Volleyball kicked off its season with a loss and two sweeps at the DC Challenge Tournament in the Smith Center Friday and Saturday.
In their home-opener, the Colonials (2-1) trounced Hartford (1-2) and Howard (1-2), but succumbed to a 3–1 loss to American. The squad posted just a .123 attack percentage in its game against the Eagles but rebounded against Hartford and Howard, swinging at .268 and .271 clips, respectively.
After committing 21 errors against the Eagles, head coach Sarah Bernson said the team’s all-around game wasn’t sharp, but she saw strength in the team’s attack.
“We weren’t really crisp in our first game against American, but we could see that some things were working so we just stuck with it, and we hit much better in the second game and we’re continuing to hit well,” Bernson said.
After falling short of the Atlantic 10 Tournament and finishing A-10 play with a 5-9 record last season, GW returns with new graduate transfers Caroline Sklaver and Paty Valle along with three freshmen. The Colonials are predicted to finish No. 5 in conference play this season.
The Colonials were defeated in four sets in the team’s first game of the tournament against American Friday.
After falling to an early 7–1 deficit in the first set, the squad knotted the set at 13–13. After back-and-forth points with the Eagles, the Colonials dropped the set 25–23. The squad has 22 fewer attempts than the Eagles in set No. 1.
Another competitive back-and-forth exchange in the second set resulted in a 25–18 victory for American.
Coming out the gate with several strong serves, the Colonials rode the momentum and continued to hold a small lead over American throughout the set. A dig by sophomore libero Bella Bowman leading to a spike by senior outside hitter Skylar Iott sealed the deal for the Colonials, who won the set 25-23.
Falling behind early into the fourth set, the Colonials faced a 10–4 Eagles advantage. A late hit by Valle gave the Colonials their 15th point of the set, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Eagles who won 25-15.
The Colonials finished the match with 12 total blocks – double that of the Eagles – but finished with 38 kills compared to 62 kills for American.
“American was digging a lot of balls and we didn’t expect that,” Valle, one of the graduate transfers, said. “They were taking more than we were waiting for. So that took us a little bit out of control.”
The Colonials returned to the court Friday evening, bouncing back with a clean sweep of Hartford in three sets.
The Colonials continued their solid defensive showing, out-blocking the Hawks 8–3. The teams were more evenly matched offensively, with Hartford punching 36 kills and GW swinging for 34 kills during the contest.
GW stayed in control the majority of the first set, breaking an early tie thanks to a Hawks service error. Two straight aces by Valle cleared the way for the Colonials, and a kill by Iott tied up the 25–17 win.
Hartford maintained a steady lead in the second set, but GW went on a four-point run capped by a kill from Valle to tie the set at 12–12. The Bisons retook the scoreboard for a few more volleys, until a kill from sophomore outside hitter Paz Dozie-Nnamah gave the Colonials a lead they never relinquished.
The Colonials secured the sweep with a 25-21 victory in set three.
GW repeated its feat against Hartford, sweeping Howard in three straight sets.
A block by Sklaver and Iott put the Colonials on the board and cleared the way for an unanswered 9-0 run. Howard was unable to recover from its cold start, never coming within 10 points of GW’s lead. Iott said the team prioritized blocking in its preseason practices.
“It’s nice to have some experience in the block with Caroline and Patty being grad students,” Iott said. “We’ve learned a lot from them and their experience, but we’ve also placed a big emphasis on blocking in the preseason.”
The Colonials remained close behind the Bisons in set two, matching them point-for-point but slowly closed the gap. Another block by senior setter Jaimeson Lee tied the game at 17–17 and a kill by Valle sealed the deal, capturing the set 25–21.
Junior libero Sydney Welch teed off the third set, serving a ball that was returned as a kill by the Bisons. GW regained the lead thanks to its hot offense, earning 15 kills off 31 attempts.
A kill from Iott gave the Colonials the 25–21 victory, claiming their second clean sweep of the tournament. With an attack percentage of .387, the final set showcased some of the Colonials’ most efficient hitting in the tournament.
The Colonials are back in action Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they take on Miami to open the Hurricane Invitational.