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No. 19 George Mason drops No. 15 men’s volleyball in five-set thriller

A player in orange and black jumps up to spike volleyball, and two sets of blocking players meet him at the net.
First-year pin-hitter Jameson Vaccaro had 10 kills in the defeat.
Photo courtesy of @PrincetonVolley/X.

In a top-20 men’s volleyball matchup between two of the strongest teams in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA), the No. 15 Tigers (10–10 overall, 3–4 EIVA) fell just short in a tough match against the No. 19 George Mason Patriots (15–7, 4–2) on Saturday.

After defeating the Patriots a few weeks ago at Dillon Gymnasium, the Tigers’ quest to sweep the season series did not get off to a good start. The Patriots struck first, and at the first timeout, the Tigers were down 10–15 after losing four consecutive points just prior. Various errors led to the Patriots maintaining their five-point lead throughout the first set. The Tigers’ final point came from a kill from first-year hitter Jameson Vaccaro before the set ended 20–25 in favor of the Patriots.


In the next set, the Tigers showed their defensive determination early on, with two consecutive diving saves by junior setter Henry Wedbush and a dig by junior libero Matt Suh. The Tigers also impressed offensively, with a great kill by junior hitter Nyherowo Omene, a clean kill through the middle by first-year middle blocker Tristan Whitfeld, and another impressive kill by Wedbush. Several team blocks, and one solo block by Whitfeld, led to a 15–11 lead at the first timeout. The final point of the set came from a strong kill by senior hitter Ben Harrington as the Tigers claimed the second set 25–19.

Tied 1–1 in sets, the Tigers did well to preserve their momentum in the third set. Harrington started out with two kills, but the Patriots went on a 4–0 run to bring the set to 4–8 early on. Later, the Tigers finally tied the set 17–17 with a powerful serve from sophomore middle blocker Ryan Vena, followed by another Harrington kill for their first lead, 18–17,  since the very first point. The Tigers capitalized on this momentum with two more Omene kills and a service ace by Harrington, who leads the nation in service aces this season. The final four Princeton points all came from a run of Vaccaro kills, three of them assisted by Wedbush. A heroic dig by Suh at match point assisted the team to end the third set 25–23 and give the Tigers the match lead. 

“I was really proud of how the guys battled and responded after dropping the first set to a very talented top-20 George Mason team,” head coach Sam Shweisky said to The Daily Princetonian. “Winning sets two and three, the guys were playing very clean, low error volleyball while maintaining strong aggression from the service line.”

Unfortunately, errors would come back to haunt the Tigers in the next two sets. The Tigers would commit seven service errors in the third set alone. Combined with the Patriots also holding strong defensively by dominating in blocks and preventing the Tigers’ strong offense from making their usual kills, the rest of the match tilted away from the Tigers. 

“George Mason just played a complete game of volleyball,” Omene said. “They have a couple key players that showed out, and it was a battle all the way to the end.” 

Indeed, the Tigers also conceded two points to the Patriots’ Omar Hoyos whose service aces clocked in at 71 and 73 miles per hour respectively. Despite some solid blocks, including a solo block by Whitfield, yet another service error ended the fourth set 17–25 and forced a fifth set. 


“Anytime you get into a fifth set, it’s going to be the small details and execution that will make the difference,” Coach Shweisky said.

The fifth set was in fact dictated by the little things as Princeton lost three points in the set due to service errors. But, despite small mistakes, the Tigers fought well until the very end. In only the second play of the set, Omene leapt to the ground to dig the ball, Wedbush dove right after to save the ball off the net, and Harrington finally hit the ball over to keep the game in play and earn a point. Despite a service error, Vena also served an ace and the two teams continued to trade off for the majority of the set. 

At match point down for the Tigers, though, Suh made what was almost a match-saving soaring dig, but it was not enough as the Tigers fell by just three points in the fifth set, 12–15.

“I thought it was just our service pressure and defense down the stretch that was the difference,” Wedbush said. “They sided-out very well, and we couldn’t contain their offense.”

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Highlighting Wedbush’s words was Princeton getting dominated in the block game, 7–13, despite actually leading in kills, 56–55.  

Although the loss provides a setback in the Tigers’ hopes for climbing up in the EIVA, their ability to fight to the very end shows a resilience that can only help them come back from it.

Coach Shweisky was also sure to praise Wedbush as the leader on the court. “I was really proud of how Henry led the team, not only tactically from an offensive perspective, but [also] emotionally, he did an excellent job of leading us throughout the match.” 

After a month on the road, the Tigers finally return to Dillon Gymnasium this Friday, April 5, to host the NJIT Highlanders (9–13 overall, 1–6 EIVA), whom they defeated one week ago in Newark. With only three regular season conference games left, the Tigers look to perfect their game, especially defensively, and find momentum to carry into the EIVA tournament.

“In [the EIVA] tournament, anything goes,” Omene said. “It’s really about surviving and moving on to get the bid for the NCAA tournament.”

Bryant Figueroa is a Sports contributor for the ‘Prince.’

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