Women's volleyball enters CAA competition with dominating win against Georgia State

The Mason women's volleyball team huddles together during a timeout in last Friday's game. (Photo by Dakota Cunningham)
The Mason women's volleyball team huddles together during a timeout in last Friday's game. (Photo by Dakota Cunningham)

In front of a crowd of nearly 300 people on Friday night, the George Mason University women’s volleyball team began their CAA conference season and had the start they were looking for.

Facing the Georgia State Panthers at the RAC in Fairfax, the lady Patriots won in straight sets (25-23, 25-20, 28-26). With that result Mason improved to 1-0 in the conference and 3-11 overall, while Georgia State fell to 0-1 in the conference and 2-11 overall.

It was Georgia State who took the early lead by winning the first two points of the match. The Panthers’ lead eventually increased to three at 7-4, to four at 11-7, and to five at 13-8, but the Patriots responded with 7-1 run to grab their first lead at 15-14. Georgia State called a timeout and came out of it on a 3-0 run but the Patriots managed to tie it at 18 all.

There were three lead changes after that point but it was the Patriots who grabbed the winning point of the set, despite trailing 23-22 a minute earlier. Freshman Meredith Bush said that in this critical moment “[the coaches] just told us to finish it off and go out there with everything that we have.”

The Patriots dominated the second set from the beginning to end. They built a four-point lead at 10-6 but a run by Georgia State cut it down to one at 12-11. That is as close as they came and eventually their deficit increased to six at 18-12. A run by the Panthers forced the Patriots to call a timeout at 19-17, following which they comfortably closed the set at 25-20.

The final set provided the spectators with 12 tied scores and nine lead changes. Starting the set with a service error, Mason eventually trailed 8-2 after an ace by Panther senior Jaimee Freeman. The Patriots clawed their way back and tied the score at 13 all after two consecutive aces from junior Tori Price and a block from classmate Laura Spencer. Nothing separated the two teams once again at 18 and after the five lead changes that followed the Panthers found themselves a point away from winning the set (24-23). The Patriots, however, demonstrated stronger nerves and put an end to the set at 28-26, and the match at 3-0.

A turning point in the closing set was a block by senior Danielle Cook, which gave Mason a 26-25 advantage. Seemingly in a good mood from the final score, Cook reflected on that particular play in a cheerful manner.

“When it gets down to that point, the adrenaline is just going crazy so any point you get is super exciting," said Cook. "Blocking is like a power thing so you get really hyped when it happens.”

Cook, who has 53 appearances and more than 150 blocks thus far in her Mason career, discussed the personal goals for her farewell season and some of them are based on accomplishments dating from the beginning of her Mason volleyball experience.

“I want to go to the CAA tournament with the top six teams… [in] my freshman year we went to the NCAA tournament so [it] would be nice [if] I get there again,” said Cook. “And, you know, just have fun, especially since it’s my last season.”

“Emotionally, I thought we were steady,” said coach Pat Kendrick after the game. “They had a big lead on us but we didn’t let it break us. The biggest hurdle that we have been trying to overcome is, regardless of what the score is, to keep fighting and keep playing for points.”

Bush was excited to see a large turnout at the game. “It was great. I have never really had such a big crowd like that, so it was a lot of fun.” Coach Kendrick also commented on the significant spectator turn-out on Friday night and made it clear how important fans are for the team.

“We certainly like having people in the stands so I am sure the girls appreciated it.”

Mason’s next contest is in Harrisonburg, where they will face James Madison (1-0, 8-6) in a conference match that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m.

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