Young Volleydons upset 12th-ranked George Mason Freshman Pelegrin Vargas could become Fort Wayne’s next special player.

The day after the Fort Wayne athletic department announced it would retire the No. 9 for Raul Papaleo on Feb. 10, the Volleydons’ next star from Puerto Rico announced himself.

Freshman Pelegrin Vargas hit nine kills and seven digs as the extremely young Fort Wayne men’s volleyball team defeated No. 12-ranked George Mason 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 at Hilliards Gates Sports Center. It’s the first time the volleyball team has beaten a ranked team in two years, and it might be the starting point coach Ryan “Rock” Perrotte has been hoping for. After a 10-19 record last year and a 1-8 start this season, Perrotte needs Vargas to step up and become the go-to player just like Papaleo was in the early 1990s.

“He’s got some chinks in his armor,” Perrotte said. “His passing and serving has to get tighter, but you an see that he has such an unbelievable volleyball IQ that he does things out of system that I haven’t seen somebody do in a long, long time. He can go up and take swings at the block or deep into the court and produce and it’s something we haven’t had here in a long, long time. He’s going to be a very special player here in the next four years.”

Though opponents are targeting him, if anything, the Volleydons should use Vargas more. The match was 14 points old before he got his first swing Friday niht. After IPFW won the first two games easily, the third set was a little tighter against the defending Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association champions, but Vargas only got two swings.

They were somewhat memorable, though. After shanking an attempt out of bounds and then getting caught flat-footed and never covering an ace on the next play, everyone in the gym knew he was getting the next set, but he drilled it through the George Mason defense. Vargas wanted that set anyway.

“I think he’s going to be one of the best players to come here for sure because he’s only been here nine or 10 games, and he’s already become one of the cores of our offense and our defense and everything else,” senior Scott McNerney said. “I thinks he’s only going to go up from here. I remember thinking the first or second day of open gym back in the ball that this kid can play.”

There must be a dozen times a day when Perrotte says “patience” to himself. He started four sophomores, two freshman and McNerney on Friday night. There are three freshmen and 10 sophomores on the roster, and they are all looking for someone else to step up and lead them. That could have been junior Tony Price, but he suffered a severe ankle injury in the season’s opening match.

“Even the sophomores that are playing didn’t see a significant amount of playing time a year ago,” Perrotte said. “These guys are still inexperienced so the growth spurt is still enormous provided they stay hungry, stay passionate about the game and I continue to manage them well, which I didn’t think I did a year ago. We have been playing well, but we weren’t getting the results we wanted. It’s still about the process, and it’s about trusting the process, and that’s why we’re getting results.”

Though 1-8 going into last night’s match, Fort Wayne has been close in almost every game, but could not find the ways to win late.

Setter Michael Keegan has shown great improvement, but he’s going to need to be more aggressive getting the ball to Vargas. That can also open up opportunities for the other hitters.

“A lot of times what we lack is somebody to go out there and make a play,” McNerney said. “He can get out there and hammer a ball off the block or hit it inside the 10-foot line. The rest of us can feed off that.”

Vargas got 19 swings on Friday night, but everyone in the gym wants to see more.