It was an up-and-down day for the volleyball team Friday in the opening round of play of its second home tournament of the season, the Colonial Challenge.
After an early morning straight-sets win over Columbia (25-21, 25-19, 25-20), GW fell to Baylor in the second game of the double header in three sets (30-28, 25-23, 25-23).
A total of just six points separated GW (6-2) and Baylor through the three-set match, with two sets decided after the two teams tied at 23-23.
Baylor (7-2) was coming into Friday evening’s game fresh off a five-set victory over Illinois State. As of Sept. 7, the Bears were the ninth-best hitting team in the nation, averaging 14.76 kills per set. Despite the strength up front, GW head coach Amanda Ault said she anticipated some of Baylor’s offensive sets.
“We knew that they’re big and physical, but they’re predictable in the things they run,” Ault said. “We knew that they were going to do certain things, and we needed to make sure we were in front of them and able to control it and give ourselves the opportunity to put the ball down.”
Baylor finished the match with three players posting double figures in kills, led by redshirt freshman Katie Staiger, who tallied 13 kills on the night. The Bears hitters were consistent for most of Friday’s game and were aided by junior Amy Rosenbaum, who led all players with 39 assists.
“At the net, we needed to just get up and in front of them earlier,” Ault said. “I think a lot of times we were late, and so it just gave them an opportunity to see things a little bit more.”
The Colonials’ game plan heading into the match was to attack the Bears backline from the service line. But as a team, GW posted the highest total of service errors with 11 – and six of those errors came in the first set alone.
While poor serving may not have been the determining factor in Friday evening’s game, Ault said the timing of the unforced errors came just as the Colonials were trying to build momentum. After a 4-1 run late in the third set tied the third set 23-23, sophomore Natalie Leger lofted a ball over Baylor defenders, which eventually led to the Bears taking the set and match.
“We’d miss a serve after [Baylor] had missed the serve or we’d have a great play and then it would go back,” Ault said. “It was 23 all a couple times and we missed the serve. It’s those opportunities that we have to be mentally more tough.”
Even with the mental woes, GW had a higher hitting percentage than Baylor through two sets of play (.300 to .286) and won the digs battle 29-28, and both teams were tied in team blocks at 5-5. The Colonials found themselves contending late in each set despite trailing in the early going most of the match.
GW attacked the Baylor front line with a balanced attack. Five players finished with six kills, led by senior outside hitter Kelsey Newman, who paced the Colonials with 10. GW saw yet another strong performance from junior setter Jordan Timmer, who posted 34 assists for the Colonials. Junior libero Maddy Doyle led the team with 12 digs.
Ault said the rotation was communicating on the court, but the Colonials struggled to adjust to the game play of the Bears. Moving forward, the team will need to better translate strategy into plays, she said.
“We’ve got to make sure that our actions are speaking for us instead of our words,” Ault said. “Right now there’s a lot of talk going on, but we have to adapt.”
The Colonials have little time before their next challenge: a Saturday afternoon match against Illinois State (5-5), which will determine the second-place finisher.
Senior outside hitter Landon Garvik said the team must learn from – then let go of – Friday’s game to prepare for Illinois State.
“Individually, we can all play our game a little bit better and hopefully tomorrow will be different,” Garvik said.