Volleyball searches for positives in season’s final stretch

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Hatchet Photographer

Freshman setter Jaimeson Lee plays a ball in GW's 3-0 win over La Salle Friday. After ending a ten-game losing streak earlier this month, volleyball has won four of its last six matches.

GW volleyball was supposed to be preparing for an Atlantic 10 title run at this point in the season.

The Colonials – picked to finish third in the A-10 Preseason Poll back in August – looked poised to remain one of the premier teams in the league. Instead, with just three matches remaining, GW sits near the bottom of the conference standings with a 10–17 overall record and a 3–9 mark in A-10 play.

Despite picking up three wins in their last four games, including a decision over La Salle Friday, chances of making it to the postseason for a fourth straight year remain slim for the Colonials.

But head coach Amanda Ault said her team is continuing to approach the final stretch of the 2016 regular season in a constructive way.

“We still have two weeks of conference [play] left and that’s the most important thing to me right now,” Ault said. “We’ve had some really tough times this season, but I think the last couple weeks we’ve shown growth and signs of improvement.”

Starting the season with a 6–4 record, things looked promising for a talented team – which took first-place Dayton to five sets in the A-10 Championship semifinal last year.

But three straight losses at the GW Invitational Sept. 16 and 17 marked the beginning of a demoralizing slump. The Colonials dropped seven more matches between then and Oct. 14, when they picked up their first conference win at George Mason to end a whopping 10-game losing streak.

Ault attributed some the team’s struggles to a lack of depth and challenges in maintaining a healthy roster.

“It’s been a whole mess of things,” Ault said. “We’ve dealt with injuries, and we’ve had to put out different lineups throughout the season.”

The depleted lineup has also forced young players on the Colonials squad to step into larger-than-expected roles throughout the season.

Ault cited the freshmen trio of defensive specialist Madison Clay, outside hitter Jordan Young and setter Jaimeson Lee as players who stepped up when the team needed them.

“We’ve reached a point where we know it’s going to be a different lineup,” Ault said. “Our [young players] have been doing a great job. You see players like Jaime getting more comfortable as she gets those sets in.”

And despite its mid-season nosedive, GW has performed well overall, as of late. Since its win over the Patriots, the group has collected convincing wins over Davidson (3–0), UMBC (3–2) and La Salle (3–0).

Even in its most recent decision – a 3–2 loss to Duquesne Saturday – three Colonials registered double-digit kills in the close five-set battle.

“We need to keep getting better in the process with whatever lineup is out there and finish the season as we continue to build,” Ault said following Saturday night’s loss. “We want to finish the season moving forward and getting better.”

Despite the fact that GW currently sits eighth overall in the A-10, with only the league’s top-six teams making the playoffs, senior outside hitter Kelsey Clark said she hopes her team can finish the season on a high note.

“At this point we’ve flipped our mindset to [focus on] playing as hard as we can and are just hoping things work out,” Clark said. “We’ve got nothing to lose so we’re just playing our hardest.”

GW travels to Rhode Island and Fordham this week before returning home for the regular-season finale against George Mason Nov. 12.

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