Akens steps into leadership role for young GW volleyball team

“I am the master,” boasts Crystal Akens, a 5-9 junior outside hitter for the GW women’s volleyball team.

It is a fitting title for this GW star whose consistent good play and versatility has made her an integral part of the team. Whether it is making a game-winning kill, diving for a ball or serving an ace, Akens always makes her presence felt on the court

“What we expect from her is a tremendous amount of consistency in every aspect of the game,” head coach Susie Homan said. “Some nights she’s our best hitter, the other night she may be our best passer or server.”

Akens has grown as a player since last year, and continues to grow Homan said. She is now more comfortable in her role on the team, and is playing with greater confidence.

“I think, in looking at Crystal’s growth from last year to this year, just her overall performance has been much more consistent, and she’s certainly improved in every aspect of her game,” Homan said. “I also think that just by gaining more playing experience her vision and her overall understanding of the game has improved tremendously.”

Homan said she feels Akens’ position as a primary passer and outside hitter is very demanding. At times she is zeroed in on as the service receiver, then she must pass the ball and go outside to be a hitter.

“She’s on call the entire time she’s on the floor, where as in other positions you get a little break,” Homan said. “But in her role she’s involved 100 percent of the time, so it’s just very demanding physically and mentally.”

Mental toughness is no problem for Akens, who shines under pressure. Always wearing her game face, Akens’ eyes show controlled fierceness.

“In tough situations I just try to keep myself calm and make a smart, aggressive play no matter what the situation,” Akens said.

It is this competitive nature that has enabled Akens to succeed. She has seen her playing time increase, while amassing 165 kills – averaging 2.31 per game. On the defensive side she has a total of 166 digs and 20 blocks.

“I’m just a really competitive person, so I like to fight no matter what it takes, and I think that’s a good quality to have no matter what your skill level, what your sport,” Akens said.

Akens often can be heard as a vocal leader on the court, shouting out words of encouragement and pumping up her teammates.

“She’s a very competitive individual, and we’d like to think she brings out a lot of the competitiveness in the players around her,” Homan said.

As a veteran on a team that includes six freshmen, Akens has tried to be a model for the younger players.

“Last year we lost a lot of leaders in seniors, and this year I’ve tried to step into that role for some of the underclassmen and also for myself, just to continue to be a good example on the court,” Akens said.

For the remainder of the season Akens expects the team to grow on a daily basis eventually reaching their goal of making it to the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

“We’ve got a great group of girls, and we just want to win,” Akens said.

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