With just one day separating the Colonials from their first conference match of the season, head coach Amanda Ault and her team are continuing to make adjustments before they make the short trip to Richmond, Va. to take on VCU.
The team’s been waiting to start with a clean slate in conference play after having lost their last three matches and posting a 5-9 record in non-conference play.
“We’re looking at this as if another season is just starting,” Ault said. “We’re moving into conference play, and we’re 0-0. It’s kind of learning from what happened, but now moving onto that next chapter. You can’t move on to the next chapter if you keep rereading the last one.”
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Newman said both her and her teammates will look to improve on their ability to play through mistakes on the court – something that has evidently hurt the Colonials so far this season.
“We tend to put ourselves at a higher standard sometimes, and when we don’t meet that standard, we end up breaking down too quickly,” said Newman, who leads GW in kills with 125 on the season. “We need to be content with where we are and push through, even when we’re making mistakes.”
The Colonials will have to learn to bounce back from those on-court errors if they want to be able to contend in a conference that has seen quite the shakedown.
With the Atlantic 10 undergoing conference alignment last year, big contenders like Temple, Xavier and Butler, who all made the A-10 Championship last season, left the ranks. Charlotte also departed, while George Mason was the lone team to enter the conference.
Even with the departure of some of the conference’s tougher programs, Ault remains focused on the talented teams that lie ahead.
“We’re focused on who remains and I think that we still have some strong teams in the conference,” Ault said. “I think it’s going to be a tough match every night, which is exactly what you want.”
Freshman middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu, who burst on the scene as both an offensive and defensive force for the Colonials, said that after observing the first games of the season, it’s an even playing field.
“I think all of the teams are all kind of at the same level. One team might win this weekend and maybe not win the next weekend, so I feel like everything is up and down, up in the air,” said Osuchukwu, who will return to her home town for Friday’s opening match versus VCU.
Before the Colonials set their eyes on the championship trophy, they will have to compete with some of the conference’s best: VCU and the University of Rhode Island, each of whom the Colonials will square off against in their first two conference matches of the season.
After winning their first two conference matches of the season in a convincing fashion against La Salle and Fordham, the Rams have emerged as an early conference leader. URI is led by sophomore Franki Darnold, who ranks third in the A-10 with 190 kills, and freshman Callan Kinnan, who leads the A-10 in assists with 484. The Rams also lead the A-10 in opponent hitting percentage (.151) and total kills, averaging just under 14 kills per set.
VCU is also undefeated in conference play so far. After firing head coach James Finley, the Rams hired first-year head coach Jody Rogers, who has led her team to an impressive 13-4 record, including a conference win against 2012 A-10 champion Dayton. VCU is led by sophomore Romana Kriskova, who leads the league in kills with 318, and junior setter Cecilia Aragao, who has earned the last two A-10 Player of the Week awards.
And despite a slow conference season start, the Colonials can’t ignore the preseason No. 1 selection: Dayton University. The Flyers, who have won the last four A-10 titles, have struggled early on, dropping their first two conference games of the season.
But for a team who finished last season unscathed in the A-10, an experienced Flyer team can be expected to turn things around. Former GW assistant coach Ryan Freeburg is now a member of the Flyers coaching staff, giving them a potential advantage when they meet on Nov. 1.
The Colonials are looking to play every game with the simple expectation that the match at hand could serve as a difference-maker by the end of the season.
“When it’s all said and done at the end of A-10s, one or two matches might separate things for different teams,” Ault said. “Every match is going to be important.”