One year ago, no one on the GW women’s volleyball team had any Atlantic 10 tournament experience, and the Colonials had failed to qualify for the conference postseason for three consecutive seasons. But that drought ended last year with an appearance in Charlotte, N.C. as the tournament’s sixth seed.
Their stay in the South did not last long, as the Colonials were ousted by Saint Louis in the first round. But with last year’s run under their belts, junior co-captain Abby Syverson said, the current Colonials are setting themselves up for a deeper tournament run.
“(Last year) gave us the confidence that we could at least get there and know what it’s like to be there,” she said.
Syverson said an A-10 East division title would be an important stepping stone toward the ultimate goal: an A-10 championship. An East Division title gets GW a first-round bye in the postseason tournament, inching the Colonials closer to the conference title.
That may sound like a lofty goal for a program only one year removed from having a senior class without postseason experience, but head coach Jojit Coronel thinks this season’s team has advantages over the 2007 incarnation.
“I think this year’s team has a lot more depth,” said Coronel, who is in his ninth year as the program’s head coach. “We’re very athletic in the middle.”
That strong middle contingent is headed by Syverson, who is joined by junior Katie Butz, sophomore Katie Zulandt and freshman MacKenzie Knox. Knox is one of five first-year players, along with Anna Iofin, Alyssa Valentine, Jenny O’Brien and Alex Coward. Knox and Valentine played extensively in this past weekend’s D.C. Challenge event, with the latter already earning A-10 Co-Rookie of the Week honors.
“This past weekend is a good indication,” Coronel said of his freshmen. “They’re going to make a considerable impact on our program.”
GW currently sits at 2-1 after the first weekend of play, beating American and George Mason before falling to Georgetown. Their next test will come this weekend at the Penn State Invitational, where they will meet the defending national champion hosts and Villanova. Syverson said the meeting with the Nittany Lions has the team the most excited.
“There’s a lot of motivation because no one is expecting us to win,” Syverson said. “We can just go out there and play as hard as we can and give it everything and just see what happens.”
Coronel said the team’s non-conference tournaments are scheduled to prepare for the conference schedule. That portion of play ends when the Colonials kick off their regular season with a Sept. 26 trip to Duquesne before traveling to Saint Louis to meet the preseason conference favorites.
“I think we stack up pretty well,” Coronel said. “We just have to be mindful of injuries and be mindful to take it one game at a time.”