Outside hitter Rachel Goss had 14 digs Saturday afternoon. Hatchet File Photo
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Sean Hurd.
Nothing came easy for the women’s volleyball team this weekend.
After finishing last weekend with a losing record of 1-2 at the GW Invitational, the Colonials entered the UCF Classic in Orlando, Fla. this weekend with hopes of picking up some momentum in what still is a very young volleyball season.
Despite a straight sets loss to Central Florida on Friday night, GW proved this weekend that playing as a cohesive unit will yield victories. The Colonials finished the tournament with a winning record of 2-1, with victories over Stephen F. Austin State (25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 21-25, 10-15) and Elon (25-16, 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 11-15) giving them a 3-3 overall record for the season.
In both of those five-set victories, the Colonials found themselves trailing early on in the match.
After dropping the first two sets in the opening match against SFA (5-2), a fighting Colonials team crept back into contention, winning two straight sets to force a decisive fifth. The comeback was due in large part to the play of junior Kelsey Newman and freshman Chidima Osuchukwu. Newman tallied 24 kills and 10 digs, resulting in her third straight double-double. Osuchukwu slammed seven kills without a single error for the Colonials, to go along with her six blocks, three solo blocks.
Senior outside hitter Rachael Goss had 12 kills of her own for GW and sophomore Jordan Timmer had 45 assists, just three under her career high.
GW would eventually take the fifth set by a five-point spread.
In their match against UCF (6-1), the Colonials found themselves facing an old problem: unforced errors. The Colonials surrendered 18 attack errors, eight reception errors, and nine service errors to the Knight,s who capitalized on GW’s mistakes.
For head coach Amanda Ault, those unforced errors are a huge disrupter to one of the team’s most important keys: balance.
“That’s so important to us,” Ault said. “We have to be balanced. We’re going to be so much more successful if we are balanced in our offense.”
The third and final game of the tournament for the Colonials against Elon University (2-5) illustrated the character of this GW team. After losing the first set in a convincing fashion, the Colonials found themselves in a similar situation: with their backs against the wall.
It was the third match in a row in which they started one set down.
And thus began their second comeback of the week, but likely not the way anyone could have pictured.
With Newman evidently struggling early on in the match, Ault tapped the shoulder of freshman outside hitter Loren Williams. Williams, who had only appeared in one of the previous five games for the Colonials, went from a vocal teammate on the bench to a force on the court. Williams had 13 kills, four digs and two solo blocks as the COlonials rallied their way back into the game. It was an effort that greatly impressed her head coach.
“She not only gave us great offense but she also had some big key plays defensively, blocking wise, and also back serving. It speaks well of her coming in, really taking the opportunity, stepping in and really doing things well,” Ault said.
Freshman setter Emily Clemens also played an instrumental role in the final sets. After Timmer had struggled to find a rhythm with her hitters, Ault made the change to place Clemens in the setter position for the first time this season. Clemens responded, dishing 13 assists in the final two sets of the match, helping the Colonials to seal the match in the fifth and final set.
Sophomore libero Maddy Doyle had a strong showing with 20 digs and three service aces while Goss ran the stat sheet with a double-double 14 kills and 14 digs.
“Today was a total team effort for this win,” Ault said. “There were some key people who stepped off the bench and came in for us and really had big games. “
Ault continued to make personnel changes on the floor, starting a different group of six in-between sets without having a go-to core six on the floor.
Ault is still not troubled by the lack of a certain starting six, and is instead, looking to use what some may view as a problem, and turn it into a tactic against GW’s opponents.
“For this match in particular it goes back to the point of having depth on this team, having competitions within positions,” Ault said. “I think today was great example of that. Here is somebody who is struggling, if we need a different look in that position we have the personnel to step up and help us out. “
While Ault is also impressed with the team’s ability to bounce back, she doesn’t necessarily want to have to stage a comeback for every win.
“They’ve shown us that they don’t give up, which is a great thing,” Ault said. “Now we just need to concentrate and focus on figuring out how to start the match off right. But I know that when their backs are against the wall, they’re performing and that’s good. We just need to take care of the beginning part of our play.”
GW will look to keep their momentum going when they face off against cross-town rival Georgetown on Wednesday.
Senior Jessica Burr saw action for the first time since last season (injury). Jamie Armstrong didn’t make the trip to Florida because of injury sustained last week (concussion).