|Men's Volleyball Rallies to Defeat NJIT in Five-Set Thriller|
FAIRFAX, Va. - After falling behind two sets to none, the George Mason men's volleyball team rallied to force a fifth set and eventually took down New Jersey Institute of Technology, 3-2 (17-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16, 20-18), on Saturday evening in EIVA action at the RAC. Mason improved to 11-14 (7-5 EIVA) as the Patriots captured their third straight victory, while the Highlanders dropped to 11-16, 5-7 in conference play.
Michael Kvidahl led the Patriot offense with 20 kills and Mark Jones added 11 kills, while reigning EIVA Defensive Player of the Week Piotr Dabrowski added nine kills and a team-high nine total blocks. Max McFarland posted 28 digs, a match-high. Four Highlanders reached double-digit kills, led by TJ Jurko's 15 as Mason held a .264-to-.201 hitting advantage over the match.
The margin was razor-thin into the fifth set, with neither team leading by more than two before a 6-2 run by NJIT turned a 4-3 Patriots lead into a 9-6 Highlander advantage. Mason called timeout and answered with three in a row to tie the score. NJIT's final lead came at the 12-11 mark, but a pair of Highlander attack errors made it 13-12.
Tied at 13, a Jones kill gave Mason its first match point opportunity, but each time that the Patriots looked to put away the victory, NJIT found an answer to tie the score. Finally, tied at 18, NJIT's Ryan Thomas's serve was off the mark, and Jones came up with a solo block on an attack by Kevin Van Oss to seal the win.
NJIT jumped out to a 4-1 lead out of the opening whistle, and despite the Patriots tying the score nine separate times beginning with a 4-1 stretch of their own, Mason was unable to take the lead in the opening set. A 6-1 run by the Highlanders broke open a 13-all tie, and Mason got no closer than three from then on. Up 22-17, NJIT closed out the first set with four in a row including back-to-back aces by Doug Battersby to take the lead.
In the early moments of set two, the margin never grew larger than two points with Mason controlling the advantage for the majority of the time. The Highlanders cut it to 12-11 before the Patriots rattled off four in a row to take a 16-11 advantage. NJIT fought back to tie the score at 19 and led 22-20 before kills by Dentler and Stevens tied it at 22. The Highlanders answered again, though, scoring three of the next four points including the set-winner on a Patriots' service error, making the score two sets to none.
It was another tight contest early on in the third set, but tied at 3-3, the Patriots scored a 5-2 run and would never trail again in the set. The lead was as large as five including an 18-13 advantage, before NJIT fought back with a 10-5 scoring stretch which tied the game at 23. After a Mason timeout, the teams traded service errors before Dentler's kill and an NJIT error gave the game to Mason, 26-24.
Another 4-4 tie gave way to a big win for the Patriots in the fourth set, with Mason responding to NJIT pulling within 11-10 with a 6-1 run. Up 17-11, the Mason advantage grew as big as nine including five of the final six points to send the match to the fifth and final stanza.
Next up for the Patriots is 10th-ranked Ohio State, as the Buckeyes visit the RAC Sunday afternoon for a 3 p.m. first serve.