By winning the regular season Atlantic 10 last Saturday, the GW women’s volleyball team achieved the first goal it confidently set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year. There is no doubt that the team’s endurance after head coach Yvette Moorehead’s tragic death in August led to a unique blend of passion, unity and exceptional senior leadership.
Everybody in the back of their heads is playing for (late head coach) Yvette (Moorehead), said GW head coach Jojit Coronel. They’re playing for each other, they’re playing for themselves, they’re playing for pride.
Now, the team’s ultimate goal is upon them, and the Colonials find themselves two wins away from an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Coronel said there was a possibility that with an overall record of 23-5 the Colonials could earn an at-large NCAA berth if they at least made it to the championship match.
But, GW will be without senior Renee Arnold at the A-10s. Arnold sprained her knee last weekend against Duquesne.
She not going to play this weekend, Coronel said. She’s walking around and we’re going to rehab her and get her strong enough so maybe she can compete in the NCAA’s.
The first team that stands in the way of GW’s quest for its first A-10 Championship since 1995 is the No.4-seeded Dayton Flyers (10-6). The teams will square off Saturday afternoon at Dayton’s Frericks Center, the sight of the 2000 Tourney. The Colonials swept Dayton this season, the most recent match coming Nov. 4 when the Colonials edged the Flyers 3-2. In the team’s two meetings, four-time A-10 Player of the Week Tracee Brown combined for 50 kills while Dayton’s Sierra Ashley led with 41 kills. The Dayton senior has been on fire lately recording double-doubles in her last two matches. Ashley earned co-Player of the Week honors with Brown this week setting up a battle between two of the top conference outside hitters.
In the other first-round match, three-time defending champion and No. 2-seeded Temple (13-3) battles No. 3-seeded Xavier (13-3). Temple earned the No. 2-seed tiebreak victory by sweeping the season series with the Muskateers. The championship match is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
We can’t be looking past Dayton, Coronel said. It’s one step at a time.
But a possible championship match-up could very well give GW’s five starting seniors – Brown, Arnold, Jill Levey, Julie Jahnke and Suzana Manole – a chance for ultimate revenge against Temple. In four-year careers that have watched the Lady Owls soar above the rest, the GW seniors said they would like nothing better than to earn an NCAA berth at the expense of the one team that has mastered the Colonials in recent past.
It would be so good to leave college beating a conference team like Temple, Levey said.
The Colonials won 14 A-10 games this season, defeating every conference opponent twice with the exception of Temple. It was the Lady Owls who defeated GW 3-2 in the A-10 opener for both teams at the Smith Center in September. It was also the Lady Owls who were one point away from falling to the visiting Colonials Halloween night, only to somehow find victory and continue their dominance over GW.
I was talking to (GW baseball coach) Tom Walters (about the upcoming tournament) and we’ve lost to Temple twice this season, Coronel said. And he said in baseball when you get a series and lose to a team twice, the third time’s the charm. And these other teams, we’ve beaten them twice and they could have our number so we’re going to have to battle.
GW has lost 10 of its last 11 matches against the Lady Owls, including a 3-1 defeat in the first round of last year’s A-10 Tourney played at Temple’s McGonigle Hall. The GW seniors never defeated Temple on the road in their four years at GW.
When we lost to Temple (in the A-10s) last year, it was sort of bitter sweet for the seniors, Coronel said. They played well, but they couldn’t beat that team. And going into this season, they’ve definitely been on a mission to get to the A-10s, win A-10s, and get to the NCAAs. I believe this is the team.
The GW seniors have emerged in this emotional season and put the Colonials in their best postseason positioning in years.
After all the early practices and hard work all season, the team is just two wins away from its ultimate goal. It is a goal that could very well go through Dayton and then, in the final A-10 game for five splendid seniors, Alma Kovaci and Temple.