Volleyball highlights team mentality as conference play approaches

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Staff Photographer

Graduate student setter Stacey Benton sets the ball during volleyball's game against Delaware Friday.

Volleyball is less than a week away from the start of Atlantic 10 play – where the wins and losses will determine whether or not the team makes it to the postseason. The Colonials will start their conference action against La Salle Friday.

The Explorers are the beginning of a seven-game span where GW plays only on the road for nearly a month. The Colonials (4-9) then finish the season with seven of their final nine games at home.

Head coach Sarah Bernson said the entire team has continued to improve and that she is confident their competitors prepared them for the rest of the season.

“The preseason is built to make us get ready for A-10 play. We have been playing teams who are in strong conferences or are also winning their conferences,” Bernson said.

The Colonials took home their first home victory and first two-game win streak of the season Friday before falling in three straight sets to UMBC Saturday afternoon. The GW Tournament provided a final weekend of preparation for the hosting team.

After both days, Bernson and her team mentioned the importance of focusing on the mental side of the game.

“We have really been working hard and working not only volleyball skills on the court but we’ve really been working on our mental skills as well,” junior outside hitter Kelsey Clark said. “I think that has been what was really lacking in the past, we addressed it and we’re moving forward.”

GW started its homestand with a three-set victory over Holy Cross. The Colonials swung .200 higher than the Crusaders and senior outside hitter Aaliya Davidson led the game with 12 kills.

In the night game, GW defeated Delaware 3-2 for its fourth win of the season. After the team went through five lead changes and 14 tied scores in the final set, Davidson said she was proud of the way the team was able to fight through challenges and secure the victory Friday.

“The game that we played against Delaware is probably the best that we’ve played in terms of pushing through,” she said. “When things weren’t going well we still pushed, we still believed in ourselves.”

The 6-2 set advantage on the day was the best the Colonials had all season thus far. Bernson said the victories came because of the team’s willingness to believe in the long process of the season.

“We have been talking about the process and trusting the process. Being composed instead of letting things happen to you,” she said after the games Friday.

In the final game of the tournament Saturday, GW flipped the script and lost 3–0 to UMBC at the Smith Center. The Colonials swung only .104 and struggled to keep up with the Retrievers.

Bernson said her team lost its focus and did not control its emotions well enough to come away with a win.

The Colonials finished the game with 11 more attack errors than the Retrievers, including 12 of their total 25 in the third and final set. Bernson said the unchecked emotions brought the team back to old habits.

“Early in the season we had a lot of unforced errors, we’ve gotten a bit better with that,” Bernson said Saturday. “Today with our emotions ruling how we play, we had those unforced errors again.”

Davidson – who tied the team-high for kills against UMBC – said that despite the team’s abilities, they needed to focus more on the preparation and mental side of the game.

“We are a super athletic team, we have all of the pieces, but we need to make sure that we are listening and following the scout that we talked about before hand,” she said. “For UMBC, when we talked about that they’re a shoty team, make sure that we are picking up their tips, their rolls, their shots.”

GW has been without the help of freshman middle blocker Callie Fauntleroy, who has been out of the lineup for the past six games. She has the highest hitting percentage (.344) of anyone on the team with more than five attempts. Clark has moved over to play middle blocker recently.

The Colonials return to action Tuesday to take on Maryland Eastern Shore for their last out-of-town, non-conference game of the year. The game is set to start at 7 p.m.

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