By Fernanda Bartels, Staff Writer

The George Mason University’s men’s volleyball team lost its fifth consecutive match to the Ball State Cardinals in four sets (25-30, 30-27, 22-30, 23-30) last Friday.
With the loss, the Patriots fall to a 4-11 overall record, as the Cardinals improve to 11-7.

Mason fought until the end of every set, but the Ball State offense was playing its best game on Friday night.

The Cardinals hit a season-best .340 and were led by Larry Wrather with 16 kills. Teammate J.D. Gasparovic hit .786 and chipped in 11 kills for the Cardinals.
Although the Patriots were outhit by Ball State, freshman outside hitter Michael Kvidahl had a match-high of 21 kills.

Sophomore middle blocker Lance Rogers was also a key hitter in the match with 10 kills and no errors in 14 attempts.

Sophomore opposite hitter Andrew Dentler had the only double-double for the Patriots with 13 kills and a team-high of 12 digs.

The match was filled with long rallies and great defense from both sides. Ball State had 60 total digs in the match, against 49 from the Patriots.

Mason kept the score close in the beginning of every set, but the team was not able to keep up with the Cardinals throughout the match.

“It was a tough match,” said freshman setter Javier Perez. “The offense started running out pretty well. We were running Kvidahl and Dentler a lot, but towards the third game, we started fading out, fatiguing.”

Despite the fatigue, the Patriots tried to recover their momentum in the fourth set. The score was 15-17 when the referee made a debatable call.

After complaints from Head Coach Fred Chao, the point was replayed. The team gained the momentum back, but it was too late for Mason.

Cardinals outside hitter Lee Meyer stepped up, scoring two important kills to break the Patriots’ momentum. Ball State wrapped up the match in the fourth set in 23-30.

In addition to leading the Cardinals with 16 kills, Wrather recorded 10 digs, and Meyer followed with 14 kills. Anders Nelson posted 12 kills and five blocks.

The Patriots have been trying to get back on the winning track for the past weeks. Despite the loss, the team showed that they had been working towards that common goal even when they were making adjustments.

“We are mixing up lineups,” said Perez. “In these past few weeks we found our identity.”

The Patriots started 3-2 earlier this season, but since then, the team has won just once in its past 10 matches and is on a five-game losing streak, entering Saturday night’s match against the IPFW Mastodons.

Although Mason continues to struggle picking up wins, the team remains competitive for every match.

“We’ve known from the start this year that we were going to be deep,” said senior middle blocker/opposite hitter Ben Nichols. “We are just getting deeper throughout the months. Everyone is progressing. If one person goes down, someone can just step in.”

As new faces in Perez and Kvidahl have been gaining key roles on the team, players such as Nichols and senior libero Luke Maloney try to balance out the court with experience and leadership.

With a variety of quality players available to Chao, the Patriots have the ability to get back on a winning streak for the end of the season.

The Patriots return to the RAC on Apr. 7 in a conference match against the Saint Francis Red Flash.