The Colonials were in a tight position late last month.
The volleyball team had just dropped two games on the road to A-10 rivals Xavier and Dayton, putting their slot in the upcoming league tournament in jeopardy. With only four games left after the disappointing road trip, GW couldn’t afford any missteps.
But when head coach Amanda Ault told her team that going to the Atlantic 10 championship – for the first time in three years – was their end goal, it was taken seriously. The next two times GW (20-9, 9-6 A-10) took to the court, they posted victories over Saint Louis and Duquesne, cementing their place in the tournament.
“Going into the tournament is like a new season – win or go home. Tournament time is an exciting time. Tournament time brings whole new life,” said Ault.
The season has been a rollercoaster for the Colonials. In the beginning of the season, GW posted a thrilling 10-game win streak. But then the team had their streak snapped at the University of San Diego tournament, losing five straight games before picking up another victory.
GW was determined to overcome its challenges, posting another five-game win streak in the middle of the season and shaking off whenever it walked away from the court without a victory. Battling back from disappointment has been important for the team, senior MacKenzie Knox said, and has provided it with motivation all season.
“I am the only senior, so I fill a big leadership role. I feel I took it very positively with trying to make the team feel great about themselves,” Knox said. “As we’ve gone through the season, our confidence has gone up a lot, and has helped us when games even when the odds were against us.”
Now, the Colonials turn to face the challenge that lies ahead. A key to success in the tournament, Knox said, will be the energy level that GW brings to the court.
She pointed out that the team has been more successful when it approaches a game with an excited outlook, bringing its own motivation to the court.
“As a team, we need to focus on bringing high energy. When we have high energy we’re pretty unstoppable. When we’re on, we’re on,” said Knox.
Ault agreed, pointing to a lack of energy as a culprit in some of the Colonials’ losses this season.
“We’ve got to make sure we bring the aggressiveness and energy because that’s how you grab momentum. You keep the server there for as long as you can,” said Ault.
But Ault knows earning a spot in the championship is only half the battle. The Colonials have struggled on the road this season – although they posted a 12-1 record at home, their road record is at 6-6 and at neutral sites, 2-2. The upcoming tournament is hosted by Dayton, and the first thing the Colonials will need to do is shake any doubts about playing on the road. The playing field should be more level at the championship, Ault said, because most teams won’t be at their own home courts.
Ault also explained that, as a team, the Colonials must work harder to manage what sometimes seems uncontrollable. Her team can make up for points or decisions that look out of their hands by posting strong plays that make the rest of the competition insignificant. Part of that strategy will be supported by GW’s depth off the bench, Ault said, a factor that’s been important for the Colonials this season.
“Our depth has played a very important part in our season and will continue to be. We need to be heading into the tournament 15 strong. Everyone plays a role,” Ault said.
The No. 4 seed Colonials will kick tournament play off with a match against No. 5 seed Duquesne Friday, Nov. 18. The two squads have met twice this season, with each team winning once, and the Colonials are eager to take the court against the Dukes again.
“Our team is feels very confident. We have a great chance to win against Duquesne and we’re just really excited for this opportunity,” Knox said.