For sophomore volleyball player Shannon Parks, the team goals for this season are simple after last year’s second place finish at the Atlantic 10 Championship.
“We want to defeat Temple, our rival, and take the A-10 Title.”
With that goal in mind, the Colonials started the season impressively, winning their first three matches to finish as the only undefeated team at the Patriot Invitational. The keys to that success should prove to be GW’s strengths all year.
“We have the best team chemistry and closeness on and off the court in our conference, and our depth in incredible,” said sophomore Lindsey Vernand, last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year. “Anyone can be on the court at any given time and help our team win.”
With 14 strong players, the Colonials were able to routinely substitute fresh players at the hot George Mason gym in late August, staying fresh while other teams became fatigued. A deep roster also enhances practice as the team can have competitive intra-squad scrimmages at a high level of play.
This depth will be needed to battle a tough schedule, which may be the team’s biggest obstacle. GW faces big-name programs in Santa Clara University, Duke University and the University of South Carolina during the third weekend of September and also plays eight out of nine straight games on the road starting in early October.
“Our weakness will be the busy schedule,” said Parks, a member of the A-10 All-Conference Rookie Team last year. “We’ll have a constant high level of competition and we’ll have to remain on top of our game, even after several away weekends later in the year.”
During those tough stretches, the team will rely on senior leadership in the form of co-captains Lauren Dunning and Sarah Hokom, along with classmates Laura Harrison and Ruth Lazzari. While last year’s team finished 19-13 without a single senior, this year’s senior class is the strongest head coach Jojit Coronel said he has seen since his first year at GW in 2000.
. “These seniors are just as good, if not better, than the 2000 team that won A-10’s,” he said. “They are leaders to the team and they are determined to take the title back. With such strong seniors, hard working sophomores and juniors, and our fresh recruits, this team will prosper.”
If the Colonials are going to truly live up to their expectations, they’ll have to go through Temple, which beat GW in the A-10 Championship match last year, three games to one. The Colonials host the Owls in their last regular season match on Nov. 15, six days before the A-10 Tournament begins.
“(Beating Temple) would be icing on the cake for the seniors because it will be senior night,” Coronel said. “But I’m confident we’ll be the number one seed (in the A-10 Tournament) regardless of what happens, and I feel bad for whoever has to play us.”
For now, the team continues to practice a lot of technique work and treat every practice like a competition, constantly preparing to avenge their loss to Temple and earn the bonus that comes with an A-10 Title – an NCAA Tournament berth.