They want to be the best. Never mind this eager freshmen class joins a volleyball program that has only one returning starter. A program that lost six seniors to graduation, one sophomore to injury and a freshman who transferred. Most importantly, never mind the zero in the win column.
This freshmen class of six is hungry for success, and they said not even inexperience will get in their way.
“(Being young) is not an excuse for anything. We want to win A-10’s this year,” freshman Katie Downey said.
But winning is easier said than done. The Colonials, now six matches into the season, remain winless. And it is naive to overlook some statistics.
The 2001 Colonials have gone from the conference’s oldest team to its youngest. There’s just one senior, Shannon Farley. Of its six sophomores, Ruth Lazzari is the team’s only returning starter. The captain, Lauren Dunning, played in 88 games last year but rarely started.
The freshmen maintain they have what it takes to win: leadership and a strong bond.
“There still is leadership,” said Britta Stroman, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Edina, Minn. “Coming in with six sophomores that have had a year of experience longer than we have, there’s still very much leadership. People like Ruth (Lazzari) and Lauren (Dunning) have fulfilled those leadership roles.”
“A lot of the sophomores have taken us under their wings,” Downey said. “They were freshmen last year so they know what we’re going through. We’re growing together.”
The players say they have a closer bond even though they’ve only played together for a month.
“I think we’re very close; even closer this year than last year,” Stroman said. “Last year we had such an age difference between six seniors and six freshmen. There was no middle.”
“I think we’ve really made an effort to bond outside of the volleyball court,” Downey said. “We’ve gone out and done things on our own. We want to be a tight team and I think we’ve achieved that already.”
The Colonials, who have yet to win a match, are second to last in the A-10 standings. But the Colonials’ current standing has not ruined their optimism. In a rebuilding year, they said statistics are meaningless. The freshmen remain positive and see this season as a learning experience.
“Granted we’re young, but (losing) just pushes us to be better,”Stroman said. “We take each game and each practice as an opportunity to get better, to focus on the things we may not have done as well, and focus on those things and get better at those things.”
And it’s a strong freshmen class that did not wait long to contribute.
In GW’s 3-0 loss to the University of Illinois Sept. 1, freshman middle hitter Amanda Carnahan ended her day hitting .400 with five kills in 10 attempts while committing just one error. The middle blocker recorded a solo block and assisted on two blocks.
Molly Law recorded seven kills in GMU’s 3-0 defeat of GW Aug. 31. Stroman added five kills in that game and six kills a day later in a 3-0 loss to the College of William and Mary.
The Colonials will have a difficult time repeating, because no conference team has suffered as devastating a loss as GW. Conference-rival Xavier brings back five seniors, including last year’s A-10 player of the year, Sara Bachus.
Dayton, who finished fourth in the A-10 last season, has two returning starters, both members of the All Conference Team: senior Katie Ferriell and junior Susan Westbrock.
Coronel, with just one year of head coach experience, knows it’s his role to guide the young team and to remain patient and optimistic with them.
He’s coming off a year in which five of his six seniors, who have now graduated, were starters.
Last year’s team won 25 games, including the A-10 title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
“Its my responsibility to individually let them know these are their roles and they’re doing well,” Coronel said. “As long as we show promise, and as long as the girls realize consistency is going to be the key to being successful, whether they win or lose, they’ll be fired up every time.”