The volleyball team was just three points away from victory Saturday afternoon, up 22-19 in the final set, when George Mason pulled within two points of GW.
The Colonials huddled on the floor, talking quickly and intently as they regrouped. It only took them a few seconds to agree upon a plan and return to their position, staring across the net as they awaited Mason’s next move.
The Patriots sent the ball rocketing across the net, but freshman Christy Harper slammed home a block that sent the ball spinning back across to Mason’s side, again putting the Colonials up by three. Sophomores Jamie Armstrong and Rachael Goss capitalized on the opportunity, adding two points of their own to ensure a set victory, cementing GW’s 3-1 victory.
It was the second victory in as many days for the Colonials (2-0), who posted a 3-1 win over American Friday night, snapping the Eagles’ 19-match home-winning streak, the seventh longest in the nation. The Colonials hit .255 in the match, holding American to a .218 attack percentage.
Head coach Amanda Ault, in her first season at the helm of the program, said a strong start in the D.C. Challenge will help her team’s focus as they continue in the season. It’s an immediate, strong impression, she said, that shows the Colonials are focused and prepared for play.
“We wanted to really make an impact this first weekend. It’s the D.C. Challenge, so taking care of your hometown is big and that’s been a focus of ours through preseason,” Ault said.
Tantamount to the Colonials success were veteran presences on the court, all of who provide an extra edge of leadership. Ault looks to these players to lead the rest of the team in minimizing their errors and controlling the offensive aspects of the game.
Junior Lauren Whyte is one of the crucial veterans taking the court for the Colonials, Ault said. Whyte, who led the league in points and kills last year, continued to impress in GW’s first two matches of the 2011 season. Against American, which saw the largest collegiate volleyball crowd in District history, she posted a game-high 19 kills. Whyte added a double-double against George Mason, leading all players with 22 kills and 12 digs.
Ault demands intense effort from every member of her team – not just the standout upperclassmen. Against the Patriots, GW hit .230 on 64 kills in 174 attempts, holding George Mason to a .182 attack percentage.
GW’s cohesion is clear on the court, the team rapidly and effectively drawing up plans to create a formidable presence. The coaching staff puts a “concerted effort” on communication, Ault said, recognizing it as key to successful play. She attributed the team’s chemistry to the efforts of its veterans, a sentiment backed up by Whyte.
“It’s nice because we come in the preseason and we have two weeks where we don’t have to worry about anything school related, so we get a good chance to come in and really become a cohesive unit,” Whyte said.
The Colonials will now look to carry that communication with them as they seek to further their weekend success. Next up, the team hosts Howard Aug. 30, facing another District-rival after their success at the D.C. Challenge.