Volleyball head coach Jojit Coronel expects to win this year’s GW Invitational, despite competition that includes Big East Conference powerhouse Rutgers University and 2001 NCAA qualifier Liberty University.
“I expect us to use the competition to challenge ourselves and execute at a level that counts,” Coronel said. “The competition (at the Invite) is very good to very poor, but it doesn’t matter. You still need to play up to your level.”
The “good” is Rutgers (1-2), a program named third best in the Big East Conference in 2002 preseason rankings. The Scarlet Knights return five starters from last year’s team that finished 17-6 (10-7 Big East), tied for second in the Big East.
Liberty (1-2), a team that has captured three Big South Conference titles in the past five years, is looking to become the first Big South team to claim both a conference title and an NCAA berth in back-to-back seasons. The Flames, who finished 21-11 (11-3 Big South) last season, lost five seniors to graduation but a versatile group of incoming freshmen should provide for a smooth transition.
“The poor” GW will face is Morgan State University (0-3) and the University of Radford (1-3). The Colonials will enter the tournament as the only team with a winning record.
Despite the loss of 2001 star Britta Stroman, a sophomore middle hitter who is rehabilitating her shoulder from surgery last spring, Coronel is confident his mix of veterans and new blood will execute well. Returning starters Ruth Lazzari and Sarah Hokum, who combined for 39 kills in GW’s last match, will lead the team. Freshmen Lindsey Vernand, who posted 18 kills and 16 digs in the last match, will add extra depth.
“Contributions are going to balance experience and effort from the veterans and freshmen,” Coronel said.
Coronel said he will use this year’s two-day, four-game tournament to get a few games under his team’s belt and work out the finer details of his team’s play. He said unlike last season, he does not need to completely rebuild, but will work on improving everyday.
“It’s not like we need an overhaul,” he said.
Last year the team did need an overhaul at this point in the season. The 2001 team had only one senior and only one returning starter after losing six graduating seniors.
At this point in the season, the team was 0-3 and would not win their first match until conference play began Sept. 18.
Last year’s GW Invite, Sept. 14 – 15, was cancelled because of its proximity to Sept. 11. Coronel said that while losing the opportunity to play an extra three matches did not improve the team, the cancellation did not make or break the season.
“It’s good that we didn’t play,” he said. “The primary thing is the safety of our kids.”
This article appeared in the September 5, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.