Volleyball is starting to hit its stride on the court, but the recent string of wins could be too late for the team to secure a spot in the Atlantic 10 Championships with just two games left in the regular season.
In their last two games, the Colonials have posted some of their best numbers since early October, an uptick in play head coach Sarah Bernson said is the result of a shift in her team’s mentality and approach to the game.
“We’ve talked a lot about pride in how we play,” Bernson said. “We know we didn’t play our best volleyball, and instead of being like, ‘oh, shucks this is how we are,’ it’s like ‘no, we still have games left to play our best volleyball.’”
In their games against VCU and Davidson over the weekend, the Colonials tallied 17 and 18 errors, respectively, in each match, their lowest totals since GW’s game against Rhode Island Oct. 5 when they posted 14.
In their sweep against Davidson, the Colonials swung for a .250 attack percentage, GW’s third-highest hitting percentage on the year and their second best in conference play. The Colonials tallied nine total blocks against the Wildcats, the highest total the team has recorded in 14 matches.
“We’re all focusing on our individual jobs in the court and that translates to being successful as a whole team,” junior outside hitter Jordan Young said. “We are learning to trust that we’re going to do our job so people don’t feel like they have to do theirs and other people’s.”
With two games left in conference play and three A-10 wins this season, the Colonials have a slim chance of making postseason play.
“We’ve had the skills the whole time, it’s definitely mentality and that’s a hard thing to change,” Young said. “But it’s also an easy thing to change if you’re willing to do it and you’re determined and you work to do it.”
The Colonials entered conference play riding a four-match win streak and extended it to five – the team’s longest since 2015 – when they swept Saint Louis to open their A-10 schedule. But after their game against the Billikens, the Colonials struggled to pull out wins and only picked up two in their next 12 games.
Bernson, who is leading the team for her second year, said it would be a hard year to recreate what went well last season and fix what went wrong because the team was still acclimating to new leadership.
“It takes a little bit more work,” Bernson said. “This has been a mental challenge for the team in still learning and understanding they don’t know everything but also trusting their knowledge.”
The Colonials found themselves in a similar postseason situation last year. After losing six of its nine conference games, GW went 3-2 in its last five games to clinch the final spot in the conference tournament after losing a tiebreaker to Rhode Island.
GW will need to win both of its remaining games and rely on the results of Saint Louis and Rhode Island’s games over the weekend to have a shot at the tournament. Even if the Colonials sweep this weekend, their future in the postseason is not completely in their control.
“Our focus has been on fighting as hard as we can and doing everything we can to ensure that, if the odds are in our favor, that we did everything we could to make it happen,” junior setter Jaimeson Lee said.
With the team struggling to find its footing, Lee said the team needs to focus on making in-game adjustments faster than they have in past games in order to perform better throughout the rest of its schedule.
Young said the team can avoid slipping into losing streaks like they did this season and last by focusing on matches one at a time instead of reflecting on past losses when heading into matches.
“I remember winning our first game in, I don’t know how many it was, four or five, and it was such a great feeling and if we can just limit a streak, if we can take each weekend at a time, I think that would be better,” Young said.
GW is set to face Fordham and Rhode Island in its last two regular season games. Bernson said the Colonials need to improve their outside hitting and blocking if they want to put themselves in the best position to win.
“At the end of the season we’re working toward wins and that’s priority number one,” Bernson said. “If the stars align and we get to play next week, we’ll go for that as well.”
The Colonials head to the Bronx to face Fordham Friday at 3 p.m.
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