After watching his team lose a two-set lead in a five-set loss to Duquesne two weeks ago, women’s volleyball head coach Jojit Coronel knew his team had changes to make if it was going to be successful in the Atlantic 10.
“I think the attitude on the team [now] is a little bit different,” Coronel said. “We spoke to a few key players on the team after that Duquesne match and we just talked about leadership on the court and setting a standard and whose team this is and it helped.”
“Helped” might be an understatement. Since losing to the Dukes, the Colonials have won five straight matches, all of them conference games, capped off this weekend by 3-0 sweeps over La Salle Friday night and Temple Sunday at the Smith Center. While GW(17-7, 6-1 A-10) has at times struggled early on in games this season, the Colonials had no such problems Sunday, topping the Owls 25-11 in the first set and winning the second and third sets by scores of 25-17 and 25-21. Earlier in the season, Coronel said, his team might have relaxed with a lead. Sunday, GW poured it on.
“If we want to be an elite team in our conference we have to take everything seriously,” Coronel said. “Even teams like Temple or La Salle, when we’re hammering a team, rolling a team, we need to be very professional about what we’re doing.”
Winning matches in three sets was a pleasant change for GW, which hadn’t swept an opponent since Sept. 24 at Howard.
“Those five-gamers, you know you’re good and you can compete at a high level against really good teams, but winning the last two in three lets you know that you never let up. A team really has to play at a high level to beat you,” Coronel said. “La Salle and Temple, we didn’t allow them to get that opportunity.”
The Colonials were led offensively against Temple by sophomore Lauren Whyte, who had 14 kills. Junior MacKenzie Knox and senior Katie Zulandt each tied for second on the team in kills with eight apiece. Sophomore Candace Silva-Martin had 11 digs to pace GW on defense.
The wins couldn’t have come at a better time for the Colonials, who will travel to Ohio next week to take on No. 19 Dayton (Bison/AVCA) and Xavier on back-to-back nights. GW currently sits second in the A-10 standings, sandwiched between the conference-leading Flyers and the Musketeers.
With a win over Dayton, the Colonials could pull even with the Flyers for first place in the conference, but with at least one more match against Dayton on the schedule plus a potential A-10 tournament contest still on the schedule, Coronel said he wants to make sure his team doesn’t treat Friday’s game as more important than it is.
“I think knowing we’re No. 2 in our conference right now, solidly at No. 2, and being able to overtake Dayton solidly, I think it’s an opportunity we’ve been looking for all year. To be top in this conference, you got to beat Dayton,” he said. “My perspective is, I want to make sure to win the war and not worry about the battle. No matter what happens, we’re gonna be prepared for Dayton this weekend. If there’s a win we’re gonna get against Dayton and that’s the only one we want, it’s gonna be in the A-10s.”
Senior and Ohio native Katie Zulandt agreed with her coach and said she was looking forward to taking on the teams from her home state.
“We know that it’s not gonna be a walk in the park and we know that these teams are gonna be tough, but we’re ready for it. I think everybody on the court has the confidence now and realizes that we are a good team, that Dayton’s good but we’re right there with them,” she said. “I think we’re gonna go in there and really take it to them. I’m excited for it.”