Story Courtesy of George Mason
FAIRFAX, Va. – No player currently on the roster was born the last time the EIVA Championship Tournament was held at George Mason University in 1994. On Friday night, the 2018 squad brought the regular season EIVA title home for the first time in the era of the champion hosting the conference tournament (2000-present).
The Patriots had five players reach double-digit kills, led by RS-freshman Jack Reese who tallied a career high 16. RS-senior Christian Malias posted 11 with 13 digs for his second double-double of the season. Friday was the first time five Patriots posted at least 10 kills in the same match.
Malias' 13th dig was his 500th of his career, making him the third Patriot in the rally-scoring era to eclipse 500 career digs and 500 career kills. Malias joins the likes of Shaun Powell (1537 kills, 512 digs) and Kyle Gramit (1465 kills, 558 digs) as the only other Patriots to achieve the aforementioned honor.
"Mason Nation should be very proud of their team tonight. We've done something that has not been done in 24 years here on this campus and that is a huge accomplishment," head coach Jay Hosack said. "Harvard is a great team. They fought tooth and nail, they're well coached and are a really good program. It was a great match to be a part of and I'm looking forward to sending our seniors off tomorrow with a bang."
Mason outhit Harvard .240-to-.172 for the largest discrepancy in any set on Friday night. However, it was Harvard that was first to the 15-point mark, leading 15-11. A 3-0 run immediately after that point behind a block and a kill from Reese put Mason in front 17-16, but Harvard hung around and tied the score five more times to the 22-22 mark. The Patriots exploded for three straight points with kills by Bryce Gatling and Hayden Wagner, finalized by Gatling and Brian Negron teaming up for a block to ink a 25-22 victory.
Gatling and Negron teamed up again for a rejection to make the score 7-5 in favor of Harvard, but the Crimson extended the lead to 12-7. The Patriots chipped away at the deficit and cut it to 16-15 by forcing two straight Crimson attack errors, but Harvard rebounded at retook a four-point lead at 20-16. Down 24-20, Mason mounted an epic comeback with two kills and an ace to send the set to extras. However, after trading points Harvard prevailed by a score of 29-27.
Harvard came out clicking again in the third set with a 6-0 run to go up 8-4. After a Mason timeout, the Patriots put together a comeback effort and took a 12-11 lead with a kill from Reese. The flow of the game saw the teams trade points with six of the set's 14 lead changes happening in consecutive occurrences, leading to a tie at 20-20. After going down 22-20, Mason tied the set again at 22-22, and again at 23-23. The back-and-forth volleyball didn't slow down as the third set required extras. After Mason tied it at 25-25, Harvard captured the final two points to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The back-and-forth volleyball picked up right where it left off in the fourth set – a frame that saw 16 ties and seven lead changes. Mason's third two-point lead came with a 3-0 run that had kills from Negron and Reese to put Mason up 17-15. The Patriots extended the lead to four with another 3-0 run that was anchored by a Malias service ace. As the Crimson proved to be a tough out in the previous three sets, the fourth stanza was no exception as Harvard stormed back to tie the set at 23-23. George Mason faced match point at 25-24 but the team fired back with a 3-0 run to pull out a 27-25 win, capped off by Reese's fifth kill of the set to tie the match up at 2-2.
Wagner extended his single-match career high with his third solo block to put Mason up 2-0 in the do-or-die fifth set. Wagner later drilled an ace down the line to extend the lead to 8-5 right before the team switched benches. Harvard showed fight with a 3-0 run to cut the lead to 10-8, but Mason kept its foot on the gas pedal and wouldn't let the deficit slip below three the rest of the way. Malias' 11th kill completed the 15-11 victory and put a stamp on Mason's third 3-2 victory of the season.
With home court advantage locked up, all the focus will shift toward the seniors with the annual Senior Night ceremony taking place on Saturday. First serve against Harvard is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. with the pre-match ceremonies taking place at 2:55 p.m.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Hayden Wagner notched a career high in solo blocks (3) and tied his career high in digs (9).
• Friday night was the first time this season Jack Reese led the team in kills.
• Kyle Barnes set a new career high in total attacks (35), while Christian Malias tied his career high (37).