Early on this seaon, the women’s volleyball team’s biggest problem was themselves. Game after game, the unforced errors amounted, leading to a 5-10 record.
Since then, though, GW has learned to take care of things on their side of the net, winning five straight and becoming one of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 conference.
On Sunday, that meant sharp and precise serves, which set the tone for GW’s convincing 3-1 win.
On several plays Sunday, Colonials servers disrupted George Mason receivers with strategically placed serves, keeping the Patriots off balance. The Patriots hit for an attack percentage of just .105 in the entire match, and in Friday’s straight sets win at La Salle, the Explorers hit a measly .022.
“We’ve really put a focus on serving in every single practice,” head coach Amanda Ault said. “We work on making sure the serve is low and flat, aggressive, and going at the different zones we want to go at. I think the serve is a very big part of the game.”
Senior outside hitter Rachael Goss has proven to be Ault’s most consistent server over the course of the streak. In the last five games, Goss has attempted eighty straight serves without a single service error. Goss credits the streak to the coaching staff’s ability to effectively scout weaker receivers on opposing teams.
“Before each game, we go into the game with a scouting report, so we have a pretty good idea of who we’re serving at, and who we’re going to target for that game,” Goss said. “We practice serving constantly, going aggressive at the line because ultimately the serve and pass wins the game.”
The win streak has also resulted in a women’s volleyball team that looks at ease on the floor, a sharp contrast to when the Colonials visibly struggled to click with one another during games earlier in the season.
The improvements were clear when the Colonials bounced back to hit .467 after starting Sunday’s match with three straight service errors, a stat that Ault said bothered her.
“I think lately we have found our groove,” Goss said. “Preseason was just a learning experience for us, and we had a lot of new players on the team, so I think we’ve finally found our comfort zone. We’re really just playing well together.”
No one player has lifted the Colonials on her back in their recent success. Instead, the Colonials are getting contributions from up and down their lineup.
In Sunday’s win against George Mason, three different GW players led the team with at least 10 kills each, with freshman middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu and Goss leading the way with 14 kills apiece.
On the back line, four Colonials tallied at least eight digs Sunday, with sophomore libero Maddy Doyle and senior defensive specialist Jessica Burr recording 11 and 12 digs respectively.
“They understand now that somebody on this team is going to have a great night and it might be somebody different every night,” Ault said. “I think that they really accept that, they feed off of it, and they support each other in that. I think that’s the sign of a good team.”
Freshman setter Emily Clemens continues to impress in her debut season, tallying 25 digs in two sets on Friday and 47 digs in four sets Sunday.
Sunday’s match additionally marked the first meeting between both schools in any sport since GMU joined the A-10 conference. The match also marked the start of the newly created GW vs. GMU “Revolutionary Rivalry,” which will run on a points-based system on head-to-head victories in every sport between the schools, with the winner taking home the Tri-Corner Hat Trophy.
“I like the rivalry,” Ault said. “It’s a crosstown match-up across many sports. I think it was cool that we got to start this whole revolutionary rivalry off, having the inaugural match. I think that it’s going to be something that becomes very big down the line.”
The Colonials will continue to be tested as they continue in A-10 play; their first test coming against Duquesne, an A-10 opponent who has also recorded a five game win-streak of its own.
“I think we’re going in expecting their best game, and I think they’re thinking the same thing, that we are going to go in and play our hardest,” Osuchukwu said. “I think we need to keep doing what we’re doing, stay strong and confident and I think we’ll be ok.”