Springfield, Mass. - February 25, 2010 - Despite dropping the first two sets and getting double-doubles from both AJ Nally and Alistair Matthews, the Springfield College men's volleyball team dropped a five-set match to rival George Mason in a EIVA Tait Conference contest on Thursday evening.
The Patriots won by the set scores of 30-28, 31-29, 22-30, 27-30, 15-13 and improve to 4-6, 2-2 in league play. Springfield had its five-match winning streak snapped as it drops to 8-5, 2-3.
The visitors were able to exact some revenge on the Pride as Springfield had defeated George Mason for the first time since 2004 on Sunday afternoon when it bested GMU in for sets.
Nally tallied a match-high 22 kills, hitting .347, to go along with 11 digs, while Matthews registered 19 kills and a team-best 12 digs. Mike Pelletier pounded out a career-best 18 kills at a .389 clip as he was the only other member of the Pride to tally double-digit kills. Eric Shoemaker was tremendous as he handed out 71 assists and tacked on six digs and four kills. Springfield entered the match as the top-ranked blocking team in the country and finished with 16 team blocks. Greg Falcone led the squad with six blocks, while Pelletier, Nally and Cal Palumbo all posted five stuffs.
George Mason was led by their middle blocker tandem of Shaun Sibley and Lance Rogers who were incredibly efficient out of the middle. Sibley finished with 19 kills and four blocks, hitting .533, while Rogers posted 14 kills at a .542 clip to go along with his match-high seven blocks. Andrew Dentler finished with a team-best 19 kills and Dave Reilly and Luke Maloney each added 12 kills. Eric Lucas dug a match-best 18 balls in the victory and Javier Perez recored a double-double with 67 assists and 11 digs to go along with five kills and four blocks.
In the opening set, Springfield jumped out to an 18-13 lead after a Falcone ace, forcing a Patriots timeout. The Pride maintained its lead, using a Pelletier kill to make it a 24-20 kill and seemingly having the opening set in control. However, the Patriots rattled off the game's next four points to knot the opening set at 24. After a timeout, Springfield regroup to retake a two-point advantage, 28-26, after another Pelletier kill. Mason responded with the game's final four points as Reilly produced a pair of kills as it snagged the opening game, 30-28.
The second set featured both teams clicking on offense as Mason hit .500 for the frame and Springfield delivered 25 kills as a team. The Patriots controlled the set from the start and made it a three-point game at 22-19 after a Sibley kill. The Pride gritted through an 8-5 spurt as it tied the game at 28 after a Nally solo block. Sibley and Nally then traded kills, setting up Mason producing the set's final two points off a Rogers slam and a double block from from Rogers and Perez.
Springfield never trailed in the third set as it used a spread-out attack to get within a game. Seven players recorded at least two kills in the stanza, with Matthews leading the way with six kills. Mason eventually got as close as three down the stretch after a Rogers and Dentler block made it a 21-18 game. However, the Pride put the game away with a 9-4 run fueled by kills from four different players en route to the 30-22 win.
The Pride found themselves trailing 15-12 in the fourth after yet another Rogers kill out of the middle. SC used a quick 3-0 run capped off by a kill by Nally on an overpass to tie the game at 15. After the teams traded points to become tied at 17, the Patriots used a Maloney ace and a Pride attack error to snag a two-point advantage, forcing an SC timeout. Using solid defense and battling through a terrific rally, the Pride once again tied the set at 20. The Pride finally took the lead for good when Alberto Bravo came off the bench for a sensational solo block to give the hosts a 24-23 lead it would not relinquish as it forced a fifth game.
Despite struggling offensively and totaling just five kills in the final game, Springfield was right in the match, thanks in part to seven attack errors by the visitors. George Mason owned an 10-8 lead after a Springfield attack error, but after back-to-back attack errors of their own, the Patriots called a timeout with the score at 10-all. Dentler and Nally traded kills at make it 11-all, but Mason then took the lead for good off as Dentler took over with a kill and a key service ace to make it 13-11. Pelletier made it interesting with a kill to bring the hosts within one, 14-13, but Dentler put the game away with his fourth kill of the stanza.
Springfield will have a busy weekend as it plays host to the 23rd Annual Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic. In the opening night of action on Friday, Ohio State will square off against George Mason at 6:00 p.m. before the host Pride will then take on UC Santa Barbara at 8:00 p.m. On Saturday night, February 27th, game times will again be at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., with the consolation match first and the championship match scheduled second to cap off the weekend's festivities.