It was a win 11 months in the making.
After being ousted by Duquesne in the first round of last year’s A-10 conference tournament, GW was looking for revenge against the Dukes. And despite dropping the first set 25-21, the Colonials rallied to sweep the next three sets and take the match 3-1.
“From the first day of practice – the first day of preseason – this was one of our goals,” freshman Alexis Huntley said. “I think everything just came together finally, and the revenge had a lot to do with that.”
In addition to satisfying last season’s lingering blow, the win put an end to Duquesne’s six-match winning streak and handed the Dukes their first loss of the season in conference play.
The statement victory was significant for a Colonials squad that played through a challenging non-conference schedule, struggling to find confidence through the early months of the season.
“I thought it was huge for us to take out Duquesne, who was in the top two in the conference,” Huntley said. “It’s a huge step for us, and I think we’re really going to feed off of it for the rest of the year.”
The first set in Friday’s match saw Duquesne quickly jump out to a 20-15 advantage, backing up the team’s first-place ranking in the conference. GW fought back though, using a 6-3 run to make the score 23-21, but the Dukes ultimately won the final two points to secure an early 1-0 lead.
Duquesne ended the set with a .351 attack percentage, compared to .324 for the Colonials, which highlighted the high level of effort that both teams would play with for the rest of the match.
“A lot of it had to do with the energy and aggressiveness that we went into the match with and continued to have,” head coach Amanda Ault said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we were extremely steady tonight with having the focus – the aggression – and then continuing it throughout.”
In the second set, the Colonials’ energy continued to rise as they opened up the set on a 6-2 run. The Dukes responded to tie the score at 13-13, but GW continued to showcase its improved play, going on another 7-2 run before eventually taking the match 25-22.
The Colonials posted four of their season-high 11 blocks in the set, something Ault said was a key part of the team’s gameplan going in.
“Over the preseason, we were talking about how our blocking was getting better, but then it kind of dipped down a little bit at the start of A-10’s, so this was really good to see,” Ault said. “We were there early, we got up on time and we worked a lot with blocking during the week of practice, so it showed.”
The third and fourth sets saw the Colonials begin to pull away from the Dukes and take over the match. They converted on 73 percent of side-out opportunities in the third, forcing nine Duquesne errors on their way to a 25-18 win.
In the fourth and deciding set, the teams were tied early at 11, but a 14-5 explosive Colonials run closed out the match and gave them the 3-1 victory. Ault praised her team’s well-rounded effort, but she also emphasized the importance of her staff’s scouting and preparations for the game.
“I will always give credit to [assistant coach] Ryan [Freeburg].” Ault said. “He does an outstanding job of breaking the film down, figuring out the scouting reports, what we need to stop, who’s going to do what and giving them a very detailed look at what we need to do and execute. Then, on the flip side, we took care of that.”
GW saw three players record a double-double in the match, including senior captain Lauren Whyte, who recorded 16 digs and a match-high 21 kills. Sophomore Kelsey Newman continued to be a strong force for the offense, posting 15 kills and 12 digs, while redshirt freshman Jessica Lubic paced the team with 44 assists and 16 digs of her own.
Reflecting on the team’s offensive success, Lubic noted its ability to remain consistent throughout the entire match, a key component to the victory, she said.
“Our outsiders were on fire tonight – they were having a really solid game. And then everyone on the flip side was doing everything they needed to do,” Lubic said. “Everyone was pretty consistent all over and taking care of the ball and putting it away when they had the opportunity.”
Friday’s win brings the Colonials’ A-10 record to 3-2. Ault said the team’s improved play since the beginning of A-10 competition has been due to overall increases in drive and focus. But moving forward, GW will need to continue to gain momentum if it wants to be successful in the second half of conference play.
“We’ve talked a lot this week about this being the team we are now,” Ault said. “It can be anyone on any given night, and we have to embrace that and be unselfish about it, because at the end of the day, it’s how the team does.”