Mason men's volleyball falls to Ball State, 3-0

Mason men's volleyball fell to Ball State on Friday night, 3-0 sets (photo by Maurice Jones).
Mason men's volleyball fell to Ball State on Friday night, 3-0 sets (photo by Maurice Jones).

The Mason men’s volleyball team lost 3-0 sets to Ball State University on Friday night at the Recreation and Athletic Center in Fairfax, Va.

Mason (4-3) had a hard time dealing with the No. 15 Cardinals’ balanced offense and defense throughout the match and committed multiple serve and attacking errors that cost them losing the individual sets 25-18, 25-18, and 25-20.

The Patriots’ highest scorer on the night was freshman Christian Malias, who had nine kills and zero errors out of 16 total attempts. He had taken the place in the lineup of classmate starter Radoslav Popov, who was sidelined with an injury. Senior Jonathan Lutz also contributed nine kills for Mason, although they came on a lower percentage of attack efficiency. Four Ball State players finished the match with at least five kills, led by senior Kevin Owens with nine.

BSU went on an early 9-2 run to start the first set, with eight of these points coming from attack errors by Mason players. The early lead set the tempo of the set and piled up to nine on two occasions – through attack errors by Pete Cuppernull and Robbie Stoeckinger, respectively – and even though the Patriots came within five late in the game, the Cardinals managed to recover and retain it by closing the set at 25-18 on a kill by Matt Leske.

The beginning of the second set was far more contested. Neither team could pull away early on and the lead changed possession several times. At three all, an attack error by Marcin Niemczewski gave the Patriots their first lead since 1-0 in the first set. A minute later, Shane Witner committed a serve error that made it 7-6 Mason, the last instance in the match in which Mason was in front. What proved a turning point in the set were the two four-point run with which the Cardinals responded, forcing Mason coach Fred Chao to call a timeout at 15-10 in Ball State’s favor. After the timeout, the set went back to its initial point-for-point tempo and BSU extended its lead in the match after a comfortable 25-18 in the second set.

Similar to the opening period, Mason opened the scoring in the third set but BSU responded with a four-point run. From that moment the Cardinals would not let their lead fall under two points and although Mason stayed competitive on the floor, fighting for each ball, at one point they found themselves trailing 19-12. In the following minutes Mason demonstrated a combination of fighting spirit, efficient attack and resilient defense, and made the Ball State coach feel the need to call a timeout for the first time in the match at 22-19. That decision proved righteous, for his team allowed only one point for the rest of the match before they ended it at 25-20.

On Saturday evening the Patriots face Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in their last preseason match before their Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association against Harvard University in Cambridge, MA next week.

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