If history is a guide, this year’s Atlantic 10 tournament will be eventful for the Colonials.
The last time GW won 21 games and 11 A-10 games was in 2000, the year the team won the A-10 Championship.
GW enters the tournament this weekend as the No. 2 seed and the only team to knock off conference leader Dayton.
“Everyone is so talented this year, and it can be anybody’s tournament,” head coach Amanda Ault said. “It’s going to come down to who’s hot and who’s taking care of things. We just need to make sure we are focusing on us, being consistent and keep doing the things that will make us successful in the end.”
But even after a highly successful year, the Colonials will still have to knock off top competition and look out for spoilers, who have hurt them in the past. Here’s a look at the team going into the tournament, as well as its potential path to a championship title.
The Colonials come into the postseason with momentum after capping off the season with a six-game win streak to finish with an 11-3 conference record, two games behind league-leader Dayton.
GW has amassed that record and knocked off top opponents like Dayton and VCU with offensive firepower. The Colonials racked up 108 kills in wins against Fordham and Rhode Island in their final weekend, and Ault said a first-round bye should help them come out swinging.
“Heading into the tournament, we need to be sure that we are taking care of our own jobs,” Ault said. “We are very balanced in our offense and have a lot of offensive weapons. Us taking care of that first contact to allow us to put our offense in system is really key, and I think that something that works really well for us is having those options.”
Sophomore middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu leads the Colonials with 3.73 kills per set, hitting an average .356 percentage. She will be under intense pressure to perform, especially if GW has to go without senior outside hitter Kelsey Newman, who missed the final two games of the regular season after leaving the court with an injury in the Colonials’ Nov. 8 win over Davidson.
Osuchukwu also paces GW in blocks per set, averaging 1.45. From the back line, junior libero Maddy Doyle has totaled 433 digs on the season, averaging 4.20 digs per set, helping the Colonials put on a multi-dimensional attack.
“One of the things that has been our strong suit all along is that we’re not a one-trick pony,” Ault said.
While Dayton is the conference leader, GW was the only team in the A-10 to hand the Flyers their first conference loss of the season on Oct. 11. Dayton freshman setter Jane Emmenecker leads the conference with 11.12 assists per set and junior outside hitter Alaina Turner leads with an average of 0.55 service aces per set. Dayton leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage and digs, while GW leads in blocks and kills.
If it comes to a GW-Dayton showdown for the tournament crown, the Colonials will have to face the Flyers on their home court. To top the conference leaders for a second time, GW would have to shut down the Flyers on first-contact balls.
Potential spoilers could also give GW trouble as they did in the regular season. Behind Dayton, there are four strong teams that are all 9-5 on the Colonials’ heels: Saint Louis, Rhode Island, Duquesne and VCU.
On Saturday, GW will play the winner of the first match on Friday between No. 3 Saint Louis and No. 6 Duquesne, which both have wins against the Colonials on their regular season résumés. GW fell 3-1 to Saint Louis at home and lost 3-2 on the road at Duquesne.
Saint Louis won two out of its last three regular season matches, which culminated in a 3-2 win over Duquesne and a sweep of La Salle. The Billikens have the third-highest hitting percentage in the conference, averaging .240. Another possible contender, Duquesne, went on an eight-game win streak in conference play, including wins over GW, Rhode Island and VCU.
Ault said focus will be critical to avoid playing down to opponents after coordination and consistency were issues in each of the Colonials’ conference losses. GW totaled 25 attack errors and 10 service errors in the team’s loss to Duquesne.
The tournament begins for the Colonials on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio.