Volleyball heads into A-10 play ‘four weeks ahead’ of last season’s progress

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Junior outside hitter Jordan Young hits the ball at Saturday's home game against Alabama A&M.

Volleyball didn’t string together more than three consecutive wins last season under the guidance of head coach Sarah Bernson.

A year later, volleyball is heading into Atlantic 10 play riding the momentum of a four-game win streak.

“We’re four weeks ahead of where we were last year,” Bernson said.

After opening their season with two straight losses to Howard and American, the Colonials (6-5) have now gone 6-3 and tallied a 3-1 record at home.

The squad’s current streak consists of a win against LIU Brooklyn and a clean sweep at the Dig the District Invitational against Alabama A&M, Morgan State and Coppin State.

“I think that these three wins are really going to help us be a little bit more amped for the play this weekend,” senior middle blocker Alexis Lete said.

Last season, GW wrapped up A-10 play with a 6-8 record. Despite losing to the Billikens in their last regular season match, the Colonials secured the final spot in the A-10 Championship.

The team then became the first No. 6 seed in tournament history to advance past the quarterfinal round of the championship tournament. The Colonials downed No. 3 seed Saint Louis in five sets to earn the upset before losing to No. 2 Dayton in the semifinal round.

The Colonials face their two final competitors from last season to kick off A-10 play, matching up against Saint Louis Friday and Dayton Saturday.

Head coach Sarah Bernson – who is in her second year with the program – said that the beginning of this season has gone easier because her coaching system is more established and the team has had more time to create their identity on the court.

“I think that took a while to form so we’ve really been pushing that now,” Bernson said.

Bernson added that last year’s struggles with basic skills like serving and passing have not been as problematic so far this year.

Last season the team totaled 579 digs through their first 11 games. This year they currently rank fourth in the A-10 with 715 digs in the same amount of time. The two teams ahead – La Salle and Duquesne – have played 13 and 12 matches respectively to GW’s 11.

The squad’s serving has also improved from last season. The Colonials have made nine less serving errors and scored seven more aces compared to this time last year.

“Now that we’re in A-10 play, it’s seeing if we can execute this better,” she said.

In their three wins at the Dig the District Invitational, the Colonials averaged 22.3 errors per match, down from their average of 25.9 in the other eight games of the season.

The Colonials have struggled with unforced errors, allowing their opponents to get points off mistakes like serves into the net or an abundance of kills hit out of bounds.

The team held a 3-8 record through their first 11 games last season and headed into A-10 play with a losing 4-10 record.

Junior outside hitter Jordan Young said last year’s early-season struggles meant they entered conference play without high expectations, but now the team is heading into games with a higher standard to live up to.

“We’re at a better position, so I think it’s going to be a challenge to maintain where we’re at and not fall at all,” Young said.

Despite the Colonials’ recent success, all six of the team’s wins have come against teams with losing records, three of which have already totaled double-digit losses on the season.

Saint Louis, the Colonial’s first conference opponent, currently has a 1-11 record even though the Billikens went 10-4 in conference play last season – good for third in the A-10. Five of the other eight A-10 opponents GW will face off against this season currently have records of .500 or better.

GW’s second conference opponent, The Flyers, holds the best nonconference record of all A-10 teams at 9-4 and ranks top in the league in hitting percentage, assists and kills. Dayton is also second in the conference in blocks.

GW has the advantage over Dayton in digs and aces, ranking No. 4 in both categories while Dayton lands at No. 6 and No. 8 respectively.

Bernson said the biggest challenge for the team as they prepare to take on their A-10 opponents will be to continue to improve on their athletic movements like footwork and jumping.

GW ranked No. 5 in the conference in the A-10 preseason poll – the same seed the team received going into conference playoffs last season – but Bernson said she knows her squad is capable of placing higher.

“In some of the losses that we took early we weren’t really flowing,” Bernson said. “If we can right that ship now before the season starts and get those wins, we’ll put ourselves in an easier position to be at a higher seed when we get to qualification.”

Tip-off for the team’s first A-10 matchup against Saint Louis is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at the Smith Center.

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