Aug. 17, 2004
The 2004 season presents a challenge for head coach
Jojit Coronel (right) and the GW Volleyball coaching staff. After graduating four outstanding seniors, including an AVCA All-American and two A-10 All-Conference performers, will he have enough firepower left to contend in 2004? Coronel believes he does.
"It would be difficult for any team or organization to replace an All-American and three starters, but the cupboard is not bare in Foggy Bottom," Coronel said during the summer. "With the return of 10 solid returnees and five talented freshmen, this year's squad will, again, compete for a regular season A-10 championship title, a berth in the conference tournament and, hopefully, a bid to the 2004 NCAA Tournament. I am very confident that we can achieve all our goals despite the struggles I know we will face. Our number one priority at the start of fall camp is to develop our chemistry and to implement our system of play. This will require patience and discipline by everyone. However, in the long run, I do believe that we will be much better both technically and physically than last year's team."
GW welcomes back three starters (plus the starting libero), including All-Conference performers Shannon Parks and the 2002 A-10 Rookie of the Year, Lindsey Vernand. In addition, a class of five talented newcomers joins the returnees.
The 2004 Colonials will rely on the leadership of two seniors: co-captains Katie Downey (outside hitter) and defensive specialist Molly Law. Downey appeared in 102 games last season and recorded 167 kills while hitting .174 as the Colonials' third option on offense. Her 23 aces and 55 total blocks were both second-highest on the team. Law played in 80 games as a junior last season and contributed 13 aces and 83 digs primarily from the back row.
Every successful team needs a steady setter and sophomore Kaimana Lee is ready to assume that responsibility. Lee appeared in 97 of GW's 114 games (85%) as the understudy to starter Lauren Dunning last season. The Hawai'i native tallied 237 assists (2.44 apg) and 53 digs to go with 28 total blocks.
Vernand, the A-10 Rookie of the Year in `02, brings the type of arm swing the Colonials will need to offset the loss of All-American Sarah Hokom and All-Conference performer Ruth Lazzari.
With four experienced seniors ahead of them last season, both Vernand and `02 A-10 All-Rookie performer Shannon Parks suffered a dropoff in offensive production last season but are poised to lead the way for GW in 2004.
They will have plenty of help from sophomores Kelly Kabbes and Canadian Juliene McLaughlin. Both are hard hitters with impressive vertical jumping ability who contributed significant numbers as freshmen last season. The combination of Downey, Vernand, Kabbes and McLaughlin give the Colonials four potent offensive weapons.
Coronel is excited about the return of juniors Abigail Hatter and defensive specialist/libero Jessica Vesey. The 6-foot-3 Hatter provides a formidable blocking presence in the middle who will give opponents trouble. Hatter's .245 (78-33-184) hitting percentage led the Colonials in 2003. Vesey was steady last season as the team's first and only libero. Her 340 digs, an average of more than three digs per game, was third-highest on the squad. Sophomore Abigail Greenleaf (13 games, 10 kills, 15 digs) rounds out the returnees.
The team welcomes five newcomers in 2004. The Class of 2008 consists of Florida natives Janine Brown and Jacqueline Yaniga, Erica Williams (Stamford, CT), as well as midwesterners Brittney Retzinger of Illinois and Jessica Buche of Michigan. Yaniga, a rare two-sport athlete, also will play for the GW softball team. Retzinger, who suffered a knee injury in the spring, will not be available for the fall season.
Coronel has sandwiched a pair of high-level non-conference tournaments around the A-10 matches this year beginning and ending on the west coast. GW opens the campaign in a tournament at UC Irvine and ends the season with a tournament at the University of the Pacific. "This season's schedule is definitely tougher than last year's," Coronel said. "Our trip to UC Irvine will test us immediately. Having to play two Top 25 teams (Utah and UC Irvine) will be challenging. Nonetheless, our other preseason opponents will undoubtedly prepare us for the rigors of Atlantic 10 competition."
The Colonials will play in a tournament at Delaware before hosting the four-team GW Invitational at Smith Center. GW then opens conference play at Duquesne. Defending Conference champion Dayton visits Smith Center Nov. 12. A-10 nemesis Temple, a team the Colonials have not beaten in the last 12 meetings, comes to Washington for an Oct. 2 match followed by the 56th renewal of the crosstown rivalry with Georgetown, also at Smith Center.
Xavier provides the opposition on "Senior Night" for GW's two graduating seniors followed by the A-10 Championship which will be hosted by Duquesne in Pittsburgh. The A-10's top four teams will advance to the Atlantic 10 championship tournament Nov. 19-20, where an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is at stake. Following the conference tournament, GW will travel to Stockton, CA, for the Bankers Classic Tournament, hosted by Pacific, in what the staff hopes will be a tune-up for an NCAA Tournament first-round match.