With a spike of the volleyball from junior opposite Liv Womble, no unguarded pocket of the court is safe.
Womble has steered GW to an 11-9 record this fall while exploiting the opponents’ weaknesses in the court’s empty corners with in-game shot adjustments that power the team’s offense. The 2022 season has proven to be Womble’s first full regular season as a collegiate player after COVID-19 paused her freshman season and disrupted spurts of her sophomore season, a development she hopes will culminate in an Atlantic 10 Championship run.
Head Coach Katie Reifert said Womble has developed a special vision to decipher her opponents’ defensive front and place her hits accordingly to lift the Colonials to victory. As the team’s leading threat against the competition, Womble is pushing the fourth-place GW team closer to playoff contention after the team scraped together only two wins while losing 25 matches last season.
“Liv’s a competitor, she loves to compete, and winning drives her,” Reifert said. “It’s really precious, it’s fun to have her in the gym as a great energy source and competitor. As I was talking about before, Liv is very knowledgeable of our opponents, she studies up on who we’re playing next so that she can really expose their weaknesses.”
Unlike most college athletes, volleyball was not an integral part of Womble’s early sports career. Womble – who grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina – pursued track and basketball in grade school before joining the volleyball team in high school after a friend decided to try out for the team.
During her high school career, she achieved two All-District and All-Region honors at Robinson Secondary and went on to commit to GW to continue her volleyball career. After playing nearly every position in high school, Womble said she had trouble adjusting to college play her freshman year.
“When I first got here because when I was in high school, even in my position, I played all the way around,” Womble said. “It was a little bit different, like the speed of the game is vastly different when you get to college.”
She said she also struggled to regain her strength after losing muscle when the pandemic halted her freshman volleyball season, when the team only played 10 of its 16 scheduled matches in 2020. But Womble has adapted to the mental and physical aspects of collegiate volleyball with craftiness on the court, often faking the spike and tapping it over the net to dupe defenders.
“I would say she’s a very knowledgeable player,” Reifert said. “She is really gifted at seeing what’s in front of her and adjusting her shots and her swings to really take advantage of the situation.”
Womble said Reifert’s entry to the program this year and the new coaching staff that joined have helped fuel her winning mentality and evolution as a player. She said the coaching staff makes sure the team spends unfiltered time together and has rules like the “no phone policy” during team meals. She said Reifert prioritizes the team’s mentality and tries to boost morale for games and practices.
“She just told us that you’re only going to get as much joy as you put in,” Womble said. “That kind of mentality spreads onto the court, spreads into the bench, spreads into practice.”
Womble said her teammates have also played an integral role in the 2022 season as they look to support her play on and off the court during tough matches when she puts too much pressure on herself to lead the team’s offense. She said the team demands high-quality play from each other, which helps drive them throughout the season to continue winning.
“I think competitiveness always walks a very fine line of how you approach it,” Womble said. “There’s healthy competitiveness, and there’s sometimes toxic competitiveness. And I dabble in both areas sometimes, but I really do like to push my teammates as well as by demanding of them but leading by more of an example.”
Womble said her personal goal for the season is to make the A-10 Championship or the All-Conference team and see her team succeed at the tournament level. She said she’s more interested in making progress as a team through the development of their six freshman players, who continue to work on hitting their goals in practice.
“Our goal was win everything that we can and be the best that we can and make sure that we’ve prepared ourselves to go into that,” Womble said. “She calls it battle, she prepares us to go into a battle every time we go into a game.”