Bernson emphasizes off-court cohesion in second year leading volleyball

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

Head coach Sarah Bernson stands next to assistant coach Nicole Cervantes during a game against American Saturday.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2018 at 5:42 p.m.

One year after head volleyball coach Sarah Bernson took over the program, players said there has been a drastic shift in the team’s energy.

On the court, the team’s numbers have not always been consistent. The 2017 season saw moments of accomplishment, including a three-game win streak that propelled the Colonials into the Atlantic 10 tournament, but concluded with a second-round exit from the playoffs.

After dropping two-straight decisions against American and Howard to start this season, senior middle blocker Alexis Lete said Bernson’s most significant impact on the team has come from the personal growth she has encouraged in her players off the court.

“We were amazed by her and her team and the difference between our old coaches and her,” Lete said. “She not just inspires us on the court, but inspires us to be better people and reach our full potential outside of volleyball.”

Lete said in her four years as a Colonial, the team has never been closer. She credits this to Bernson, who encourages her squad to hold regular bonding events like team dinners. She said Bernson has also been constantly present at their events for other organizations outside of volleyball.

“I would describe her as a mom away from home,” Lete said.

With the team dynamic established and stable, the next step for the squad is to translate off-court cohesion to on-court success. Bernson said the first step was for the team to cut down on errors.

Bernson said despite the back-to-back losses, her current squad has developed more than last year’s team had after its opening weekend.

“It’s a different kind of growth rate that we’re going to make this year – we don’t have as many big leaps to make, it’s more of the little steps and the little increments that we need to improve upon,” she said.

In order to provoke a smarter style of play, Bernson said she pushed the players to spend more time analyzing video footage of their opponents.

“Their development in looking at film and scouting opponents really grew from being very timid in what they saw, and even watching film, to them really watching film and wanting to be the first ones to talk so that no one else would say what they had to say,” she said.

Bernson also added that during her tenure, she has emphasized the importance of what she calls “athlete culture.” Although she recognizes the nonathletic commitments her players have in the offseason, she said she expects her players to remain focused on their goals when they are away from the team.

Junior setter Jaimeson Lee, who racked up 65 assists over the Colonials’ opening weekend, said the conversation about changing the team’s culture and how the squad wants to evolve this season has been an important part of preparing for this year.

The Colonials were ranked No. 5 in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. Lee said she and her teammates are confident they can finish even higher.

“We really want to show people that we can be good and that we can beat all these teams that people aren’t expecting us to beat,” Lee said.

GW now faces a stretch of six-straight road games, beginning this weekend at the CEFCU Invitational. The first game of the weekend for the Colonials will tip-off against Toledo in Peoria, Ill. Friday at 4 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that volleyball lost in the first round of the A-10 tournament last year. The team beat Saint Louis in the first round of the tournament before falling to Dayton. We regret this error.

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