Only four players were on the GW volleyball team when the squad made its last Atlantic 10 Tournament appearance in 2000 and only one current member was a starter. But while this weekend’s tournament appearance might seem like a new experience, head coach Jojit Coronel said it will be no different than the rest of the season.
“This whole season is all a new experience to everybody so the tournament game will be like any other match we play,” Coronel said.
The Colonials (18-12, 8-6 A-10) have come a long way since last year’s seventh-place finish, a fact that Coronel credits to his team’s outlook all season – taking a light attitude, remaining confident and playing one game at a time.
“It’s really been a whole team effort this year,” he said. “I realized it’s about fun for them. They want to win, but when they’re competitive they have fun.”
As the third seed in the tournament, the Colonials will face No. 2 Dayton (22-6, 11-3 A-10) in first-round action at Xavier’s Cintas Center Friday night. No. 1 Temple and No. 4 Xavier will play in the other semifinal match. Coronel said all four of these teams are tightly matched.
The Colonials split their two previous contests with Dayton this season, split with Xavier and suffered two hard-fought losses to Temple. Because of the closeness of the competition, Coronel said the title is anyone’s for the taking.
“All these teams have had nail-biters against each other this season,” he said. “We know (No. 1 Temple) can be beaten. Whoever can wake up and turn on their engines will come out with the match.”
Dayton is no stranger to the A-10 Tournament but also is no stranger to upsets. The Flyers entered the tournament as the number one seed last year after finishing first in the A-10 but were upset by No. 4 Temple in the semifinals. Coronel said he thinks his team could pull off a similar upset.
“We are going to be looked at as the underdogs,” he said. “They’ve been in this position before and they’ve been upset before. Hopefully Dayton will continue to do what they do every year – lose when they are supposed to win.”
The biggest threat Dayton brings is fast speed of play and physical athletes, but GW’s last game against Rhode Island was fast paced, preparing the Colonials well for tournament play, Coronel said.