Road competition is a unique challenge in itself, forcing teams to play their best in unfamiliar and hostile environments. Completing a seven-game road swing to open the season is an entirely different animal, as the Colonials learned over the past two weekends.
The volleyball team, fresh off the Mortar Board Invitational in Lafayette, Ind., took the court for four more matches at the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic in Laramie, Wyo. GW (1-6) stumbled over the first three matches, but eventually tallied its first victory of the season with a 3-0 victory over Bethune-Cookman.
Head coach Amanda Ault said the team’s losing skid, which was finally snapped this weekend, provides some room for growth in the face of disappointment.
“We’ve played some really good competition. So we’re finding out a lot of things about ourselves and we’re working through things,” Ault said.
The Colonials started the tournament with two games on Friday, against Florida Gulf Coast and Wyoming, both ending in 3-0 defeats. Despite a strong effort from senior Lauren Whyte, who stuffed the stat sheet with 12 kills, four digs, one ace and a block, GW couldn’t overcome Florida Gulf. And against Wyoming, the team’s faltering -.011 attack percentage lead to a defeat in straight sets.
The tournament continued Saturday, with the Colonials opening the day’s play in a tight match against UMKC. GW fell in a 3-2 decision after forcing a fifth set that saw the Wildcats explode out with momentum on their side, enough to eventually overcome the Colonials.
But GW was able to pick up its first victory over Bethune-Cookman Saturday, tallying a straight-sets win that saw the team’s upperclassmen rise to the occasion with strong performances. That leadership, Ault said, will be key this year.
“[It’s] going to be very, very important for us this year just having our upperclassmen step up,” Ault said. “They need to provide that stability within our team.”
Against Bethune-Cookman, GW went up 5-0 in the first set on an explosive run, holding off the surging Wildcats to eke out a three-point set victory. The Colonials held BCU to -.074 attack percentage in the second set, forcing six attack errors en route to victory. And in the third set, GW overcame a slow start with a 5-1 run, forcing a timeout before ultimately continuing its hot streak for a 25-21 advantage down the stretch.
Whyte and sophomore Kelsey Newman provided a dominant attack for the Colonials against the Wildcats. Whyte led all players with eleven digs, and Newman recorded 18 kills in the squad’s first match win of the season. Redshirt freshman Jessica Lubic also stepped up, tallying 34 assists. Their performances, and the team’s attention to detail, solidified the victory, Ault said.
“We continue to learn that we have to do the little things to be able to make what we want to do happen,” Ault said.
Aside from a tough schedule, the Colonials are also hampered by injuries to their roster. Three members of the team are sidelined, including senior defensive specialist Christie Harper with a lower body injury, sophomore Landon Garvik with a hand injury and freshman Alexa Huntey, with a leg injury.
The substitutions from the roster have added another challenge to an already relatively inexperienced roster, Newman said.
“We definitely have an extremely young roster, and a lot of injuries, too, have forced a lot of the younger girls to step into positions that they are not even used to playing,” Newman said.
With the first win of the season tallied, the Colonials head home to take to the court in the Smith Center. With its first home match of the season scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. against UMBC, the team is ready to return to Foggy Bottom.
“I think everyone is excited to finally get to play on our home court,” Newman said.