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Men's Volleyball Knocks-Off George Mason, 3-2, to Claim Spot in EIVA Championship Match

The Crimson advanced to the EIVA Championship by defeating the Patriots for just the second time in school history on Thursday evening (Gil Talbot).

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The third-seed Harvard men's volleyball team emerged victorious from a dramatic five-set thriller against second-seed George Mason, 25-23, 26-28, 17-25, 25-22, 19-17, to advance to the 2013 EIVA Tournament Championship.

Sophomore Caleb Zimmick torched the Patriots (15-12) with a season-high 19.5 points behind a stellar hitting night. The middle blocker paced the Crimson (18-8) with a .579 attack, totaling 13 kills in 19 attempts with just two errors, a pair of aces and seven total blocks.

Junior Nick Madden turned in phenomenal efforts on both sides of the ball to help Harvard top George Mason for just the second time in school history. The outside hitter secured 17 points by delivering a team-best 16 kills and two block assists. Madden added 10 digs to register his fourth career double-double.

First-Team All-EIVA selection DJ White also looked impressive. The sophomore notched 17 points for the Crimson, finding the hard wood for 15 kills, an ace and one block solo. White and freshman Branden Clemens both fell one dig shy of recording double-doubles of the own. Clemens joined his teammates as the fourth Crimson student-athlete to post 10 or more kills by charting 12 of his own and added four block assists to end the match with 14 points.

Led by junior Chris Gibbons season-high 14 digs, Harvard out-dug George Mason, 58-45. The Crimson also out-blocked the Patriots, 10.5-5, and were more efficient on the attack, .282 hitting percentage versus .265, in thanks to 51 assists from senior captain Rob Lothman.

Points were hotly contested for right from the get-go as the sides battled to 9-9 to open the tournament. Harvard did not yield as George Mason claimed its 10th point first and extended its lead to four points on three occasions. Down 19-15 the Crimson came out of a timeout and slowly chipped away at its opponent's lead before drawing even at 20-20. The teams traded points to 22 all, before one of White's kills put Harvard up, 23-22. Clemens delivered a kill to give the Crimson set-point, but a service error extended the game, before Lothman connected with White once more to take the first set, 25-23.

The Crimson continued to hit well in the second set, submitting a .370 clip as the sides went back-and-forth to 16 all. The Patriots strung together some points to go up by four, 20-16, but again Harvard fought back to even the score, 20-20. The Crimson fell behind by two after an ace and kill from the Patriots, but timely hitting and errors kept Harvard alive as the second stanza headed for extra points, 25-25. The teams traded points, before the Patriots notched a kill claimed the set, 28-26, on an error.

Harvard fell behind early in the third frame, 4-1, and never caught up. George Mason took control of the match with a third-set victory, 25-17.

The Crimson reversed the roles in the fourth set, turning in another .370 hitting percentage and limiting the Patriots to their lowest attack of the night (.194). Harvard bolted to a 12-6 advantage and cruised to a 25-22 win to force the deciding set where.

Things did not start well for Harvard in the fifth, as it looked down-and-out at 11-6. A kill from Zimmick and an attack error from the Patriots breathed life into the Crimson. Lothman snuck in a successful attack of his own, then dished out two helpers to White to cut Harvard's deficit to one, 12-11. The teams then traded points, before an attack error evened the score at 14. Both sides committed two errors and exchanged kills to advance the score by two points, 16-16, before Zimmick delivered a kill to put Harvard up. George Mason matched with a kill of its own, but produced an error on the ensuing serve. With match-point at hand, Zimmick punched Harvard's ticket to the championship with his second ace of the night.

Harvard advanced to play top-seed, No. 14 Penn State on its home court for the 2013 EIVA title Saturday, April 27, at 7 p.m. The Crimson split the regular-season series with the Nittany Lions, falling 3-2 on the road and sweeping Penn State at home. To keep up with all the action, please visit EIVA Tournament Central.