By Brian T. Chan, Sports Editor

Named to the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association All-East first team, sophomore middle blocker Lance Rogers defended his recognition with a solid performance on Saturday as the George Mason University men’s volleyball team swept the Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders 30-19, 30-28, 30-23 in the quarterfinal round of the EIVA Tournament.

Mason will head to University Park, Pa. next week as they meet the Princeton Tigers in the semifinals on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Penn State University’s Rec Hall.

“Last few weeks we’ve been playing better and better,” said Head Coach Fred Chao. “I think this is one of the best representations so far. Last week against Penn State was really good for us for a stretch, but I think the timing is good since we’re playing better.”

The Patriots improved to 8-18 while the Scarlet Raiders, the Hay division’s top team, fell to 13-13. Mason, the third seed, hosted the first ever tournament match at the RAC; in front of 223 fans, the Patriots’ offense ignited from the get-go.

Chao acknowledged the team’s early start to help them stave off the late Scarlet Raiders rally.

“It’s extremely important because Rutgers is a great team and they got nothing to lose, and that makes them extremely dangerous, so if you don’t take the will out of them early, then they’re going to keep pushing,” said Chao. “Once we let off the gas early, they started pushing on us, but I think we’ve figured out how to be stronger and push back.”

The Patriots built a 12-9 lead early in the first set, and as they gradually increased their lead, Scarlet Raiders Head Coach Karl France became flustered with his team being unable to hold off the Patriots’ attack.

Mason extended its lead to 22-14 later in the set and eventually closed it with a 30-19 win.

Both teams battled closely in the second set as the Mason held a lead of no larger than two due to the trading of points.

The point of separation came when Mason took an 18-15 lead, but the Scarlet Raiders did not back down easily as they closed the gap to 23-22.

Mason scored the next three points, and while the Scarlet Raiders cut the Mason lead to two points, a kill from Rogers put the Patriots up 29-27. After the Scarlet Raiders took the next point, Mason took the set as the Scarlet Raider player served into the net.

It appeared that Mason would walk away with an easy third-set win, scoring seven of the first eight points and taking a commanding 11-2 lead. But, the team that went 8-0 in the Hay division crept back slowly, turning an eight-point deficit at 14-6 to a two-point match with Mason holding on at 25-23 late in the set.

Freshman outside hitter Michael Kvidahl, who led all players with 15 kills, put the Patriots ahead 26-23.

Two blocks from Rogers set Mason up with a 29-23 lead before they sealed the deal to advance to the semifinal round.

Rogers posted an .800 attack percentage on eight kills without making an error. He added six blocks, including a solo block to give him 11.5 points in the match on Saturday.

Rogers entered the match averaging 1.28 blocks per set, fifth in the EIVA and 16th in the nation. He also had 1.92 kills and 2.69 points per set, earning him first team honors.

Rogers, however, feels that he was not the lone recipient from Mason of the award.

“I was actually pretty surprised because in the beginning, there were [some] rough patches between me and the coaches and the team as a whole, and towards the end, we found a way to work it out,” said Rogers. “It’s more of a team award because I can’t do it by myself. I need people passing me the ball, people setting the ball. It’s kind of a whole team effort put in to that award.”

The team looks to make its push once more against the second-seeded Tigers next week.