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Wagner's 16 Kills Not Enough as Mason Falls to No. 5 UC Irvine

Wagner's 16 Kills Not Enough as Mason Falls to No. 5 UC Irvine

Story Courtesy of George Mason

IRVINE, Calif. – Despite a 16-kill effort from sophomore Hayden Wagner, the George Mason men's volleyball team fell in straight sets (25-21, 25-20, 25-23) to the No. 5-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters on Tuesday night inside the Bren Events Center.

Wagner's 16 kills were tied for the match lead and marks the third time this season he's picked up 10 or more in a three-set match. The York, Pa. native increased his EIVA leading kills per set average to 3.57.

RS-junior Langston Payne led the Patriots with two total blocks (one solo) to take the team lead in season solo blocks with six. Payne led the Patriots with a .444 attack percentage (6-2-9) to mark his second straight match of hitting .400 or better.

Graduate student Johnny Gomez compiled a match-high 10 digs for his seventh double-digit dig match of the season. Close behind Gomez was RS-senior Christian Malias with nine digs.

"I thought we had moments of good play, but we just aren't sustaining that level of play for long enough stretches," head coach Jay Hosack said. "We have to learn from this weekend so we can be prepared for what's coming down the line."

Wagner notched the first kill for the Patriots, followed by three from Kyle Barnes - with the third cutting the Anteater lead to 7-5. Jack Reese picked up two kills in a row to make it 9-7, UC Irvine, and from there Wagner did the heavy lifting, contributing five more kills toward his six set one total. Wagner's ace tied the set at 12-12, and his ensuing kill gave Mason the lead at 13-12. Malias tallied a kill to retake the lead at 14-13, but it was the last lead the Patriot would have in the set. Mason recorded more kills than UC Irvine in the first set (14-10), but the Anteaters won in the points department at 25-21.

Mason led by two on six separate occasions with Reese, Payne, Wagner and Barnes all tallying kills to guide the Patriots to a 7-5 lead. The middle portions of the set saw back-and-forth action with seven ties all the way to the 13-13 mark. UCI captured the first 3-0 run of the set to go up 16-13 and force a Patriots timeout. The Anteaters were in the driver's seat from there and were anchored by 7.0 second set blocks. Mason cut it to 22-20 with kills from Wagner and Payne, but UCI prevailed 25-20.

The two teams continued to pace back-and-forth action into the third set, led by seven kills from Wagner in the stanza. After falling behind 16-12, the Patriots came back and tied it up at 18-18 off with a 3-0 run featuring a Brian Negron ace and Wagner kill. Mason repeated the exact occurrence while down 23-20, though this time the run was highlighted by two Wagner kills. However, UC Irvine called timeout and made the necessary adjustments to take the next two points and win the set 25-23 and earn a straight-sets win over the Green and Gold.

George Mason will be off until the weekend of March 23-24 with the return to EIVA play at Charleston (W.V.). The Patriots are 6-0 in conference play and in first place and will be looking for EIVA win seven in a row. A win on March 23 would put the 2018 team in a five-way tie for the third longest conference winning streak in program history.

• In addition to his 16 kills, Hayden Wagner was responsible for one of Mason's three aces. He's now collected an ace in seven of the last eight matches.
• UCI notched 14.5 team blocks, the highest total by a Mason opponent this season.
• The Patriots recorded more kills (43) than the Anteaters (37), marking just the third time this season Mason has out-killed its opponent in a loss.