Volleyball opened its 2018 season with back-to-back losses to Howard and American in the DC Challenge over the weekend.
The Colonials (0–2) opened their season with a 3–0 loss on the road against Howard (2–0) Friday night.
GW then hosted American (2–0) at the Smith Center Saturday, where the Colonials earned their first set win before dropping the contest 3–1.
Despite the two losses, second-year head coach Sarah Bernson said the weekend’s games served as a good progress check for the team early in the season. In her first year in Foggy Bottom, GW went 1–2 on the road during its opening weekend.
“We’re definitely farther than we were last year at this point,” Bernson said. “Our serve-pass game is much stronger. We really struggled with that.”
The Colonials ended the night against Howard swinging .042 to the Bison’s .342 clip, tallying 31 kills and 27 errors in the match. Junior outside hitter Skylar Iott led the squad with 10 kills to her name, while senior setter Jaimeson Lee racked up 22 assists on the night. Freshman libero Bella Bowman collected a team-high 11 digs.
In the first set, both sides traded points before a 7–2 run put Howard up 17–12. The Bison continued building on their lead before closing out the set 25–19.
In the second frame, the score differentiated by no more than three points before GW went on a 5–1 run to jump ahead 12–9. But Howard answered back with an 8–2 run of its own to take a three-point advantage. The Colonials pulled within one point of the lead after a Howard attack error put the score at 22–21, but the Bison picked up three-straight points and took the set 25–21.
In their final set of the night, the Colonials played from behind, never taking a lead. They reached within one point of a tie multiple times, but ultimately fell 25–20.
“We were a bit jittery,” Bernson said. “First game, they had a good crowd, and the nerves showed – we had a lot of errors.”
After the first defeat, Bernson said the team focused on tweaking skills like footwork and improving execution heading into its match against American.
The Colonials didn’t go down without a fight Saturday afternoon. Iott again led the squad in kills – with 20 – and Lee grabbed a team-high 43 assists in the match. Bowman more than doubled her first game’s output with 31 digs against American.
The Colonials dropped their first set against the Eagles 25–17, swinging .098 to American’s .351. The set opened in similar fashion to the game against Howard, with the Eagles and Colonials going point-for-point before American cracked open an 11–2 run in the middle of the set to pull ahead 21–11. GW never caught up.
But throughout the second set, the Colonials had the Eagles on the ropes with an improved .127 hitting percentage. GW went on a 5–1 run to open the set before American collected six-straight points. Still, the Colonials continued to battle, bringing the score within one at match point before a GW attack error ended the frame 25–23 in favor of American.
GW’s only set win of the weekend came in the third against American, when the Colonials rallied late in the frame, went on a 5–1 run to break a 21–21 tie and captured the 25–22 victory.
“That’s what you live for,” senior middle blocker Kelsey Clark said. “Champions are built under pressure so this is a really good test for us, especially so early on in the season, this is what we need.”
The Eagles opened the final frame with a 4–1 run and never relinquished the lead. The Colonials swung a match-best .214 clip, but could not hold back an American team hitting .448. GW collected four uncontested points to hold the Eagles at match-point before losing the set 25–20.
“It kind of exposed what we need to work on and also what we’re doing well,” Clark said of the weekend’s results. “It’s honestly just a learning experience at this point.”
The Colonials return to action on the road against Toldeo in their first game of the CEFCU Invitational in Illinois Friday. The match is slated to begin at 4 p.m.