Practice in the Smith Center was over. It was Aug. 17, almost two weeks before the season opener at the Chesapeake Invitational.
The volleyball team was wondering where coach Yvette Moorehead was. She didn’t show up for practice. Former assistant coach and now head coach Jojit Coronel joked that she had overslept. The two were up late preparing for the season. But later that day players were called back for an unexpected team meeting. Athletic Director Jack Kvancz entered the Smith Center room where members of the volleyball team waited and informed them that Moorehead had died. The team was stunned.
The team decided to practice the next day. They decided to play the season in her name. Before Moorehead’s death, the Colonials were predicted to lead the Atlantic 10, a team capable of finally beating defending champion Temple. But all of a sudden nobody knew.
This season has been about strength and heart and character and leadership and determination. It hasn’t just been about winning. Winning has just been the result of what happens when 14 women pull together to get through something so overwhelming.
The season opened Sept. 1, a Friday afternoon. GW was set to host Wagner and Howard universities in the first round of the Chesapeake Invitational. It would be a telling sign of how the Colonials would respond after Moorehead’s death. The Colonials tore through each team. Each match took less than an hour. In the entire 59 minutes against Wagner, the Seahawks scored six points. Howard mustered 10 points.
The Colonials won seven of their first nine matches and didn’t lose a game until nationally ranked Florida beat them in a California tournament.
GW has not lost two matches in a row the entire season. Right now the team is 13-2 in conference play. The Colonials only problem has been Temple, who they are 0-2 against.
After a road victory over George Mason last month, senior tri-captain Jill Levey mentioned the team actually plays better on the road. She said there are fewer distractions and the team can get down to business.
This team is absolutely driven to win the A-10. Like a machine. After Moorehead’s death, a team smile hardened to a steel grin. Things like exhaustion aren’t felt and don’t matter. Look at the game against George Mason. It lasted well over two hours. George Mason was exhausted and in games four and five, the seams opened and the Patriots committed 15 errors. GW only committed four errors when it mattered at the end. GW wasn’t affected by exhaustion. Like a machine, the team showed no sign of weakness as the game carried on. In fact, GW got stronger.
The Colonials played their best in games four and five, scoring 30 points and holding the Patriots to 13 points. They became more focused as well. In the combined five games, the Colonials had their best attack percentage since 1994 (.313), a year when GW advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after finishing 32-4 overall with a 13-1 record in A-10 play.
It’s been that kind of season. Instead of crumbling, they’ve drawn closer and driven through anything else. They’re far ahead of where they were last year, which saw the Colonials finish 11-7 in A-10 play with a four-game loss to Temple in the A-10 tourney in Philadelphia.
The Colonials just beat La Salle the other night and are on a three-game winning streak. On Saturday, they’ll host Duquesne in the last regular season match for some amazing senior leaders. In just over a week, the Colonials will travel to Dayton for the A-10 Tourney. There’s a strong chance if it all works out that GW will play Temple in the finals. GW is 0-2 against Temple this year. If players don’t do it now, they probably won’t do it for a while. GW is having its best season since 1995. After this season ends, GW loses six seniors and a lot of heart.
Next week will be the Colonials’ last legitimate shot at beating the Owls. Temple might be the better team – and maybe the one with an edge – but GW is the stronger team because they’ve got that one intangible that can’t be taken away from them. Look out for GW, the team with a lot of heart.