Volleyball starts slow, tops VCU in four sets

In its 3-1 win over Virginia Commonwealth Tuesday night, the volleyball team at times struggled, falling behind in each of the first two sets before making comebacks that resulted in wins.

It’s been a standard pattern for GW (12-6, 1-0 Atlantic 10) for much of the year: Trail early, come back late for the win. It’s a tough way to win games, even tougher without the help of senior Leah Hill and freshman Hillary DeCari, both sidelined with injuries against the Rams.

Winning the way they do requires the Colonials to play with a certain level of familiarity that teams in any sport struggle to find. For GW, though, the team need only look at a pair of its own players.

While the Colonials’ stat sheet from their team’s win against the Rams might seem modest, sisters MacKenzie and Taylor Knox gave the Colonials an edge Tuesday night, playing together as if the two had been teammates for years. It’s that kind of relationship that head coach Jojit Coronel says makes his team better.

“They really are best friends,” Coronel said. “The best part is that they play different positions. They play well off of each other and they really do make a positive impact on our team.”

MacKenzie and Taylor Knox combined for five kills against the Rams Tuesday night. The Colonials were led by freshman outside hitter Rachael Goss, who set a career high with 15 kills. Sophomore Lauren Whyte added 14 kills of her own while sophomore Candace Silva-Martin paced the team with 18 digs.

But even with the typically strong performance from Whyte and a career night from Goss, the team’s struggle to compensate for the absence of Hill and DeCari was obvious.

“We played well today, but we are still a very young team,” Coronel said. “We have injuries. A lot of young players are seeing time; girls are playing out of position due to injuries. This will lead to some sloppy play.”

GW opened the match with a back-and-forth set against VCU, fighting through five lead changes and eight ties before earning the 25-23 win. In the second set, the Colonials overcame an early 6-1 deficit, tying the game at 14 and scoring 11 of the game’s final 17 points for the win.

GW dropped its only set in the third, falling 25-15. After losing its chance to sweep the Rams, the Colonials powered through the fourth set, never trailing in their 25-17 win.

With VCU and the rest of their non-conference slate behind them, the Colonials – who have won four of their last five contests – will look to bring that success into Atlantic 10 play.

“It’s always great when you can end your non-conference schedule with a win. The win against VCU will give us confidence when we play against teams like Duquesne and Saint Louis,” Coronel said. “Right now, we want to be a top three team in the Atlantic 10. That is our goal.”

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