- George Mason def. King 3-0, 25-19, 25-23, 25-16
- George Mason improves to 4-1, 1-0 EIVA, King Falls to 2-1, 0-0 CC
Courtesy of George Mason Athletics
George Mason University’s men’s volleyball team had more than twice the kills that King University had on its way to sweeping the Tornado in its home opener on Friday night for its fourth straight-set victory of the season.
-The Patriots were in trouble in the second set but worked hard to overcome a six-point deficit to go two sets to the good and prevent the match from potentially going in a drastically different direction.
-Redshirt senior opposite hitter Jack Wilson (match-high 14 kills, .385 hitting) and senior outside hitter Radoslav (9 kills, .381 hitting) led Mason in attack against the Tornado and combined for more kills than the entire King team, which had 19.
-Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Garrett Kollar, who followed the seniors with seven kills on a .308 hitting performance, still had more kills than King’s scoring leader Jeff Sprayberry (6 kills, 1 service ace). Kollar also contributed an ace and three blocks to join Wilson and Popov in double-digit points.
-For the first time in his career, Mason head coach Jay Hosack used a double libero defensive system and at the end of the match sophomore starter Seth Blevins had match-high seven digs while senior Johnny Gomez contributed four digs off the bench. King’s libero Jimmy Nuckolls had seven digs as well to lead the Tornado.
HOW IT HAPPENED
-A solo block by Conference Carolinas Player of the Week Jon Wheaton (4 kills, .333 hitting, 2 blocks) for 1-0 gave King some momentum at the beginning of the match but the Patriots were unaffected and took the lead shortly after when Wilson’s first kill made the score 3-2. Popov’s serve proved tough to deal with for King and helped increase the lead to four at 9-5 and putting Mason in control of the opening set. Not much later a service ace by junior setter Brian Negron (32 assists, 4 kills, 2 aces) forced King’s first timeout of the contest at 12-6. Play resumed with another ace from Negron as if to foreshadow that not much would change on the court. Back-to-back errors from the Tornado were followed by Wilson, Popov, and Kollar’s triple stuff on Eddie Moushikhian (4 kills, -.250 hitting, 5 digs) that materialized Mason’s first-set superiority with a nine-point lead at 16-7. A solo block effort and a kill by Kollar gave the Patriots double-digit leads at 22-12 and 23-13, respectively. Errors by those two players soon after and consecutive aces from Nick Drooker (19 assists, 3 aces, 3 blocks) helped the Tornado to their best 4-0 run that got them within seven at 23-17. A successful technical timeout from Hosack killed Drooker’s momentum and he committed a service error, but Mason’s decisive kill came off a successful play when Negron linked up with Wilson for the senior’s fifth kill of the set, 25-19.
-The teams were going neck in neck up until 4-4 in the second set, but then King used good service pressure from Moushikhian to win seven of the next eight points and grab its largest lead of the night at 11-5. The Patriots still trailed by four in mid-set but a kill by Wilson and a block by Negron and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Langston Payne (1 kill, 1 block) sparked a mini run that got Mason within one at 16-15 and hinted for an intense end to the set. A kill by Sprayberry extended the Tornado’s lead to two at 19-17, but that is when Mason dealt its decisive blow as Popov and Wilson picked up crucial kills to help the Patriots to a 7-2 run and a triple set point, 24-21. Even though King won consecutive points late on to tense up the atmosphere in the RAC, a signature tip over the block by Popov led to a kill and won the set for Mason, 25-23.
-Redshirt senior middle blocker Graham Gresham‘s (2 kills, 1 block) kill for 4-3 started a 5-1 Mason run which featured two service aces by Popov, 9-4. Later in the set the Tornado cut their deficit to five at 18-13, forcing a Mason timeout, but a solo block and back-to-back kills from Popov and one from Gresham regained the Patriots’ largest lead of the set at 22-13. Freshman outside hitters Hayden Wagner and Sam Greenslade grabbed a kill each for Mason late in the set before Negron capitalized on a good pass from Blevins to close the match with his fourth kill of the contest, 25-16.
NEXT ON THE COURT
Tomorrow night, Mason welcomes No. 9 Loyola-Chicago to the RAC for Game of the Week. Prior to first serve, which is again at 7 p.m., the Patriots will unveil their 2016 EIVA Championship banner.