Senior outside hitter Ben Weinberg uses the George Mason block during the Waves’ three-set victory at Firestone Fieldhouse on March 11. Weinberg contributed six kills in Pepperdine’s 3-0 sweep of George Mason. Photos by Audrey Hartono
Pepperdine Men’s Volleyball No. 7 (9-6) swept away George Mason (7-9) in straight sets 25-18, 25-14, 25-17 on March 11.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Waves were down 3-2 at McKendree University March 5. Hoping to bounce back from loss, grad student outside hitter Jaylen Jasper says the team tried to control the things they could.
“Even when things aren’t going well, we stick together as a team,” Jasper said. “We rely on each other with our energy, our motivation, our support after mistakes, whatever you call it, we’re doing a really good job.”
The Waves came out with a different roster, moving a grad student outside the hitter Spencer Wickens libero with senior outside hitter Ben Weinberg fill his place.
“Spencer struggled to attack, and our passing needed to be improved a bit,” the head coach said. david hunt noted.
Two service errors and miscommunication in the back row contributed to the slow start. The Patriots went 5-3 by capitalizing on Waves’ mistakes.
“I think today we did a good job putting pressure on them,” Wickens said. “We made mistakes, but let our defensive strength show.”
Wickens and his vocal leadership helped the Waves settle on set. Wickens communicated plays in the back row to take passes down the left side to organize the attack.
“[Wickens] had a veteran presence and leadership,” Hunt said. “It was just kind of the spark we needed.”
Jasper took control of the game with a corner kick that bounced off the 10-foot line and into the stands. A back row kill immediately followed to take a 14-12 lead.
“In practice we moved some of the lineups around just so we didn’t have the whole starting squad against our second team,” Jasper said. “We’re going to face me Austin [Wilmot] and [Jacob] Steelewhich is a huge block to hit.
The Waves would continue to establish their lead with the solid blocks of graduate student center blocker Wilmot. Wilmot led the team with seven blocks.
“It’s great to be able to hit against huge blocks and practice, which just translates into the game,” Jasper said.
The Waves would win the first set 25-18 following the Patriots’ two service errors.
Pepperdine started set two strong with a 2-0 start due to an attacking error and a clean call to George Mason.
The teams saw back and forth until the Patriots came back to a 5-7 deficit.
A long rally forced sophomore George Mason to strike on the outside Omar Hoyos crashing into the press box while diving for the ball. A high set went to Weinberg, as he painted the 10-foot line for a kill to take an 8-5 lead.
“Ben provides that upgrade on offense,” Hunt said. “He doesn’t always settle into the system, but he hits the ball high and takes big tears in some tough situations.”
Pepperdine dominated the front row with Wilmot’s solo block on George Mason’s senior outside hitter Richie Hoffcreating a 16-11 lead.
At match point, junior outside hitter Pepperdine Akin Akinwumi replaced for service. Akinwumi shocked the crowd with an ace of 61.7mph to close the set 25-14.
“We have to make a change to something, and we have a lot of really talented guys,” Hunt said. “At some point as a coach you have to back up what you tell them every day and give them a chance.”
With the Patriots down two sets, they looked to find a push to get back into the game. Hoff converted two kills on a 4-2 run to start the third set.
The two teams continued to clash in the final set, as Weinberg scored on an attacking error. The Waves responded with a 3-1 run on the Patriot’s aggression.
“I think we really wanted to focus on setting up midfield,” Jasper said. “So far this season we’ve been slower in some games to get them started. So just acknowledging that we have two of the best middlemen in the country [Wilmot and Andersen Fuller], and one of the best passers in the country, all we had to do was give them a good pass to set them up and we just have to trust that they will do their job.
Down three, the Patriots hoped to get back into the game with a variety of Waves offensive kills and errors, but each time the Waves would respond with their own scores.
The Waves’ attacking prowess gave them the lead, as they led a 6-1 run to win the set. The Waves closed the game on a .438 clip and had 11 kills in the set.
A well-balanced offensive attack combined with a solid defensive effort contributed to the victory.
“We’ve got everything set up,” Wickens said. “We did our best, and we worked hard together and hopefully that will take us as far as possible.”
After his career-best performance of 33 eliminations against McKendree, Jasper showed his versatility with 10 eliminations and six blocks against George Mason. Weinberg contributed to the effort with six wins, and Wilmot himself has seven wins.
“We have to keep improving,” Hunt said. “The team that will eventually win is the one that improves the most throughout the season and displays good volleyball.”
The Waves are looking to continue this momentum against California State University Northridge March 16.
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