GW volleyball wins season’s first match

The GW women’s volleyball team survived a scare in its season opener Tuesday night, beating the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, three games to one.

After forging a 2-1 lead, GW struggled to put the Retrievers away. Game four proved to be the most evenly matched and exciting, as GW fought back to tie or go ahead five times.

UMBC got off to a quick start in the fourth game, rattling off four straight points to take the early lead. The Colonial women went on a four-point run of their own to tie the score, 4-4, the first of seven ties.

The Retrievers countered with their second four-point run to go ahead, 8-4. That lead also proved short-lived, as GW’s Gabriela Mojska hit two successive kills – the first for a side out and the second to spark a six-point run to capture GW’s first lead of the game at 10-8. Holding to form, UMBC battled back to seize an 11-10 lead.

Like boxers in the final round of a great match, both teams turned the intensity up a notch at the end of the game, trading the lead back and forth until the score stood tied at 14. With the Retrievers serving, sophomore Julie Jahnke came up with a kill to provide a key side out, which returned the serve to GW. The Colonial women didn’t look back as they locked up the victory, 16-14, on kills by sophomore Jill Levey and Mojska.

“We knew coming into the game that UMBC was very scrappy,” GW head coach Susie Homan said. “We had some very serious pressure situations, and we came through.”

In game one, as in all of its three wins, GW had to come from behind. With the Colonial women down 8-5, junior Theresa Ridder hit a kill, one of her 13 in the match, for a side out that sparked GW to a 10-3 run and the victory.

In game two, UMBC took an early lead and sustained it for a 15-10 win, tying the game score at one. The Retrievers closed the game with a 6-1 run to earn their only victory of the match.

“Everyone was pretty anxious out there,” Homan said. “We haven’t had any scrimmages.”

But behind the stellar play of senior Tai Bethune and Levey, the Colonial women took a 3-2 lead in game three and never looked back, winning 15-5. GW put UMBC away with a service ace by Bethune and kills by Ridder and Suzana Manole.

“Tai Bethune and Jill Levey worked great together,” Homan said. “They were solid from start to finish. This might have been Tai’s best performance ever.”

“It was my most consistent game,” said Bethune, who had a hitting percentage of .417 with 19 kills. “We really fought hard and worked together, and Jill Levey gave me great sets.”

Levey, who notched 37 assists, returned the appreciation.

“Tai was great, but it’s hard to pick anyone out in particular,” Levey said. “They make it easy for me to do my job.”

GW’s next stop will be Tempe, Ariz., for the Phoenix Airport Hilton Challenge. The Colonial women will face perennial volleyball powerhouses Loyola Marymount and Arizona State universities, and the University of Connecticut Friday and Saturday.

“This is very important for GW volleyball,” Homan said. “We need that exposure.”

The Colonial women next play in the Smith Center Sept. 11 against West Virginia University.

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