A-10 Tournament preview: Volleyball must peak late to win it all

Media Credit: Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Aaliya Davidson hits the ball in the Colonials' loss to Dayton earlier this season. With a win on Friday, the Colonials will meet Dayton for a rematch on Saturday in the Atlantic 10 championships semifinal.

Friday afternoon, when volleyball takes on No. 5 VCU as a No. 4 seed at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the team will have the ideal chance to make a run at the championship, hosting the event on their home floor.

At the beginning of the season, it seemed that the stars were aligning. Having pushed for the opportunity to hold the A-10 Tournament in Foggy Bottom and succeeded at a time when the team was coming off a banner year and returning an All-American, it seemed like GW’s year.

It hasn’t been quite so smooth, with the Colonials entering the tournament with a 9-5 conference record and having lost twice to both Dayton and Saint Louis, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in this weekends events, respectively. It does seem, though, that GW could be peaking at the right time, with middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu looking like herself, winning her sixth A-10 Player of the Week award for her performance in GW’s final regular season contests, after missing a handful of time during the conference slate.

Here’s a look at who GW would have to go through to claim the title:

No. 5 VCU

VCU plays an attacking style that doesn’t allow for many defensive saves. Opponents are averaging a conference-low 11.97 digs per set against the Rams, who should challenge senior libero Maddy Doyle to pick her spots quickly.

The Colonials played the Rams once this season, on the road, and won in a five-set contest. VCU was good off the block in that contest, tallying 10 stops at the net led by Jane Fedderson’s six blocking assists, but the Colonials had four players make double-digit kills to come away with a come-from-behind win.

GW was led by Osuchukwu, with 19 kills, in that contest. On their home floor, the Colonials will look to her again to repeat the result.

No. 1 Dayton

If the Colonials come out with the win Friday, they’ll have a quick turnaround before taking on top-seeded Dayton in the semifinals on Saturday at 5 p.m.

It would be a revenge match after Dayton dispatched GW on the Flyers’ home court in the title game last year, but Dayton would enter the game after a first-round bye and after having defeated the Colonials twice this season.

The Colonials were swept back on Oct. 10, but hung with the Flyers for five sets on Nov. 7. In both contests, the name of the game has been getting the attack going. Stopping Dayton’s Alaina Turner and Amber Erhahon is nearly impossible, but the Colonials were completely unable to match them in their first game against the Flyers, when GW had a 0.000 hitting percentage. The second game was closer, with the Colonials hitting 0.174 to Dayton’s 0.161 led by 18 kills from Osuchukwu. And, if GW can keep trending in the right direction, they could end a three-game losing streak to the Flyers.

No. 2 Saint Louis

If GW makes it to the title game, they would face either No. 2 Saint Louis, No. 3 Rhode Island or No. 6 Duquesne, but the Billikens are the most likely choice.

Saint Louis also beat GW twice this season and was led by Danielle Rygelski in both contests. She posted 16 kills on Oct. 9, though the Colonials also forced her into 10 attack errors to keep it close through five sets, but slammed down 21 kills with only 3 errors in a three-set sweep on Nov. 8, hitting 0.419.

Rygelski is the key to Saint Louis’ attack, but the Colonials defense gives them the tools to stick with her, as long as they can match her on the offensive end. GW has the edge in blocks, at 2.41 per set to Saint Louis’ 2.21, and in digs, at 13.93 per set to Saint Louis’ 13.19. So the Colonials would need to find the floor themselves to pull out the win.

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