For the first time since 2002, the GW volleyball team lost its own invitational after falling in a third and deciding match to Towson. The Colonials (2-2) swept Iona College and Delaware State before falling to the Tigers in straight games.
After picking up two wins in the tournament, the Colonials (2-2) are in blue numbers for the first time since winning 11 games to start off the 2003 season. Coach Jojit Coronel said he was disappointed with the loss but not with the way his squad performed.
"I'm really happy with the two wins," Coronel said. "We are .500 right now. I'm not necessarily disappointed with the way we played against Towson. I'm disappointed that we lost but we were right in it. When two really good to great teams meet each other it comes down to a few points. It comes down to fundamental volleyball. We're close, we aren't there yet. I'd rather be struggling now than later."
As a team, the Colonials performed well. Junior Juliene McLaughlin led the squad all weekend with strong, balanced play, averaging nine kills in the tournament. Sophomore Janine Brown averaged 6.3 kills in the three matches while senior libero Jessica Vesey averaged 15.3 digs.
Vesey and McLaughlin were named to the all-tournament team along with April Hoffman (Towson), Allison Essink (Towson), Christina Grempler (Towson), Miki Hogg (Iona) and Kinga Muszynski (Delaware State). Most valuable player honors were given to Hoffman. Last year's MVP was GW's McLaughlin.
Towson 3, GW 0
The Colonials were swept (28-30, 28-30, 18-30) for the first time this season, losing the GW Invitational to Towson. McLaughlin led the Colonials with seven kills and digs while Vesey racked up 17 digs.
Towson was led by Hoffman, who collected 17 kills and six digs. Grempler registered 11 kills.
Coronel said he was impressed by Towson and their competitive play.
"The speed of play was much faster," Coronel said after the loss. "It's so easy to rise to the challenge when you are playing a fast team. When you are playing teams slower it's easy to slip, but we picked it up for this team. We have two days of practice before heading down to Georgia, and we'll certainly work on it."
GW looked like they would be able to run away with the first game, but Towson tied the game at 16. The Colonials slipped as Towson extended the lead with offensive pressure. The Colonials were down 28-25, and a 2-0 run brought the game to 28-27 on a McLaughlin kill. An attack error by senior Shannon Parks left the Tigers up 29-27 before a second McLaughlin kill put the Colonials down 29-28. Towson freshman Maddie Haseltine threw down a kill from sophomore Kim Snider to end the game 30-28.
The second game saw the Colonials take an early 12-11 lead before a 7-0 run put the Tigers in control. The Colonials were able to tie the game at 24, but four straight Towson points late allowed them to escape another game with a 30-28 win.
The Colonials appeared tired in the third game, allowing the Tigers to take control with a 30-18 victory.
Senior Jessica Vesey is looking to next week's trip to Georgia as instrumental in preparing for conference play.
"Towson is definitely a good team," Vesey said. "It was just the little errors on our side. They all add up to the few points we lost time. Next week we are playing big competition, which is something that's good for us. Playing a team like Georgia Tech will only help us going into conference play."
GW 3, Delaware State 0
All 16 players on the GW roster made court appearances as the Colonials swept Delaware State, 3-0 (30-20, 30-13, 30-15). Sophomore Janine Brown collected 10 kills along with five digs. McLaughlin had eight kills in the win. Juniors Abigail Greenleaf and Kelly Kabbes chipped in with three kills a piece.
The Colonials hit .322 and took advantage of the Hornets' 28 hitting errors, 11 service errors and three ball-handling errors.
The Hornets were led by Muszynski, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from Waterdown, Ontario.
GW volleyball alumna Renee Arnold returned to the Smith Center as coach of the Hornets. Arnold was impressed with her alma mater's play.
"They were good. They look really good," Arnold said.
Arnold believed the invitation for Delaware State to compete in the GW Invitational is very important to the program's growth.
"This is huge because they've never seen girls this tall," Arnold mused. "It's just a totally different thing. Building a program is a lot of hard work. Trying to get girls to come into a program that loses 23 times is not easy. But we'll keep building."
Although seeking to find success, Arnold, a 2001 graduate, is hesitant to use GW's program as a model.
"No I can't," Arnold said with a chuckle. "The expectations here are so much higher. There we just start winning. Then we'll start dealing with winning conferences."
GW 3, Iona 0
The GW Volleyball Invitational began with a 3-0 victory for the Colonials over the Iona College Gaels Friday night at the Smith Center.
Friday's victory in three straight games (30-18, 30-27, 30-26) came after the Colonials opened their season with a 3-1 loss at James Madison on Aug. 26.
McLaughlin led the Colonials on offense with 12 kills and 15 digs.
"I don't really care how I play - if we win, I'm happy," McLaughlin said after the Colonials' victory.
Coronel has been candid about the Colonials' need to improve in closing out games. GW won the first game by a wide margin, but Iona was able to close in on the Colonials' leads late in the second and third games.
"The first game we finished off pretty good," Coronel said. "We don't need a spectacular kill (to finish off a game)."
In the second game Iona trailed GW 28-19 before scoring three aces as well as eight of the next nine points between the teams to eventually finish within three of the Colonials in GW's victory. The Gaels remained close for much of the third game, with scoring back and forth between the teams in the final minutes.
"I think it showed a little bit - our problem at closing games," McLaughlin said.
Vesey, the senior captain gave the Colonials 20 of the team's 80 digs in the three games against Iona on defense from the libero position. She also led the team in digs overall last season with 462 as a junior.