After a string of closely contested sets, GW fell to Dayton by a 3-1 margin in the Atlantic 10 Championship match Sunday.
The loss rendered the team runner up at the tournament, which now awaits its fate on the bubble for the NCAA tournament after a 22-8 season that was the best for the program in over a decade.
“We battled the whole way through. It was a great game,” Ault said. “[Dayton] played a little bit better than we did.”
Fuel for the Colonials all season long, sophomore middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu led the match with 16 kills and paced GW with a .353 attack percentage and six blocks (three solo, three assists).
Osuchukwu, junior libero Maddy Doyle and sophomore outside hitter Loren Williams were named to the All-Championship Team after standout performances. Williams trailed Osuchukwu with 13 kills. Ault said Doyle was the MVP after tallying a match-high 26 digs, which helped the Colonials out-dig the Flyers by a 81-72 margin.
“Maddy Doyle really stepped up and played well for us,” Ault said. “Her numbers in both matches were impressive. The amount of court she was taking, not only in defense but in serve-receive.”
Dayton (28-5, 13-1 A-10) took the first set 25-21, but GW (22-8, 11-3 A-10) retaliated with offensive drive in the second set, winning it 25-23 to send both teams into the locker rooms tied at one.
Though the Colonials handed them a battle that came down to which team could find the open holes on the floor and knock down precise attacks, the Flyers locked in on their home court and took the final two sets 25-17 and 25-20, respectively.
In the fourth and final set, Ault called a timeout at 12-8 with Dayton up by four points and controlling the energy of a home-court advantage. Even with a pair of kills squeaking by for Osuchukwu, GW fell to a 18-11 setback, which it spent the remainder of the set trying to refute.
The Colonials came back to bring the game to 24-20 with three straight runs, including a service ace by sophomore defensive specialist Natalie Leger. But their rally was not enough to hold the Flyers off at match point.
“It went point-for-point for a while in many sets, and I got to give it to these guys because they never gave up, and we fought hard all the way through and just fell a little bit short,” Ault said.
The Colonials were down a key player: Senior outside hitter Kelsey Newman did not compete and missed the last two games of the regular season after an injury on Nov. 8. But GW still managed to make it to the championship game for the first time since 2002, capitalizing on the season’s high aspirations.
“This was one of their goals. This was something we really focused on,” Ault said. “Even in the past couple weeks when we haven’t had Kelsey, it really hasn’t changed much for us. That’s a credit to this group on how they just adapt and go through adversity and come out the other side.”
With the championship game behind them, the Colonials will wait to hear if they receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which will be announced Nov. 30. Ault said the team, which is ranked 65th in the country, would be ready to take on the tournament.
Looking back on the season, Ault said she is most proud of her players for their resilience.
“The way that they never give up, and just across the board this whole entire season we have gone through some things and been down 1-2 and have to fight back,” she said. “And that is going to go a long way for us and will make us better in the long run.”