Men’s Volleyball Handles No. 16 George Mason in Four Sets 

Loyola defeated the Patriots in a competitive four-set match Jan. 27 at Gentile Arena.

After sweeping Long Island University the night before, the Loyola men’s volleyball team defeated the George Mason University Patriots in a competitive four-set match Jan. 27 at Gentile Arena.

Fourth-year middle blocker Jimmy Meinhart opened the match with a kill and, in the next play, Loyola forced an attack error from the Patriots’ side. A service error from first-year outside hitter Jake Read gave George Mason the service.

Still, a missed serve from fourth-year Patriot outside hitter Jason Ashenfelter gave the Ramblers a 3-1 lead after the opening exchange. 

Loyola built momentum with a 5-0 run after two kills from first-year outside hitter Daniel Fabikovic and a block assist and kill from third-year middle blocker Nicodemus Meyer. Redshirt third-year Parker Van Buren followed up with another kill, sending George Mason into timeout, down 8-2. 

The Patriots shaved the deficit down to two after an ace from their redshirt second-year outside hitter Liam French. Van Buren’s service error caused a momentum switch in favor of George Mason. Loyola called a timeout after a missed service and an attack error in consecutive plays. They were ahead by a narrow 11-9 margin as both teams traded kills.

The rest of set one was neck-and-neck until the final moments when the Ramblers broke away after two block assists by Meyer and second-year outside hitter Ryan McElligott added up a scoring run from previous play kills via Fabikovic and Read. The Patriots took a timeout, down 20-14.

George Mason tried cutting into their deficit with a block assist and forced a service fault. A kill by McElligott was traded with a Patriots service error at 22-17. A kill by Van Buren gave Loyola set point, and he finished business with a kill to take set one 25-20.

Opening set two, the Patriots grabbed an early 2-0 lead after two kills, but neither team could find any momentum with five lead changes in the early second. Three kills from Meinhart, Van Buren and Read sprang Loyola back into action. McElligot forced George Mason into a timeout with an ace to cap off a 4-0 Loyola run up 10-8.

The Patriots tied it out of the play break after miscommunication from the Ramblers led to attack and service errors. The teams continued point-for-point, but Loyola broke away after a 3-0 run via three kills, bringing some energy back into Gentile. 

“I’m super grateful to have that fan base, and you can definitely feel it on the court,” McElligott said. “It’s so fun to play in that atmosphere.”

An ace by Read gave the Ramblers a set point. George Mason redshirt fourth-year opposite hitter Jack Bolz registered a final desperation kill before Fabikovic gave Loyola a 2-0 set lead on the night in a more dominant 25-18 set.

In the third set, George Mason was able to spring an early 3-0 lead after some impressive digs to set up back-to-back kills gaining the service from a Loyola attacking fault. The Ramblers, down 6-3, took a timeout to talk things over.

McElligott started a 3-0 run for Loyola, shaving their deficit. Meyer then tied it up at six with two team blocks and a kill. 

The Patriots pushed the Ramblers on their heels towards the middle of set three. Building a bit of momentum after an ace, kill and two blocks. George Mason sent Loyola into a second timeout, down 17-13.

Out of the timeout, nothing much came from Loyola as they hit a .403% attack rate on set three — the lowest of their weekend doubleheader.

The Patriots continued to build on their lead and found the set point at 24-18. A solo block for Van Buren and a kill from Fabikovic were the last points as the Ramblers were put away 25-20 off a kill from fourth-year Patriot middle blocker Sam Peters.

George Mason struck first in the fourth set with a kill from fourth-year outside hitter Colin Heath. The Ramblers continued to go neck-and-neck with the Patriots until Loyola made a statement on a 4-0 run after two kills from Fabikovic and two aces from Read, sending George Mason into a timeout, down 18-14.

Out of the break, a block assist from Van Buren and Meinhart put the Ramblers ahead 20-14, but more trouble with service and attack errors from Loyola gave the Patriots two more, now down 20-16. 

Hawks called a timeout after this play and Loyola, trying to put away George Mason in four, found success. 

A kill following an ace by Meinhart set up Fabikovic for his 12th kill of the night. A block assist from redshirt first-year opposite hitter Miller Trubey set up the put-away kill from McElligott 25-19.

Loyola head coach John Hawks said it was awesome to go 2-0 on the weekend and commended George Mason for being a tough opponent. 

“We want to be tested, and yeah, we started the season 1-5, but we kept it in perspective,” Hawks said. “We didn’t judge ourselves on that. It was judging ourselves on just getting better every day.”

Loyola will return to Gentile Arena to face The Ohio State University at 7 p.m. Fans can broadcast the match on NBC Sports Chicago.

Featured image by Allison Treanor | The Phoenix

Christopher J. Henry

Christopher J. Henry