, two and one kill respectively in the aforementioned stretch. The three continued to put up kills in the middle portions of the set, each adding to their total with Barnes' third of the frame giving the team a 16-7 lead. Then it was Gatling's turn to announce his presence with authority, notching a solo block and a kill to put Mason up 18-9 to set the table for a 6-1 run Mason would soon go on. Up 19-11, the Green and Gold were anchored by two Wagner service aces to propel them on the 6-1 run to close the set – one they took 25-12 for their second largest margin of victory in a set this season.
Gatling continued his tear at the net by factoring into back-to-back blocks to give Mason the early 2-0 lead. That lead was extended to 4-0 with a Brian Negron service ace, and then 8-1 with Barnes' first kill of the set and fifth of the match. The teams traded points for a period of time to take the stanza to 14-8 in favor of Mason, leading to kills from Malias and Barnes to make the lead 16-8. Two service errors in a row moved the set along to 17-9 and set up Langston Payne adding a solo block to the team's total for his fourth of the year. Mason extended the lead to 11 at 21-10 with an ace and a kill from Wagner, and finished off the set with a 12-point lead when Negron's one and only kill of the night sealed the deal for a 25-13 set two win. Through two, Mason hit .455 and held Sacred Heart to -.035 on the attack.
In a nearly identical scenario as the previous set, Gatling notched a solo block and a block assist to tie his career high of six total blocks while giving Mason an early 3-0 lead. Negron added his second ace of the match to put Mason up 4-0 for the second straight set. Sacred Heart refused to let Mason win another set by double-digit points, and fought back to cut the deficit to 6-5 and 8-6. Mason attempted to pull away with back-to-back kills from Barnes and Wagner to put them up 10-6, but the Pioneers hung tough and brought the Mason lead back to two at 15-13. The blocking presence up front proved key for the Patriots when the Payne and Negron tag-team block gave the squad a 17-13 lead and forced a Sacred Heart timeout. The Pioneers made the necessary adjustments and responded with a 3-0 run to make it a one-point set at 17-16. With the score later favoring Mason 20-18, Payne snagged his first service ace of the match to jump-start Mason into a 4-1 run that brought the audience to match point. Sacred Heart had one more push in the tank and brought the Patriots' lead back to two at 24-22, but Wagner finished the job with his 10th kill of the night to secure the third set at 25-22 and clinch Mason's sixth straight win.
Mason finished the first portion of conference play 6-0 for its best EIVA start since 2011. A brief break in its conference schedule is next up with a trip to California for matches against three top-15 teams: CSUN, UCLA and UC-Irvine.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• The Patriots have now won nine matches in a row against Sacred Heart dating back to 2014.
• Brian Negron notched four service aces to tie his career high. As a team the Patriots posted nine to tie their season high.
• Hayden Wagner fell one dig shy of a double-double. His nine led the match and was the first time this season he's led the team in digs during a match.