George Mason Shocks Penn State
Outside hitter Hayden Wagner recorded 20 kills and Bryce Gatling had five blocks as George Mason upset seventh-ranked Penn State three sets to none on Friday night in Rec Hall. Calvin Mende led the Nittany Lions with four kills.
Christian Malias and Kyle Barnes combined for 13 kills as the Patriots hit .270 on the night. Kevin Gear was the most efficient Nittany Lion with a .500 hitting percentage as Penn State struggled on offense throughout the match.
Gatling set the tone early in the first set as he used his length and jumping ability to influence Mende at the net. Wagner was a force in all facets of the game as he had three aces and two blocks along with his 20 kills.
George Mason improves to 7-7 on the season and takes on St. Francis on Saturday, while Penn State falls to 8-3 and faces Charleston the same day.
Coming into the match, Penn State had dominated the net with the play of their middle blockers in Gear and Jalen Penrose. While the Nittany Lions had the clear size advantage over the Patriots, they were unable to stop a physical attack from George Mason.
Head coach Mark Pavlik explained why his team was unable to be physical from the service line.
“I don’t think really we put a lot of pressure on them,” Pavlik said.
The 10 blocks recorded by the Patriots was not surprising by either team as the rivalry between George Mason and Penn State is one of the best in the EIVA. Senior outside hitter Christian Malias praised head coach Jay Hosack for the team’s play at the net.
“This man,” Malias said, pointing to Hosack. “In practice all week, we’ve really been focusing on penetrating over the net, not just going up and high.”
The message in practice was well received as Gatling and Jack Reese combined for eight blocks, while Penrose and Gear only recorded three. The service game from Penn State was not much better as the team recorded seven service errors and put little pressure on George Mason’s attack.
The Patriots were up and down on serves as they recorded 18 service errors, but the seven service aces put pressure on the Penn State passers to run the offense. Barnes and Wagner combined for five aces, while Matthew McLaren was the only Nittany Lions to record a service ace.
The one positive out of the poor performance by Penn State is Charleston is coming to Rec Hall for an EIVA matchup. The players reiterated at the press conference that the proximity of another conference would allow the players to forget what happened the day before.
The play of Wagner throughout the match carried George Mason to victory as he scored a key point on almost every opportunity. Penn State sent double and triple blocks his way, but Wagner was too much for the Penn State block.
The loss drops Penn State to second in the EIVA standings behind George Mason.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email email@example.com.