- George Mason def. Limestone 3-0 – 25-17, 29-27, 25-19
- George Mason (2-0), Limestone (0-1)
- Hosted by Limestone
Courtesy of George Mason Athletics
On Saturday, Joe Norton and Kyle Gramit competed under the same roof again. This time they were on opposite sides of the net and on the sidelines, as assistant coaches to George Mason University’s men’s volleyball team and Limestone, respectively.
Norton, the more recent Mason volleyball alum, prevailed as the tenth-ranked Patriots defeated the Saints in straight sets to complete the opening weekend of the 2017 season with a 2-0 record.
-Redshirt senior opposite hitter Jack Wilson (4 blocks, 3 digs, 1 service ace) was the only player on either team to finish in double digits offensively with 12 kills on impressive .391 hitting. Wilson had a slow start to the match and picked only two kills in the opening set but responded whenever his team needed him. That was mainly in the close second set, in which Wilson had six kills, one short of his total against Belmont Abbey on Friday.
-Mason’s sophomore libero Seth Blevins made his first start for the Patriots, played an entire match and monumentalized the occasion with career-high 15 digs. The Virginia Beach, Va. native even picked up what could be the only kill in his career in quite a comic manner; after his dig on a powerful swing by Limestone’s Bruno Kretzschmar (9 kills, 2 blocks), the ball returned to the home team’s side of the net, where miscommunication between two Saints let it drop on the ground for a Mason point.
-Limestone played the entire match with the same seven-player lineup and did very well to match with Mason in most statistical categories, having only one fewer kills, matching the Patriots’ three aces, and even finished the match with one kill more than the defending Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association champions. The Saints, however, had 15 attacking errors more than its opponent and half of Mason’s eight team blocks. Kretzschmar and Joel Muhlbach (9 kills, team-best .467 hitting, 7 digs) were Limestone’s most productive attackers with the help of setter Logan Riley (35 assists), while Kevin Rocklein (team-best 11 digs) finished in double digits defensively.
-Both of Mason’s starting middle blockers – redshirt sophomore Langston Payne (9 kills, 3 digs) and redshirt senior Graham Gresham (6 kills, 4 blocks) are yet to make an attacking error two matches into the season and combine for .615 hitting with 24 kills on 39 attempts.
HOW IT HAPPENED
-An ace by sophomore outside hitter Kyle Barnes won Mason its sixth point of the first seven in the match and when the Patriots reached double digits not long afterwards, their six-point lead forced Limestone into its first timeout. Junior setter Brian Negron‘s only kill of the match made the lead seven at 12-5, just as much as it was when Gresham and Wilson orchestrated Mason’s only block in the opening set, 15-8. The points were at a two-to-one ratio at 22-11 but Limestone then went on a 5-1 run – including an ace by Kretzschmar off the roof of the Timken Center – that got the Saints within seven. Mason wrapped up the set in its favor at 25-17 on an attack error by Limestone’ other leading attacker, Muhlbach.
-The second set was the closest of starts and neither team had led by two until Wilson and Gresham blocked Drew Davis (7 kills, 7 digs, 2 service aces) to make the score 10-8 Mason. The Patriots had two additional two-point leads shortly after, but Limestone managed to tie the score at 12-12 and, furthermore, went on a 4-1 lead to grab its highest lead of the match. Mason pressed to come on level terms and came within one several times due to a block and a couple of Limestone attacking errors. However, as the set approached its final stages, a kill by Davis and a block by him and Dylan Lavner extended the Saints’ lead to three once again at 20-17 and orchestrated the Patriots’ biggest challenge of the weekend. Mason passed the first test as it went on a 4-1 run that featured kills by Payne and Wilson to tie the score at 21 all, but several errors allowed for a Limestone run that gave the Saints a double set point, 24-22. An emphatic kill by Wilson eliminated the first of them and forced Limestone into a timeout. After the break, the target man Kretzschmar could not finish the drawn play and sent the set into a deuce. Veterans Gresham and Wilson thrived under pressure and made some big plays for the Patriots, who had to cancel out two additional set points, but none were bigger than Wilson’s kill for 28-27 and his solo block against Rocklein on the following play that won the set for Mason, 29-27.
-The third set began with one of the longest rallies of the match and indicated for more drama to come after the spectacular end of the second set, but after winning the opening point Mason followed up with a 5-2 run to obtain a four-point lead. Mason kept control of the set and the lead fluctuated between two and five points. When the Saints went won three consecutive points to come within two at 17-15 in mid-set, Mason’s head coach Jay Hosack felt the need to talk to his players and called a timeout. After that, despite leading by only two once again at 18-16, the Patriots kept their composure and completed the sweep at 25-19 with another kill by Wilson, who had two of his four in the set and an ace after Mason hit the 20-point mark.
“It was cool to be able to coach against a great friend. We both know where the other has come from, so personally I have a lot of respect for the road [Gramit] has traveled. He’s a great player and will definitely do great things as a coach as well.” – Mason’s assistant coach Joe Norton
“The problems we had in the second set came mostly from the fact that we did not things correctly and did not execute as well as we should have. At some crucial points, we did not get kills that we needed and although our block was pretty solid tonight, there were a lot of balls that we should have had hands on but we didn’t.” – Mason’s redshirt senior opposite hitter Jack Wilson
“What I love the most about our team is that we keep fighting. No matter how many points we are down, in our minds it is always possible to pull it off. We have done some incredible things like that and that is a great characteristic to have as a team; we can scrap and make the other team earn every point.”
“In my opinion, it is not the 2-0 record that will allow us to go into Ohio State with more confidence, but it will actually be where our team is right now and where it is going. These first two matches were crucial to get some jitters out. We have some starters now like Langston and Kyle and Seth who are getting used to their new roles. Also, we have some players – myself included – who are coming back from injuries and I think these first two matches were really helpful and allowed us to figure out some things. Now we have Ohio State, the best-ranked team in the country, and we are all looking forward to play against them.”
NEXT ON THE COURT
On Tuesday, Mason will play the most anticipated match of its season-opening, four-match road trip as it travels to Columbus for a visit to defending national champion and current No. 1 Ohio State.