Volleyball wins GMU invitational

The GW volleyball team made its season debut a successful one this weekend, winning all three of its matches to finish as the only undefeated team at George Mason’s Patriot Invitational.

The Colonials used superior depth to beat Fairfield University 3-0 on Saturday after defeating the University of Cincinnati 3-1 and George Mason 3-2 on Friday. While the Colonials did not play every team in the field, their perfect mark made them the winners of the tournament.

“The advantage we had over all those teams was our depth,” GW head coach Jojit Coronel said. “We have 14 players who compete everyday in practice. Cincinnati’s starting six was strong, but in the heat of that gym we were able to make some substitutions and keep our girls fresh.”

Rotating among many players, the Colonials got contributions from young and old at GMU’s John Linn Arena. Sophomore Lindsey Vernand, the 2002 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, had 11 kills and eight digs against Fairfield, as GW swept the Stags 30-20, 30-27 and 30-20.

Senior Laura Harrison led GW with 15 kills over Cincinnati, one of the strongest teams at the tournament. Coronel said Harrison’s performance was one of the best aspects of the weekend for him.

“She is playing the best ball I’ve ever seen from her,” he said. “And I don’t think its something that she’s just playing out of her mind. Over four years she’s gotten stronger and learned how to play volleyball the way I’d like her to play.”

The victory over Cincinnati featured big comebacks in games one and two. In the opener, GW trailed 27-22 before rallying to beat the Bearcats 35-33. The Colonials then put together a similar surge to take game two, 31-29. After losing game three 30-17, GW finished off Cincinnati in game four, 30-24.

GW’s toughest test came in its opening match of the tournament in a seesaw battle against host George Mason. The Patriots took game one, 30-28, but GW came back to win game two, 30-18. After GMU won game three, 30-24, the Colonials responded again with a 30-24 win of their own. In the fifth and deciding game, GW prevailed 15-13.

Seniors Sarah Hokom and Lauren Dunning were both named to the All-Tournament Team, while freshmen Kelly Kabbes started her first collegiate matches. Coronel said the diversity in ages and extreme depth of the Colonials will be an advantage all year.

“Right now, our seniors are leading and they’ll continue to lead,” he said. “But I’m hoping that because they are leading, our younger kids will just compete even more and won’t settle for not playing, because they’re too good not to play. And that just makes us better compared to other teams in the country.”

GW returns to action Friday and Saturday, when the Colonials host the George Washington Invitational at the Smith Center. The field will include Villanova University, Lafayette College and Coppin State College.

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