Story Courtesy of George Mason
CHARLESTON, W. Va. – In George Mason's 3-0 win over Charleston (W.V.), the team inched that much closer to setting a historic conference winning streak and clinching a spot in the EIVA tournament.
The win was the Patriots' eighth in a row in conference play, tying the 2003 team for the second longest in program history. At 8-0 in conference play, the Green and Gold extended its early head-to-head series lead over the Golden Eagles to seven, now holding a 7-0 edge in the brief history.
Junior Kyle Barnes and sophomore Hayden Wagner tallied double-digit kills again, each compiling 12 to lead the match. Barnes, who was slightly more efficient hitting .348, has now cracked double-digits eight times this season while Wagner did it for the 10th time. The two complimented their Saturday night body of work with two aces for Wagner and a solo block for Barnes.
Graduate student Johnny Gomez registered another match of double-digit digs, this time with 13. The Indialantic, Fla. native now sits at 179 on the season for the 9th highest total by a Patriot in a rally-scoring era season, while extending his career total to 665 with the Green and Gold to pass Uvaldo Acosta for seventh all-time across all eras.
Sophomore Bryce Gatling posted a season high seven kills and added four more blocks (one solo) to increase his season block total to 40.0. His solo block was the 10th of his career and he maintained his 1.35 blocks per set average in EIVA play.
"I liked our ability to not panic and just play the game point to point. Hats off to Charleston – they're a scrappy team and they played hard. I wouldn't be surprised to see another couple wins from them this season," head coach Jay Hosack said. "8-0 [in conference play] feels good, but we are long from our goals and have more work to do."
Mason picked up right where they left off from the final set of Friday night, jumping out to an 8-4 lead behind a pair of kills from Christian Malias and Jack Reese. While the middle blockers would still get a kill every so often, the pin hitters of Barnes and Wagner went off to carry the attack through the middle portions of the set. Barnes logged five kills on just six attempts and got two of them for Mason's 12th and 13th point of the frame. Wagner and Brian Negron pitched in a service ace, with Negron's setting the Patriots' lead at 20-11. UC didn't go down without a fight and countered with a 3-0 run, but Mason took care of business by winning five of the next six points for a 25-15 set one win.
Just how it was Friday night, set two was a tightly contested one that would require the winner to score more than 25 points. While Wagner would pick up five kills in the frame and Negron would add 11 assists to his total, UC had their own success on the attack, led by Adriel Roberts' 3-for-5 set with a solo block. Mason led 8-4 and 12-8 before the Golden Eagles narrowed the gap and tied it at 15-15. Mason refused to give up the lead and held it into the 20s, but the pesky Golden Eagles tied the score again at 22-22 and would do so two more times to avoid elimination at Mason's first set point. The back-and-forth set had to end eventually, and it did in favor of the Patriots by the tune of 29-27.
Looking for their second straight 3-0 win, the Patriots jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind a kill from Malias and a block from Reese and Wagner. The set had no clear team in control through the 12-12 mark and had five ties in that stretch. Shortly after Wagner's second service ace of the evening, Mason captured its second 3-0 run of the set to go up 17-13. UC battled back and trimmed the lead to 21-20, but the Patriots re-took control by winning four the final five points with Barnes and Wagner getting the final kills of the match, as well as Barnes' lone ace to cap off the 25-21 set three win to complete the straight-sets victory.
After playing six of the opposing seven EIVA teams at least once, Mason will wrap up its six-week road trip with weekend in New Jersey to face NJIT and Princeton on March 30 and 31 respectively. In the first matchups this year, the Patriots won both of them in straight sets.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• The Patriots hit .643 in the first set, marking the highest team attack percentage in a set this season.
• Hayden Wagner notched his 100th kill in conference play this year and is averaging 3.92 kills per set through the eight EIVA matches.
• Brian Negron's 17 first-set assists tied the team high for the most in a set this season, a mark previously set by Negron in the Feb. 24 Saint Francis (Pa.) match.