FAIRFAX, Va. - The Harvard men's volleyball team hung tough with George Mason, but the Patriots ultimately prevailed, 3-1, Wednesday night in the first round of the EIVA playoffs. The No. 8 seed Crimson saw its season come to a close with an 11-8 overall record, as Harvard finished in a tie for first place in the EIVA Hay Division with a 6-2 conference mark in 2009.
Both of the first two sets went into extra sets, as fifth-seeded George Mason (13-15) won the first, 31-29, before the Crimson earned the win in the second set, 33-31. The Patriots went on to win the last two sets, 30-19 and 30-26, to advance to the quarterfinals of the EIVA playoffs at Springfield. George Mason won despite being outhit by the Crimson, .231-.206.
Senior co-captain Brady Weissbourd wrapped up his career with a match-high 23 kills on a .340 attack percentage with six blocks. Junior Erik Kuld posted 16 kills with a team-high seven digs, while junior Gil Weintraub handed out 56 assists and had a match- and career-high eight blocks. Senior Jeff Nathan had two assists and two digs in the last match of his career. The Patriots were led by Ben Nichols with 17 kills.
The Patriots jumped out on top early, building a 9-2 lead on back-to-back kills by Nichols. Harvard would keep the score within striking distance, as a block by Weissbourd and freshman Matt Jones made it 15-12 halfway through the match. Head coach Brian Baise would call a timeout, though, after the deficit grew to six at 19-13 on a Patriot service ace. The lead for George Mason stretched to 23-14 before Harvard made a furious comeback. Weintraub had back-to-back solo blocks followed by a kill to make it 23-18, and after George Mason made it 28-20, Harvard would knock down three straight kills before the Patriots got to match serve at 29-23. George Mason would self-destruct, posting four attack errors as Harvard scored six straight points to make it 29-29, but the Patriots won the next two points for the 31-29 win.
Neither team would be able to build more than a two-point lead to open the second set, as the Crimson would take its first lead since the opening point by taking four straight points for a 14-12 lead, capped by a kill by junior Soren Rosier. A kill by freshman Matt Jones make it 19-15 Harvard, forcing a Patriot timeout. The Crimson maintained that lead for the next portion of the match, using an attack error by the Patriots for a 25-21 lead. George Mason came back, winning five of six points to tie the score at 27-27. Harvard called a timeout there, and then again when the Patriots got to match serve at 29-28. Kills by Weissbourd and Weintraub staved off match serve, and then a kill by Rosier and an attack error by George Mason's Ryan Kwiatkowski gave Harvard the 33-31 win.
A block by Weintraub and Rosier made it 5-5 in the third set, but George Mason would slowly build up a six-point lead at 13-7 on a service ace. Harvard, though, would win seven of the next 10 points, the last on a Kyle Gramit attack error, to cut the lead to two, 16-14. The Patriots pushed the lead to seven at 22-15, forcing a Harvard timeout. George Mason would continue to pour it on, building a 24-15 lead on its fifth point in a row. The teams traded points over the next few serves, but the Patriots would win three points in a row and then slam down a kill for the 30-19 win.
Harvard got the early lead in the fourth set, using a Patriot service error to go up by three, 7-4. George Mason immediately won the next five points to post a two-point lead at 9-7. After Kuld and sophomore Shaun Mansour blocked a Patriot attack to tie it at 9-9, George Mason won the next three points to force a Harvard timeout. Harvard tied the match several times after that, and then finally got the lead back at 20-19 on a block by Mansour and Weintraub. The Crimson continued to keep things close, but three straight points would put the Patriots up for good at 25-23. Weissbourd, who finished his career with 937 recorded kills, slammed home three over the next several serves to keep the deficit to one, but three straight attack errors by the Crimson gave George Mason the 30-26 win in Set 4.