Volleyball dropped its first four games of the season as the team works to shake off the rust in the COVID-19 era.
After more than a year without competition, the Colonials (0-4, 0-2 A-10) dropped its opening two games last week on the road. The team fell in back-to-back games against George Mason over the weekend, but head coach Sarah Bernson said the squad will continue to improve with more competition.
“Typically you judge a team by their serve and pass – it’s the base skill level on where a team is at,” Bernson said in an interview Friday. “And our serving game, although we missed a lot of serves in the first match, that’s starting to come down, and our passing numbers are very good.”
Unlike a typical year when the squad would play in three or four nonconference tournaments to improve its game, the team is playing its conference games in a “pod system” based on geographic location this season.
The squad will see pod members Fordham, George Mason, La Salle and Rhode Island multiple times this campaign, which Bernson said complicates the team’s preparation.
“The difference between having a Saturday and Sunday match, for instance, with George Mason, is they might change personnel in a drastic way that we might see over film between the two matches in a typical year,” Bernson said. “And so we get under 24 hours to process that, and we don’t get to see a change until we actually are across the net.”
The squad recorded a league-leading 22 aces but has committed 37 service errors in its opening matches.
Along with focusing on the serving and passing in the opening stretch, Bernson said the team is looking to embrace the idea of “savviness” this season. The team will examine scouting reports and look at strategies different teams like to use on the court.
“The in-game knowledge and communication, if we can continue to grow that where we can execute in our savviness, I think that will really take us far this season,” she said.
Graduate student opposite Ashley Waggle said repeatedly facing a conference opponent in the pod system can also come with benefits because the team could have a better idea of what to expect.
“It’s not going to have to be adjusting to another team and then having to think back to this team,” Waggle said. “What we see is what we get, and then we can make those adjustments from there.”
Waggle, who was a new addition to the squad in May, said she’s enjoyed competing again and takes multiple COVID-19 tests per week to ensure the team’s safety. She has made an immediate impact on the offensive side, hitting at a .248 percent clip to average 3.5 kills per set. She paces the squad with 52 kills on the year.
For the team’s three freshmen, including outside hitter Elizabeth Drelling, the four-game stretch marked the trio’s introduction to collegiate competition.
“It’s been a lot different, I think the biggest thing for me was just the transition from moving so far away,” Drelling said. “But all the girls and the coaches have been extremely helpful and very kind with the transition, telling me, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,’ filling me in on everything and just really being there for me.”
Drelling has emerged as a leader on the offensive end for GW. She’s tabbed 42 kills, swinging at a .202 clip. Newcomers have tallied 65.4 percent of the team’s kills and 60.3 percent of the squad’s points.
Drelling said the team needs to embrace communication and adjustments on the court to produce results down the line.
“We’re just learning as we go and taking each game as a lesson on what we can improve on and we’ve been taking that into practices,” Drelling said. “Before the Delaware State game, we were really working on blocking because that was something we needed to do, and we still have room for improvement, but we’re getting there.”
Nine of the team’s 14 rostered players were available to play in its opening two games. Bernson declined to say when those players would return but said they will “be back this season.”
“When we get the call that they can go back in, they’ll be back in,” Bernson said. “We had nine available this past weekend and they all did a great job handling that, and as we get more and more in, I think using our full component of a 14-person roster will just help our practice and our game environment.”
Volleyball will next face off against cross-town rival Howard Tuesday night at the Smith Center. The match is slated for 6 p.m.
Will Margerum contributed reporting.