During the fourth set of volleyball’s Saturday afternoon match against LIU Brooklyn at home, the Colonials were tied 24-24 with the Blackbirds – only two points away from taking their third set and winning the game.
But GW allowed an LIU Brooklyn side out and ended up losing the set on an attack error.
In the fifth and final set, the Colonials again found themselves in good position to come away with their first home victory, serving with a 14-13 lead. Two Blackbirds kills and another GW error quickly flipped the script as LIU Brooklyn escaped with the win.
“It is not fun,” head coach Sarah Bernson said. “The frustrating part about this weekend is we know we had chances to get these wins, it just didn’t go our way.”
The loss was the second of three games the Colonials (1-5) played this past weekend at the Smith Center. GW also fell in straight sets to Indiana Friday – which is undefeated on the year – and in four sets to Hofstra Saturday night to close out the GW Invitational.
Bernson’s squad is now on a five game losing streak and has dropped 15 of its last 19 sets. After the fifth loss, she gave a short answer to how the team could turn their season around.
“Just be more consistent and limit our unforced errors,” Bernson said.
The lack of steady play has prevented the Colonials from connecting successes throughout games. During the loss to LIU Brooklyn and again against Hofstra, GW allowed its opponent to go on large runs at the end of sets in contests that were more competitive than the score suggests.
“We are making too many unforced errors and we are causing them in a string of points in a row and letting the other team get runs,” Bernson said. “You are allowed to have errors, but we are just doing them in chunks.”
Bernson came to GW just two months ago, along with associate head coach Nicki Holmes and assistant coach Nicole Buchholz. The new coaching staff brought with them a new system of techniques and tactics.
Some of the players said they are still facing challenges adapting to the new system. Sophomore setter Jaimeson Lee said she is still trying to rid herself of bad conventions from the past.
“Throughout the last set Nicki was telling me ‘you are going back to your old habits,’” Lee said. “I had to remember that I learned a completely new style of setting and I just need to stick with that and not try and go backwards.”
The Colonials have also seen consistency dip among outside hitters as the team searches for the right combination. During the five-game losing streak, five different players have had game-high kill totals.
Outside of freshman middle blocker Callie Fauntleroy, no one swung above the team average in each of GW’s home games. Fauntleroy was named to the All-Tournament team Saturday.
With six hitters that each played important roles for the Colonials at times over the past weekend, Bernson said the depth gives her and the team more freedom when they make substitutions later in the season.
“Even if we get locked into a starting lineup and need to make subs, we will have seen what everybody on the team can do,” she said.
After experiencing challenges with setting, serve-receiving and blocking last weekend in Tennessee, the Colonials saw improvement during the GW Invitational. Against LIU Brooklyn, GW finished with 17 total team blocks – more than double the Blackbirds’ tally.
In all three home matches, the Colonials finished with fewer service errors than their opponent.
“We are getting a little bit more rhythm with our setting, our offense was better today than it was yesterday,” Bernson said. “Some aspects are growing and getting better, but the overall team play still has a bit more to go.”
Despite reliability concerns on the court and a losing streak heading into a four-game road trip in North Dakota next weekend, players said that they remain confident. The Colonials seemed to have as much enthusiasm during the final point as they did before the tournament started, three loses prior.
Lee – who has taken over the featured setter role this year – said that the energy and conviction to keep working come down the chain from the coaching staff.
“Our coaches believe in us, so that really helps us believe in each other,” she said. “We can pull it through if we really work hard and our coaches keep reminding us of that.”