Patriots Host Limestone College To Kick Off 2018 Season
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Patriots Host Limestone College To Kick Off 2018 Season

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY VS. LIMESTONE COLLEGE

WHEN:
Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 at 7 p.m.
WHERE: RAC Gym (1,550)
RECORDS: Mason (0-0), Limestone (0-0)
SERIES RECORD: Mason leads 2-0
LAST MEETING: Mason def. Limestone 3-0 [25-17, 29-27, 25-19] on Jan. 7, 2017 (Gaffney, S.C.)

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY VS. #15 GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
WHEN:
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at 5 p.m. | Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: RAC Gym (1,550)
RECORDS: TBD
SERIES RECORD: Mason leads 5-1
LAST MEETING: Mason def. GCU 3-0 [25-19, 25-18, 25-12] on Apr. 11, 2015 (Fairfax, Va.)

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FAIRFAX, Va. - The George Mason men's volleyball team will open its 2018 season this weekend beginning with a Friday night match against Limestone College at 7 p.m., followed by a back-to-back versus Grand Canyon University on Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. and 1 p.m. respectively. All matches will be played at the RAC.

The Patriots (13-14, 6-8 EIVA in 2017) look to return to the EIVA tournament after missing it last season. The Green and Gold were picked to finish third in the EIVA preseason coaches' poll, and will need to finish in the top four in the conference in order to qualify for the conference tournament.

PATRIOT POINTS

• The Patriots are 30-13 (.698) all-time in season openers. Under Jay Hosack the program is 1-1, with the win coming on the road in 2017 and the loss coming at home the year before that. 

• Mason's Saturday and Sunday opponent, Grand Canyon University, enters the season ranked 15th in the AVCA poll. 2018 marks the eighth straight season the Patriots have played a team ranked in the preseason top-15 within the first three matches of the regular season. 

• The Green and Gold return three starters plus the libero for the 2018 campiagn. Overall the team is returning 13 letterwinners. 

• As a team the Patriots finished third in the conference in service aces per set (1.31) and 14th nationally among 42 qualifying teams. Both seasons under Hosack, the team has finished in the top three in aces per set among EIVA teams.

• The Patriots battled injuries last year that saw the team missing key players throughout the season. Examples included 2016 Second Team All-EIVA selection Christian Malias missing the entire season, as well as former EIVA Newcomer of the Year Radoslav Popov, who was limited to just 16 matches.  

• The 2018 roster features three players who have earned All-EIVA recognition: Johnny Gomez (2017 All-EIVA Second Team, 2016 All-EIVA First Team), Christian Malias (2016 All-EIVA Second Team) and Brian Negron (2015 All-EIVA First Team).

• Negron competed for the Puerto Rican national team this past summer. He was one of two current NCAA players on team Puerto Rico. Additionally the senior captain is switching to right side attacker, giving the team a multitude of options on the attack. Redshirt freshman Luis Velez and junior Justin Coleman are expected to be the ones competing for the starting setter position.

• Replacing Jack Wilson's success from 2017 is a large task at hand. In 2017 he led the Patriots in kills (331 – third in EIVA), kills per set (3.48 – third in EIVA), attempts (717), service aces (31 at 0.33 per set – fifth in EIVA) and points (390.5). He was a Two-Time EIVA Offensive Player of the Week selection (both in 2017) and named to the 2017 All-EIVA First Team. Wilson was named to the EIVA All-Tournament Team in 2015 and 2016. This season, the Patriots will look to Malias, Barnes and Negron to make up for Wilson's production from the outside.

• Outside Hitters Kyle Barnes and Sam Greenslade combined to start 41 of a possible 54 matches last season. Barnes started in all 27 and finished third on the team in kills per set.

• Mason welcomes four newcomers to the roster this season. Middle blocker Jack Reese (Pittsburgh, Pa./Univ, of Hawai'i) and outside hitter Travis O'Gorman (Northport, N.Y./Long Beach City College) both transfer in from previous institutions. Middle blocker Justin Spiegel (Webster N.Y./Webster Thomas) received First-Team All-County recognition and opposite hitter Mike Kapusta (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) is a two-time First-Team All-State selection.

• The Patriots play six home matches in the month of January, the most in an opening month since 2011.

HISTORY VS. LIMESTONE COLLEGE
Friday night marks just the third time the Patriots and the Saints have faced off, with the Patriots winning the first two matches (2016 and 2017). Both Mason victories were a 3-0 score and in all six sets the Patriots have held the Saints to a .112 hit percentage. 

HISTORY VS. GRAND CANYON
The Patriots post a 5-1 record all-time against the Lopes with the last meeting coming in 2015, a Patriots 3-0 victory. Among players still on the roster, Brian Negron has enjoyed the most success against GCU. The then-freshman averaged 12.83 assists per set in the two 2015 matches the Patriots and Lopes squared off. 

A LOOK AT THE SAINTS (0-0, 0-0 CVAC)
Limestone finished 2017 with a 13-11 record and was the runner-up in the Conference Carolinas Tournament. Among returning players, Anthony Savage led the team with 2.16 kills per set and will be relied upon as the team's primary attacker under first year head coach Steve Benson. Production at the service line is a major void the Saints will have to fill this season. The team finished ninth nationally in aces per set, but that was largely due to the success of Bruno Kretzschmar and Kevin Rocklein, both of whom have graduated. They finished 9th and 48th nationally for individual service aces per set in 2017.

A LOOK AT THE LOPES (0-0, 0-0 MPSF)
The Lopes are ranked in the preseason AVCA poll for the first time in program history, just making the cut at #15. 2017 was a historic season for Grand Canyon finishing a program best 23-6. The team finished the season ranked #13 in the AVCA poll before losing to eventual national champion Ohio State in the conference championship. The Lopes are an extremely experienced roster that has nine seniors and 11 upperclassmen. The team's senior class features a trio of outside hitters that finished 2017 with over 2.00 kills per set - Cody Williams (2.49), Shalev Saada (2.39) and Cullen Mosher (2.33).
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