Although the volleyball team earned a straight-sets win (25-19, 25-22, 25-17) over the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico (UMET) with ease Wednesday in an exhibition match, the Colonials learned a valuable lesson before the James Madison Invitational this weekend: Maintain a high standard of play at all times.
GW was unable to jump ahead early against the Puerto Rican Junior National Team like it had during the team’s first three games. UMET, which was finishing its D.C. tour after playing matches against George Mason and American, led early in the first set, controlling a 3-8 lead over the Colonials.
Head coach Amanda Ault said during warm ups she thought her team looked a bit “loose,” and players were unable to connect on their serve-and-pass game in the early going. Ault added that the team’s quick start has set the standard for her team, and if they plan to compete with tougher teams down the stretch, the high level of play must remain consistent.
“I think the biggest thing now is that the bar has been set,” Ault said. “We need to really work on making sure that it’s consistent and that it stays, not having the peaks and valleys.”
The Colonials settled down as the set progressed, finishing the set by outscoring UMET 22-11.
GW would control the match in the following two sets, cruising to easy second- and third-set wins. By the end of the match, all 13 Colonials had played in at least one set.
Neman led the hitters with a game-high 14 kills. As a team, the Colonials hit .299.
Defensively, freshman defensive specialist Christina Porada led the players with 14 digs as GW out-dug UMET 48-32 in the game. The Colonials held UMET to just a .134 attack percentage in the game and out-blocked the team 7-4.
GW has demonstrated a keen improvement on the defensive end this season, which Timmer said depends on the team’s commitment to working collectively.
“We really bought into the team atmosphere,” Timmer said. “It’s not one person digging, it’s not our libero digging every ball. It’s the block, it’s the defense, it’s the serve.
Ault said the team emphasizes defensive play each day, and said strong defense will be key in reaching the team’s goals this season.
There’s no question the Colonials have a strong hitting presence every game. Newman leads the team so far this season with 39 kills, followed by sophomore Chidima Osuchukwu, who has tallied 36 kills, and sophomore Loren Williams, who ranks third with 35 kills.
Timmer consistently gets the ball to the team’s hitters: She already tallies 121 assists in GW’s first three games after totaling 330 assists last season. She has earned the starting position this year after then-freshman Emily Clemens owned the starting role for most of last season.
In the offseason, Timmer said on top of working in the gym and the physical aspects of her game, she also worked on the mental aspect of gameplay, an area she said she struggled with last season.
“It’s a very mental position, so you have to read a lot of things and carry yourself when things are bad and good and I think that’s where I struggled,” Timmer said. “So I really brought that up and have been able to help my team that way.”
Newman, who spent this summer training with Timmer in D.C., called Timmer’s starting role well-deserved.
“I think it’s cool to see somebody who works so hard earn a position the way that Jordan has,” Newman said. “I know the work she puts in day in and day out and it’s just so cool to see someone transform that way and really, really earn it.”
The Colonials will next head to Harrisonburg, Va., where they will play Southeastern Louisiana (2-2), Hampton (3-1) and James Madison (2-2) in a long-awaited match. Last season, GW dropped its match to the Dukes in five sets after winning the opening two sets.
“We kind of have a chip on our shoulder from James Madison,” Newman said. “We’ve kind of formed a little rivalry with them. They got us last year in five and it was ugly and we just really want to go after them. I can’t wait to play them.”