October 16, 2010

RAMS SHAKE UP CAA RACE, SHOCK FIRST-PLACE GEORGE MASON, 3-2

FAIRFAX, Va. –Virginia Commonwealth University was a confident squad heading into Saturday's match against reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion George Mason. Fresh off a win over James Madison on Friday, the Rams rode that momentum to a thrilling, 3-2 win over the first place Patriots at RAC Gymnasium.

With the victory, the Rams (7-16) thrust themselves into the middle of the CAA race. VCU is 5-2 in league play and in the midst of a furious five-team logjam. The loss was Mason's first in conference action. The Patriots are 11-8 overall and 6-1 in the CAA.
 
For a while, the match resembled the last meeting between these two squads, a 3-2 come-from-behind victory by the Patriots in the CAA Championship Match last season. However, this time the Rams came away victorious.
 
Senior Kelsie Clegg (Boise, Idaho) blasted three kills in four swings and tallied a block to lead the Black and Gold to a 15-4 rout in the fifth set tiebreaker. The Rams, who watched a 2-0 match lead disappear, hit .333 in the decisive set and recorded just one hitting error. Sophomore Marisa Low (Carlsbad, Calif.), who provided a match-high 29 digs, dug six balls in the tiebreaker.  
 
Sophomore Jhessica Martins (Uberlanoia, Brazil) smashed home the set's first point off a high dig from the Patriots. The Rams attacked with at a fast and furious pace to take the final set convincingly.
 
According to VCU Head Coach James Finley, senior Mariel Frey (Lititz, Pa.) was the catalyst for the fifth set outburst, helping to rally her Ram teammates.
 
"She was a trooper," Finley said. "We talked about last night and how she finished that match. She came back and brought it. We got to game five she showed passion. She was screaming and hooping and that emotion from her is critical as a senior. She brought big blocks and she just went after it swinging so hard."
 
VCU received major contributions from all over the roster. Four Rams registered double-digit kills, and four Rams also racked up double digit digs. Frey supplied 17 kills and 14 digs, while Martins added 16 kills and 13 digs.
 
The scoring depth of the match left VCU Coach James Finley nearly speechless at the end of the night. The head coach, known for his conversational skills, simply described the scoring attack as "amazing and great".
 
After VCU stormed to a 2-0 advantage, George Mason struck back. The third set saw the Patriots surge to a 21-14 lead behind the duo of Danielle Cook and Noelle Fanella. The Rams rallied to within 23-22, but a timely service ace by the Patriots gave them the set 25-22.

The Rams had an opportunity to close out the match in the fourth, but Fernanda Bartels would place a soft attack just over the VCU wall to give Mason the bitterly fought fourth set, 28-26.
 
Prior to Saturday, George Mason had only lost one set in six conference matches.
 
The Rams will return to the Verizon Wireless Arena for their first conference home match on Friday, Oct. 22 against Georgia State at 7 p.m.
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