Volleyball looks to turn around program under new leadership

Media Credit: File Photo by Jordyn Bailer | Assistant Photo Editor

After a dry, two-win season last year, GW dropped its first four games to start the 2022 season before turning a corner at the Bucknell Invitational

After stumbling into the fall with a losing streak on the heels of a two-win season, volleyball has gotten back on track with three wins in its last five matches as new Head Coach Katie Reifert aims to revamp the program.

After a dry, two-win season last year, GW (3-6) lost its first four matches to start the 2022 season before turning a corner at the Bucknell Invitational where they won their first two matches of the season. The Colonials have won nine out of 27 sets and have been shut out in two of their last three matches. Despite the underwhelming start, Head Coach Katie Reifert said their Friday match against Rider, where the team won 3–2, was a confidence booster for the team.

“I think this was a huge confidence builder for us, just understanding that they played really confidently in our front row and back row together,” Reifert said in a post-game interview Friday. “Our front row, it just comes back to doing our jobs, our front row could do their job sufficiently because they knew they had the backdrop behind them.”

The squad has averaged just 11.3 kills per set at a .138 clip but has committed 211 attack errors in the first eight matches, a vast increase from last season’s 98 errors due to a lack of uniformity within the team. The Colonials have accumulated 495 points and 341 assists overall, while their opponents have racked up 544 points and 373 assists.

Reifert, who is taking on her first season as head coach, said the team needs to improve their defense and increase their hitting potential to clean up its movement on the court and decrease the number errors, which will also allow them to be more confident as a unit.

In four of their first matches, the Colonials came out hot but faltered later in the sets as they struggled to overcome their opponent’s defensive front. The squad has struggled on the receiving end of serves thus far, resulting in 62 reception errors. Reifert said the team needs to maintain a steady play to keep all players restricted to their own roles instead of “taking on too much.”

“Our hitters could go up and swing aggressively because they knew they had their defense behind them,” Reifert said. “So it was a little shaky, but we’re going to clean that up.”

Graduate student middle blocker Tierra Porter has become an integral piece in the team’s middle as she leads the attacking play with 47 kills and a .214 attacking percentage. Reifert said Porter became the playmaker of Friday evening, as she pushed the team to rely on each other.

“The beginning, I think it was really cool to see her be able to come back from that, we had a lot of chats about her wanting to really be the playmaker for our team,” Reifert said.

Despite the rocky start, there have been some bright spots. Junior opposite Liv Womble holds a team-leading 105 kills, five assists and 123 points this season, followed by junior outside hitter Elizabeth Drelling who totals 104 points, 97 kills and three assists. Due to Womble’s impressive showing, GW named her student athlete of the week on Sept. 6.

Among the freshmen, setter Dilara Elmacioglu has led with 91 assists, three kills and a .100 attacking percentage. Playing in all eight games this season, Elmacioglu has shown potential with the GW team as she has helped upperclass players find their footing on the court with her assists.

Reifert said she looks forward to continuing playing at the Smith Center and seeing students support the team as it looks to enter the A-10 schedule.

“I love playing in the Smith Center because you really feel the crowd right on top of you and when that’s your home crowd cheering for you, that I mean, it makes it all the better,” Reifer said.

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