Story Courtesy of George Mason
NEWARK, N.J. – George Mason fends off NJIT in a thrilling 3-2 win on the road Friday, staying undefeated in EIVA play and earning themselves a spot in the conference tournament.
The win proves to be Mason's best start in conference play in the team's history, stringing off nine consecutive wins (9-0) in the first nine games. In addition to the Patriots' best conference start, it also ties the 2016 season for the longest conference winning streak (nine matches) in school history.
Sophomore Hayden Wagner lead the Patriots with 25 kills, a career high for the opposite hitter. Wagner also had a hitting percentage of .364, to go along with eight digs (tied for a team high) and an ace. Junior Kyle Barnes also sparked the Patriots offense with 14 kills, eight digs, and an ace.
Senior Brian Negron also had a big night for Mason. The senior accumulated 52 assists over the five sets he played, the second highest amount of assists the setter has recorded this season, along with five kills and a team-high two aces. The bigger story for Negron, however, was that he now has sole possession of third place of Mason's all-time career assists list (3,469).
Graduate student Johnny Gomez moved up to eighth place in Mason's single-season digs records (rally-scoring era) with 187. Gomez recorded eight digs and six assists in the Patriots win. The libero is now only 24 digs away from cracking the top five in single-season digs in Mason men's volleyball history.
"It wasn't pretty," head coach Jay Hosack admitted. "NJIT is a much improved team, and they brought it to us tonight. I am very proud of the fight in our guys. They never give up, no matter what."
After a slow start offensively, losing the first set 14-25, the Patriots began to find their groove and took the very next two sets, which helped lead them to victory.
The most exciting set came in the very middle of the contest, where both teams battled well over 25 points. Mason was winning virtually the entirety of the set, but just could not get out in front two points to finish the set off.
It wasn't until the duo of Negron and Hayden Wagner helped push the green and gold over the top. Wagner had two kills towards the end of the set that were crucial to emerge victorious, all while Negron guided Wagner and the offense to a .462 attack percentage in the frame.
After the first three sets, the Highlanders battled with the Patriots going back-and-fourth in the final two sets, eventually winning the fourth set. Ultimately, it was not enough for NJIT, as the Patriots won a nail-biting fifth set 15-13 that ended with back-to-back service aces from Negron.
The victory extends Mason's head-to-head record with the Highlanders to 2-0 on the season. Mason remains in sole possession of first place in the EIVA, with Penn State 1.5 games back of the Patriots for first (8-2).
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• In the third set, Hayden Wagner's 12 kills and Brian Negron's 19 assists set new team highs this season in a set.
• Negron tallied a match-high 52 assists, marking the seventh time he's reached 50 in a match this season.
• Friday night was the first time this season Mason won a match with its opponent's hitting percentage higher.