NEWARK, N.J. – George Mason University's men's volleyball team showed once again that it has plenty of quality down the bench after fielding two quite different teams against NJIT on Friday night, but ultimately neither could deny a strong Highlander team a 3-1 win in Newark.
The defeat ended Mason's 16-win streak against NJIT which started on Feb. 17, 2008. The Patriots lost the first two sets before the intermission, which forced head coach Jay Hosack
to start six different players at the start of the third set. The gamble paid off and Mason won the third set convincingly, but the well-gelled Highlanders, who played the entire match with the same seven players, finished the contest off with a solid performance in the fourth set.
-Sophomore outside hitter Kyle Barnes
and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Langston Payne
were the only players from Mason's starting seven-man rotation who retained their spots on the court on the back end of the intermission. They were the Patriots' leading blockers with four blocks apiece and Barnes was the team's second leading scorer with eight kills.
-However, freshman outside hitter Hayden Wagner
had the best performance of his young career and finished with team-high 12 kills and an ace while hitting .350 for the three sets he played in.
-Mason's sophomore setter Justin Coleman
marked his first EIVA appearance of the season with 23 assists to help the Patriots to attack efficiency of .214 on the night. The Highlanders hit slightly better, .242.
-Senior Jabarry Goodridge, who entered the match as EIVA's leader in kills per set, propelled NJIT to the win with 19 kills – two more than the combined total of the Highlanders' following two scorers in the match – on a .424 hitting performance. He also added two aces on the offensive end as well as seven digs and 4 blocks on defense.
-NJIT's Raymond Kowalski was the only player who picked up double digits in digs, finishing the night with 10. Senior libero Johnny Gomez
, who led the Patriots in that compartment, had five digs.
-The contest was a block-heavy encounter with a total of 22 team blocks, in which Mason prevailed 12-10 for some consolation.
HOW IT HAPPENED
-Mason had trouble passing Kowalski's serve early on, which resulted in NJIT winning the first three points of the match. Hosack was the first coach to call a timeout after an ace by Goodridge, the Highlanders' second of the match, made it 8-5. The huddle talk injected some needed motivation into the Patriots, who won five of the next six points and orchestrated back-to-back blocks to get in the lead for the first time in the match, 10-9. NJIT provided an immediate response with an identical run and regained their three-point advantage at 14-11 on another ace, this time from Brad Thele (5 kills, 4 digs, 3 blocks). Thele later contributed a solo block (18-14) and a kill (21-17) for NJIT's largest leads of the opening set before Mason made its best attempt to get back in the set. A kill by redshirt senior opposite hitter Jack Wilson
(6 kills, 2 blocks) and an ace by freshman outside hitter Sam Greenslade
(2 aces, 3 digs, 2 blocks) were two of three-straight points for the Patriots which cut the Highlanders' lead to one and forced an NJIT timeout at 21-20. Upon their return to the court for the final stage of the set, the home team used their most dangerous weapon, Goodridge, who had two kills and a block assist for NJIT's final 4-1 run.
-A block by Barnes and Payne and an attack error by NJIT gave Mason its first two-point lead of the night at 6-4 in the second set, which resulted in a Highlander timeout. Eight ties and four lead changes later, however, NJIT grabbed a two-point lead itself thanks to Luke Allmond's back-to-back blocks, 16-14. Although consecutive errors by Thele tied the match once again after Mason's first timeout of the set, three kills from Goodridge helped the Highlanders to another 5-1 run, 21-17. Key plays from Kowalski kept the Patriots at bay and an ace by Allmond gave NJIT a sextuple set point, 24-18. A kill by Wilson canceled out the Highlanders' first opportunity to close the set, but that happened on the following play with a kill from Thele, who redeemed himself for the earlier errors, 25-19.
-The third set was something of a mirror image of its predecessor. With the teams again going neck in neck, NJIT was the first team to earn a multiple-point lead after a kill by Goodridge made it 12-10, but it was Mason who dealt the final blow. Consecutive kills from Wagner and an ace by Wilson quickly tipped the scales in the Patriots' favor at 13-12 before another 3-0 run with two more of Wagner's eight third-set kills made it 19-15 Mason. The end of the set was littered with attack errors, most of them coming from NJIT players, all leading up to Wagner and redshirt senior Graham Gresham
's (3 blocks, 2 digs) stuff on Thele that kept Mason in the match, 25-17.
-An early 4-0 NJIT run on Goodridge's serving sequence set the tempo in the fourth set and gave the Highlanders a 9-5 lead. The lead grew to as many as five at 15-10, but Mason stuck around and gained some momentum with Payne's solo block against Goodridge for one of NJIT's only four attack errors in the set, 16-14. Kills from Wagner and fellow Mason freshman Bradley Creamer
(7 kills, .417 hitting, 2 digs) forced an NJIT timeout with the home team leading 20-18, after which the Highlanders won consecutive key rallies to make it 22-18 and regain the momentum. Barnes, Payne and Wagner joined forces at the net to block Goodridge and bring Mason within three at 23-20, but NJIT followed up consecutive points again to close the set and win the match, 25-20.
"We are learning that discipline is the obstacle that is stopping us from progressing to the next level. Once we learn that skill, we will turn the corner and become the team we want to be." – Mason head coach Jay Hosack
NEXT ON THE COURT
The Patriots close their New Jersey doubleheader with a match at Princeton on Saturday night. First serve against the Tigers is at 7 p.m.