The good thing about opening up conference play in Ohio is getting games against conference powerhouses Xavier and Dayton out of the way. The bad thing is having to play Xavier (10-5, 1-0 A-10) and Dayton (12-4, 1-1 A-10).
But the GW volleyball team (10-5, 1-0 A-10) met the challenge, splitting its road trip with a five-game victory over Dayton Saturday evening after dropping a hard-fought match to Xavier Friday night.
“Anytime you travel, getting a split is great,” head coach Jojit Coronel said. “And starting in Ohio, even if you go 0-2 you can say, ‘hey we started in Ohio.'”
Despite losing the conference opener Friday, Coronel said he thought his team played well and was competitive and consistent in both five-game matches.
“Just being GW, we bring out the best in teams,” he said. “We were bound to play five games against those teams.”
Coronel said splitting the weekend against Xavier and defending Atlantic 10 champion Dayton sets his team in a positive frame of mind for the rest of conference play.
“Xavier and Dayton are the top two teams in the A-10, and (getting a split) puts us in a position to say ‘hey we can win the conference,'” he said.
Junior outside hitter Sarah Hokom was instrumental in the Colonials’ weekend success, notching a career-high 25 kills against Xavier on Friday and recording her fifth consecutive double-double of the season with 19 kills and 16 digs Saturday.
“Hokom matured on Friday,” Coronel said. “She was a go-to player, she was going to terminate the ball. She was either going to kill it or make it difficult for the opponent to kill it.”
The Colonials will get a break from the conference elite next Friday, when they face up-and-coming La Salle at home. The Explorers finished last in the conference last year, but have one of the better freshmen classes, Coronel said, and are not to be overlooked.
“Now our focus is how we deal with the results we want,” he said. “We need to prepare ourselves everyday to win, and need to play everyday to win. We shouldn’t feel uncomfortable in winning position (anymore),” Coronel said.
GW 3, Datyon 2
Saturday, Sept. 28
The Colonials snapped defending A-10 champion Dayton’s seven-game winning streak and handed the Flyer’s their first home loss of the season with a 3-2 victory Saturday. Unlike the previous day’s loss to Xavier that saw the Colonials squander an early 2-0 lead, GW stayed consistent and maintained pressure throughout.
“When you’re up you have to keep putting on the pressure, you can’t give them any leeway to get back up,” Coronel said.
After dropping a close first game 28-30, the Colonials took the next two 30-26, 30-28. Coronel said his team stayed aggressive despite dropping the fourth game 19-30, winning the final game 15-11 and taking the match.
“We kept on taking swings and made them make a lot of errors,” he said. “Every time we had the opportunity to take a swing at the ball we made the most of it.”
Along with Hokom’s double-double, junior outside hitter Ruth Lazarri led the team with 19 kills and 13 digs. She committed just four hitting errors in her 44 swings for a match-high .341 attack percentage. Coronel said Lazarri played more aggressively Saturday than she did Friday, and was a key factor in the Colonials’ success.
“(Lazarri’s) role has changed. Last year, she was definitely the go-to player. Now, we have so many good players that she is more consistent and she is one of the silent leaders,” Coronel said. “She will come up with the play when it’s counted on.”
Xavier 3, GW 2
Friday, Sept. 27
The Colonials jumped out to an early two-game lead in their conference opener against last year’s A-10 tournament champion Xavier Friday, but dropped the last three matches en route to a 3-2 loss. The Musketeers and Colonials were evenly matched in kills (69-69) and practically equal in errors (31-24), attack percentage (.184-.172) and defensive digs (92-91), but Xavier’s aggressiveness allowed them to muscle out the win, Coronel said.
“We smoked them in the first two games then they changed their tactics and we weren’t as aggressive,” Coronel said. “Their ball control got better and we lightened up in our serving. They were a little more aggressive in attacking.”
Hokom’s fourth-straight double-double included 25 kills and 14 digs, while Lazarri tied a career-high dig total with 26 and added 13 kills. Freshman Lindsey Vernand also tallied a double-double with 11 kills and a career-high 22 digs.
Coronel said despite the loss, his team learned from the game.
“It was an amazing weekend,” he said. “It would have been a great experience to sweep, but for our team it was even better to split because Friday was a learning experience.”