The Colonials needed an injection of confidence.
After a rigorous seven-game stretch on the road to open the season, one that ended with a disappointing 1-6 record, GW (2-6) needed to put a tough batch of opponents behind and look ahead to the rest of the season. The familiarity of the home court provided the jolt the team needed, setting the stage for GW to defeat UMBC 3-2 in the Colonials’ home opener.
“Playing at home is awesome. You have our fans here, friends, family there to support us,” senior Lauren Whyte said. “We knew that protecting our house was definitely a big goal and something that we needed to do.”
The Colonials, who had just completed back-to-back tournaments in Indiana and Wyoming, had a more confident air during their first home match of the 2012 season. Early on, GW took control with a commanding .414 attack percentage to ultimately take the first set 25-15.
But the second set was less sure, a heightened back-and-forth battle until the Retrievers were able to pull away for a 25-19 win. UMBC took the set based mainly on the strength of its defense, hitting only a .211 attack percentage, but holding GW to a .111 attack percentage. Still, head coach Amanda Ault said, her team remained confident on its home court.
“I think it was something that gave us a little bit of a sigh of relief,” Ault said. “Coming home, been on the road two weeks, we’ve had hard competition, so I know that they were looking forward to getting back in here and having their friends and their fans and the community behind them.”
The Colonials got out to an early 8-4 advantage in the third set, forcing a UMBC timeout. The Retrievers rallied to tie the game at 16 apiece, before the Colonials eked out a narrow 26-24 win. But given some momentum with the brief tie, UMBC forced a decisive fifth set with a dominant 25-16 win in the fourth set, solidified by an 11-0 run down the stretch.
The Colonials were not about to be overthrown on their home court. The final set belonged to GW, which dominated with a .556 attack percentage en route to a 15-7 win, sealing the team’s second victory of the young season. Like the win that preceded it, Ault said, Wednesday night’s victory showed a cohesive team effort.
“People have had to step up and play different positions and it happened again tonight,” she said. “I think that they are figuring out that the six people that are on the floor just need to come together.”
As a team, the Colonials had a .170 attack percentage on the game. After the shaky start to the season, GW’s back-to-back victories proved its need to maintain focus on the court, Ault said.
Whyte paced all players with 19 kills, while also adding 13 digs in the winning effort. Redshirt freshman Jessica Lubic had a match-high 51 assists, while senior Candace Silva-Martin led all players with 17 digs.
“Right now we find that we are having a little bit of a roller coaster,” Whyte said. “And I think that all we have to do is just make sure that we tighten up on the little things and keep our energy and focus there throughout the game.”