George Mason Comes From Behind to Advance to EIVA Championship Match

4/24/2008

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University Park, Pa. - Trailing by two games, No. 11 George Mason (20-7, 9-3 EIVA Tait) rallied to defeat the NJIT Highlanders (13-14, 4-8 EIVA Tait) in an EIVA Championship semifinal match on Thursday evening at Rec Hall in University Park, Pa.

With the win, the Patriots advance to the Championship Match on Saturday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division I Men's Volleyball Championships next weekend in Irvine, Calif. It is the first time Mason has reached the final since the 2005 season.

The Patriots got off to a slow start in the match, dropping the first two games. In the opening game, Mason fell behind early and never held the lead, falling by a final score of 30-21. The NJIT attack got off to a blistering start, hitting .500 in the first game. Senior opposite hitter Leonardo Paludo recorded five kills on seven swings, while senior outside hitter Eduardo Welter and senior middle blocker Greg Wagner both tallied four kills. Junior opposite hitter Kyle Gramit, a First-Team EIVA All-East selection, led the Patriots with seven kills on 12 attempts. Mason hit .200 as a team.

NJIT outhit the Patriots again in the second game, .378 to .324, on its way to a 30-25 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Paludo led the way with seven kills for the Highlanders, while Second-Team EIVA All-East performer Amobi Armstrong chipped in six. Gramit had another strong game, tallying seven more kills.

On the brink of elimination, Mason rallied to take the third game, 30-26. The Patriots held a two-point lead at 24-22 but fell behind when the Highlanders scored three consecutive points. Armstrong hit his serve long to tie the score at 25 and Mason regained the lead on the following point off of a kill by senior outside hitter Hudson Bates. NJIT tied the score once more when Paludo and Wagner combined at the net to block Gramit's attack. Gramit came right back with a kill on the next point to give Mason the one-point lead. After regaining the lead, the Patriots ran off the next three points, with the final one coming off of a Gramit kill, to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The momentum from the game three win carried over to the next as Mason took an early lead in the fourth game and was never seriously tested, cruising to a 30-20 victory to force a deciding fifth game. Mason never trailed and held a 10-point lead on three different occasions during the game, at 20-10, 29-19 and at the conclusion. Bates hit .714 with five kills as the Patriots outhit the Highlanders .400 to .161.

With the score tied at nine in the final game after a kill by Paludo, Mason made its move. The Patriots scored the next four points to take a 13-9 lead. After NJIT scored two consecutive points, Bates gave Mason match point at 14-11 with a kill off of an assist by freshman setter Brandon Joyner. The Highlanders refused to go away quietly, scoring two points to cut the deficit to one. Bates came through one final time, putting the ball away with authority, to give the Patriots the 15-13 win and a berth in the EIVA Championship Match.

Gramit led all players with 28 kills on 51 swings. Bates finished with a double-double, recording 18 kills and 10 digs. Senior outside hitter Mark Burik chipped in 14 kills, while senior middle blocker R.J. Goubeaux recorded a match-high eight blocks.

The win is a monumental one for 2008 EIVA Coach of the Year Fred Chao as it gives him 150 during his 10-year career at the helm of the Patriots' men's volleyball program. Chao has appeared in the EIVA Championship Final twice before, finishing as the runner-up to Penn State in 2003 and 2005.

George Mason has won 11 of its past 12 matches and awaits the winner of the second semifinal match between top-seeded Penn State and New York University, the eighth seed in the tournament. The Patriots split the season series with the Nittany Lions. Mason's 3-1 win over Penn State on March 7 at the Fieldhouse was the team's first victory over a top-ranked team in the 34-year history of the men's volleyball program. The Patriots provided the lone blemish on the Nittany Lions' record during the entire 2008 regular season. Mason has not faced NYU this season.

The EIVA Championship Final will be available on Gametracker on GoPSUSports.com, as well as GoMason.com. Both Web sites will also feature live video of the match.

Bus transportation to the match is available through George Mason Athletics. The price is $15 per student and does not include your game ticket. The deadline to sign up for the bus is Friday, April 25 at noon.

The bus will depart from the George Mason Fieldhouse at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and will return at the conclusion of the match. Seating is limited. Reserve your spot on the bus at the Mason Athletic Ticket Office in the Fieldhouse or by calling (703) 993-3270. Payment is due upon signing up.

Article courtesy of George Mason athletics.

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