Despite a brief flurry of success, the Colonials’ early season woes continued this weekend.
After tallying its second win in a row in Wednesday’s home opener against UMBC, GW (2-9) hoped to carry some of that confidence into the Spring Hill Suites at Arundel Mills Invitational.
But once again, the Colonials found themselves departing a road competition winless, falling to No. 16 Tennessee as well as Maryland in straight sets, before losing to Boston College 3-1 in their finale.
“Even though our record is what it is, we’re learning a ton right now,” head coach Amanda Ault said. “We’re really going through adversity, and I know it’s gonna be a good thing for us later down the road, because we’ve already gone through it.”
In Friday’s matchup against Tennessee, the Colonials fell victim to a Volunteer defense that totaled 12 team blocks and forced 22 errors in the match. This, along with GW’s lackluster .127 attack percentage was enough for the sweep by scores of 20-25, 22-25 and 16-25.
The Colonials’ best chance to stop Tennessee’s momentum came in the second set when they hit a match-high .256, but some late clutch kills helped seal the win for the Volunteers. Senior hitter Lauren Whyte was the bright spot for the Colonials, recording 14 kills and nine digs, while sophomore Kelsey Newman added nine kills and seven digs of her own.
“Friday night, we really battled,” Ault said. “That’s something we’ve been talking about up to this point, just going in and playing our game and seeing what happens. It showed them that we can play at a high level – we just need to be consistent.”
Saturday’s match against Maryland brought to light another key issue that GW faces: allowing early leads. In the first set, GW let the Terrapins jump out to a commanding 8-1 advantage, forcing the Colonials to go on a 7-2 run of their own just to keep it close. Maryland, who hit .387 in the set, would eventually score seven of the final 10 points to secure the win 25-18. It was a hole that Ault said underlined the Colonials’ need to establish dominance early in the match.
“The biggest obstacle for us is putting ourselves in a hole early in the game,” Ault said. “To our credit, we fight back, and we’re even the game, but if we could just establish ourselves early and do that throughout the games, they would go much differently.”
The Colonials were able to win their first set of the tournament in their final match against Boston College. A 7-0 Colonial run helped the team take a 21-19 lead and then a small 3-0 run allowed them to take the first set 25-21. But BC returned with a vengeance, winning the second set 25-23 and then using a 14-7 closing run to take the third set 25-17.
GW did everything it could to try and force a deciding fifth set, but another early 9-2 hole put the team in a bind. Despite a late 24-23 advantage, the Eagles closed out strong to end the match 28-26. Freshman setter Jessica Lubic posted a double-double for the Colonials with 42 assists and 13 digs, while senior libero Candace Silva-Martin solidified GW’s defense with 18 digs of her own. Despite the three losses in the tournament, Ault was positive about the effort and discipline her players showed.
“This past weekend, you know the win-losses don’t really show it, but we did take a big step,” Ault said. “We played some pretty high-level volleyball. We’re still just missing that last piece of really putting it all together to get those wins.”
Looking ahead, the Colonials will face their next five opponents at home, a change of pace from the 10 road matches they’ve already played thus far. Ault sees this as a time to further the progress the team has made over the past few weeks and continue to get comfortable with one another on the court.
“We talked yesterday about taking steps forward and taking steps backwards, and if you continue to do that, you’re not going to go anywhere,” Ault said. “We did some good things this weekend, but now we have to build on them and continue to move forward, because A-10’s is right around the corner.”