Men's Volleyball Eliminated in EIVA Semifinals
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Men's Volleyball Eliminated in EIVA Semifinals

The George Mason men's volleyball team played in the EIVA semifinals for the 11th -straight season but the second-seeded Patriots were unable to earn their 13th EIVA title game appearance as Mason fell to third-seeded Springfield on Thursday night, 3-1. The Pride got huge contributions from all three of their first-team All-EIVA performers as the Patriots saw their season end, 25-23, 28-26, 24-26, 25-20.

Springfield middle blockers Greg Falcone and Cal Palumbo combined for 27 kills and no errors on 37 attacks, hitting .730 in the match while Alberto Bravo had a match-high 26 kills. Mike Becker added 60 assists and was 7 of 8 in attacks while Nick Ferry had a match-high 11 digs. Mark Jones led Mason with 19 kills and seven digs while Eric Lucas had 12 kills, seven digs and five blocks. Brandon Joyner had nine kills and hit .750 while handing out 40 assists, blocking five shots and recording four digs. The Patriots couldn't overcome Springfield's .413 attack percentage as the Pride hit .300-or-better in all four sets and better than .500 twice.

It was a slow start for the Patriots (17-11), and if not for some Springfield service problems, they would have been out of the first set early. The Pride (18-14) committed service errors on their first four serves which allowed Mason to stay in the match early. After 22 points (a 12-10 Pride lead), Springfield was hitting .583, the Patriots were hitting -.375 and the Pride had committed eight service errors. The Pride were able to correct their service issues around the same time the Patriots finally started hitting the ball well and after falling behind by three, 15-12, Mason was able to rally and tie the score at 16-16. From there, neither team was able to build any momentum, as the teams found themselves knotted at 21-21. Mason took back-to-back points to go ahead 23-21, and things looked good for the Patriots, but Springfield answered with four straight points to take the first set, 25-23. The Pride hit .520 in the set while Mason hit just .136.

The second set saw the Patriots fall behind almost immediately, as they were down 4-1 and still trailed by three at 8-5. Mason responded, though, with a 5-1 run to take their first lead of the set, 10-9. The set was tooth-and-nail the rest of the way. Tied at 18-18, Mason won four of five to go up 22-19. Three of those four points came on Jones kills. Jones added another kill to make it 23-21 but once again Springfield worked its magic, putting together three straight to take a 24-23 lead. But the Patriots got a big block to tie it at 24-24. The Pride had two more set points that Mason answered, the third on another Jones kill. Tied at 26-26, Becker surprised the Patriots with an attack that made it 27-26, and Palumbo attacked from the middle to close out the set, 28-26.

The Patriots reversed course in the third set, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead. Springfield closed to one at 6-5, but Mason answered going back up by three, 9-6. Against the Pride closed the gap, making it 10-9, and again the Patriots responded, going ahead 14-11. This time, Springfield was able to finally earn their first tie of the set, as they won four of the next five points to make it a 15-15 set. But not then, not at 16-16, nor at 17-17, did the Patriots let Springfield take a lead. A 3-0 run gave Mason a 20-17 edge but the Pride again played stellar with their backs to the wall. Trailing 23-21 for the third-straight set, the Pride ran off three straight to earn a match point. But Jones had a kill to erase the match point and Lucas had back-to-back kills to give Mason the third set, 26-24. Jones had eight kills in the set while Joyner and Lucas combined for eight kills and just one error.

After winning the opening point of the fourth set, the Patriots watched as Springfield ran off four straight and went ahead, 8-4. But the Patriots rallied to tie the set at 10-10 and it was still tied at 14-14. But the Pride won seven of the next nine points, including a 4-0 run, to take a 21-16 lead. From there it was just a matter of trading points as Springfield closed out the set, 25-20.

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