Let's Get it Started! -- Volleyball Kicks Off '07 Season Friday at GMU
Aug. 22, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC - The GW Volleyball team will kick off the 2007 season Friday, Aug. 24 with a 7 p.m. at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. It marks the opening match of the second annual DC Challenge that features Georgetown and American in addition to GMU and the Colonials. GW is the tournament's defending champion after capturing the title in last year's inaugural event. The Colonials are 26-7 in the all-time series with the Patriots and also enjoy a 31-27 advantage against Georgetown and an 8-4 record against American in the all-time series with those programs.
George Washington volleyball in 2007 will feature a new look as the Colonials return 10 letterwinners--but just three starters--from a 2006 squad that missed the A-10 Conference Tournament by just seven points. New to the team will be four highly touted newcomers who figure to make an immediate impact. "The return of Janine Brown, Abby Syverson and Maggie Wright will form the foundation of our success this season," coach Jojit Coronel said. "More importantly, the leadership of our returning seniors and the arrival of our four incoming "blue-chippers" will make us a team to be reckoned with come tournament time. I'm excited about the youth, athleticism and commitment each player brings, on and off the court. I look forward to this being a turnaround year for GW Volleyball and I expect to be in the hunt both in our conference and nationally."
For the first time in three years, the GW offense will be directed by a setter other than graduated starter Kaimana Lee. The top candidate for the starting setter position is senior Jess Buche (Lake Odessa, MI). Buche has split time with Lee the last two seasons. She gained valuable experience and confidence this past season after appearing in 30 games. Sophomore Madelyn Bagby (Houston, TX) also appeared in 30 games last season and figures to back up Buche. "Jessica has prepared herself for this opportunity and is ready to lead," says Coronel. "I have no doubt that she can orchestrate our offense smartly and with committed passion. Maddy will hopefully recover from her knee problems to continue her growth and presence on the court. The pair competed well last spring and will both be fighting for the `quarterback' position in the fall."
After losing starter Kelly Kabbes to graduation, five players will come into fall camp wanting to make a positive impression on the coaching staff. A returning starter, Syverson (Minneapolis, MN) was an Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team selection last year and will be joined by fellow sophomores Stephanie Sharp (Columbia, MD), Katie Butz (Columbus, OH) and senior Erica Williams (Samford, CT) and junior Jackie Yaniga (Miami, FL). Newcomer Katie Zulandt (Chardon, OH) will add depth in the middle. All will be competing for considerable playing time.
"Abby is, no doubt, one of the most passionate and dedicated players I have ever coached," Coronel said of last year's A-10 All-Rookie Team member. "I expect her to be smarter and more savvy this season. Erica will have a major impact this fall, as well. Her progress last spring was awesome and I look forward to seeing her compete above the net. Stephanie and Katie both a have a tremendous opportunity to see considerable playing time. My expectations are that they both get accustomed to the speed of play and to play with resiliance by using their strengths on the court."
Two of the three outside hitter positions are expected to be covered by senior team captain Janine Brown (Jacksonville, FL) and junior Liz Moult (Shillington, PA). They will need to fill the large void left by the graduation of Juliene McLaughlin, one of the better all-around Colonials ever, and Abba Greenleaf who, with McLaughlin, take 559 kills or 42 percent of GW's total kills last season, with them. Both should be up to the task.
Brown has been a dependable offensive weapon for three years and Moult stepped into the lineup early last season when Brown was sidelined with an ankle injury. The Colonials will need a less-seasoned hitter to step to the forefront at the third starting spot. Senior Brittney Retzinger (Lake Bluff, IL) and newcomers Leah Hill (Ontario, NY) and Hannah Stuart (Bainbridge Island, WA) will compete for the third starting spot. "Janine and Liz are leading the way this fall," says Coronel. "Their experience will not only be relied on but also their ability to be valuable mentors to Leah and Hannah. As captain, much of the load will be placed on Janine on the court. Her ball control and attacking will be important to our team's success. Liz has an opportunity to solidify herself as a dominant player. My expectation is that she play consistently in practice and in competition. Leah and Hannah will help us immediately. Their volleyball skills are already highly tuned but it's their athleticism and court awareness that will pay major dividends."
Junior Maggie Wright (Cortlandt Manor, NY) returns as the starting libero after making the transition from setter/defensive specialist to libero in 2005. An A-10 Academic All-Conference selection in 2006, Wright led the squad in digs with 372 last season. Freshman Chelsea Cramer, a walk-on from Burr Ridge, IL, will back up Wright. "Maggie has slowly taken on a major role in our defense and offense," Coronel added. "Her success will be based on her ability to take more court, so as to free up our outside hitters. Defensively, Maggie is right there with the best liberos in the country. She needs to be a bulldog on the court and make her presence known on every play. Challenging her will be Cramer. As a walk-on, Chelsea is an incredible blessing to this team. Her ball control and passion for the game will be contagious."
"Once again, our schedule will prepare us for the most important part of our season, the A-10 matches," says Coronel. "Our opponents will challenge us to play to the best of our ability and I expect us to rise to the occasion and to grow as a team. Our unique manner of play will put us in a position to win."
The Colonials begin non-conference play for the second straight year in late August by defending their title in the DC Challenge against local rivals Georgetown, American and George Mason. GW then competes in the VCU Invitational at Richmond before hosting its own annual George Washington Invitational featuring East Carolina, Hartford and Howard. The Colonials open A-10 play with a two-match road swing beginning Sept. 21 at Fordham before facing Rhode Island two days later. Temple and La Salle visit Smith Center for Parents/Alumni Weekend Sept. 28-30. Defending A-10 champion Saint Louis comes to Smith Center on Oct. 21 and Charlotte will be the opponent for Senior Night on Nov. 9. The 49ers will host the 2007 Atlantic 10 Championship Nov. 16-18.