GW Volleyball to Open Season at Purdue's Mortar Board Premier
Aug. 23, 2012
WASHINGTON- The George Washington volleyball team will open the 2012 season on Friday afternoon at Purdue University's Holloway Gymnasium for the 22nd annual Mortar Board Premier.
The Colonials will open the tournament on Friday afternoon against Pittsburgh (4 p.m. ET) before Saturday's clashes with No. 9 Purdue (12 p.m. ET) and No. 21 Northern Iowa (5 p.m. ET).
GW holds a 4-13 series record against the field with three wins against Pittsburgh, including a first-round victory in the 1993 NCAA Tournament at the Charles E. Smith Center. The Colonials also own a 1-0 series lead over Purdue following a four-set victory over the Boilermakers at the American University Classic in Sept. 2000. GW is 0-3 against Northern Iowa with the last meeting being a 3-0 Panthers win in 1989.
2012 Volleyball Season Outlook
A quick glance at the George Washington volleyball program's first season under head coach Amanda Ault - a 10-0 start, a 12-1 home record, an 80-percent increase in ticket sales, the team's first trip to the Atlantic 10 tournament since 2008 - and one would think that the season was a rousing success.
The campaign featured record-setting performances, six five-set victories, the largest volleyball crowd in school history and three tournament championships. Despite the successes, the season was devoid of one glaring component in the lack of a postseason win. The Colonials fell to Duquesne in the first round of the A-10 Championship after holding a 2-0 lead. Regardless of all the great accomplishments the team compiled, it is the lasting memory that proves to be most painful, but also fuels the fire of a hungry team.
"Last year we started off 10-0, which was great, but I think that our expectations this year, as our preseason has become more demanding and the strength of schedule has increased, is it's going to be challenging for us," said Coach Ault. "But it is something that we decided needed to be done in order to take that next step as a program."
Armed with 10 returning letterwinners, including four starters, and a highly-touted quartet of recruits, the Colonials are focused on returning to the A-10 Championship and bringing the first conference title back to Foggy Bottom since the 2000 season.
"The great thing about this team this year is that we have a lot of depth," said Coach Ault. "They are going to be challenging each other in the gym every day. If we can stay healthy and have these numbers throughout the season it is going to be great because we will be able to do a lot of things with our lineup, our offense and our defense. It is only going to help us in the long run."
The departure of two-year starter Katie Crosby, who finished last season ranked fourth in the conference with 10.19 assists per set, ensures that a new face will occupy the position for the Colonials in 2012. The frontrunner is newcomer Jessica Lubic, an incoming transfer from Northern Illinois. Lubic did not compete for the Huskies last season but boasts an impressive scholastic resume that ensures the ball will be in good hands for the Colonials' attack.
"Its never easy for a setter to come in and take over a team right from the beginning," said Coach Ault. "You need to learn your hitters, learn the offense and get a feel for how you want to run the offense. I think Jessica has done a good job of figuring those things out first. And now you can see more of her personality coming out. She is running the floor and being more vocal about what she wants to do and accomplish. I think the team is really responding to her which is a great thing."
Senior Lauren Whyte anchors the stable of outside hitters for the Colonials. Whyte, a 2011 Atlantic 10 First Team Selection, has totaled 1,228 kills in her career and will likely move into sole possession of second place by season's end. She finished last season ranked second in the conference with 3.88 kills per set and third overall with 396 kills and 438 total points.
"Lauren is one of those players that wants to compete and wants to lead by example and I believe that she has set herself to do just that," said Coach Ault. "She works extremely hard in practice, comes in early and stays late. That is what you want to see from your players. She is poised to have a great year and has the team around her to do just that."
Juniors Rachael Goss, Taylor Knox and sophomore Kelsey Newman will also be a focus of the Colonials attack in 2012. Goss returned from an injury to appear in 61 sets in her sophomore season and recorded double-digit kills on seven occasions, including four of the last six matches. Knox has evolved into a reliable and consistent attacker for the Colonials after finishing second on the team with 178 kills in her sophomore season. Newman had a strong rookie campaign and was a key contributor to the Colonials successful season. She finished fifth on the team with 161 kills, posted double-digit kills in eight matches and was named the A-10 Rookie of the Week.
"We have a lot of firepower. We feel that we have a lot of options to run our offense through, but that means that we need to really put our focus on our passing and put our setter in a position to use those options. There are a lot of things we can do offensively; we need to make sure that we get them the ball to do that."
Junior Jamie Armstrong, who had a breakout year in the middle for the Colonials in 2011, returns to anchor the middle blockers in 2012. Armstrong emerged as a dual threat for the Colonials, being named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week on three occasions and leading the team with a .314 attack percentage.
Sophomores Christy Harper and co-captain Landon Garvik join Armstrong in the middle after successful debut seasons. Harper tallied a .280 attack percentage while totaling 39 blocks and 75 kills in 43 sets last season. She also recorded at least three blocks in six matches. Garvik appeared in 29 sets and finished with 46 kills and 15 blocks during her freshman campaign.
Senior Candace Silva-Martin, now the all-time career digs leader in GW history, will once again anchor the defense for the Colonials. The Fremont, Calif., native is coming off her best season at GW, during which she garnered MVP and All-Tournament honors at three tournaments and was named the Colonials' Most Valuable Player. She will provide veteran leadership while at the same time grooming the next wave of liberos for the Colonials.
"For Candi, she just needs to be as consistent as possible," said Coach Ault. "That is something that she has shown she understands these past two weeks. When she plays free, she is a great libero, both passing and defensively. She just needs to make sure that she allows herself to play that way."
Also returning for the Colonials as defensive specialists are senior Christie Graf and junior Jessica Burr. Combined, the veteran duo has appeared in nearly 100 sets in their careers and ensures a veteran presence on the backline for the Colonials.
Coach Ault's first recruiting class, which features the top two high school players in Michigan, features four players that are capable of contributing immediately in 2012.
"This recruiting class is going to continue to elevate the GW Volleyball program," said Coach Ault. "All four of these girls are extremely talented, proven winners and they will all make a profound impact on the program over the next four years."
Maddy Doyle was named the recipient of Michigan's Miss Volleyball award, given annually to the top player in the state by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association. She helped her team at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., to the Class A District Championship for three consecutive years while leading the Marlins to the Class A Final Four in her sophomore and junior seasons. Her club team, Michigan Elite Volleyball Academy, won the 2012 USAV Girls' Junior National Championship in early July.
Alexis Huntey finished as the runner-up in Michigan's Miss Volleyball voting after garnering First Team All-State honors for the fourth year in a row at Morley Stanwood High School in Morley, Mich. Over the course of her career she led her team to 11 tournament championships, three consecutive district and league titles and a regional championship (as a sophomore). Morely's overall record is 142-22-2 with Huntey in the lineup. Huntey was also named to the PrepVolleyball.com All-American Third Team after totaling 930 kills, 106 aces and 748 digs as a senior. She slammed 30 kills to lead Morley Stanwood to the Michigan Class C State Championship.
Jessica Lubic joins the Colonials as a transfer from Northern Illinois where she redshirted as a freshman. She was a four-time varsity letterwinner and two-time captain at Kaneland High School in Sugar Grove, Ill. Lubic, a setter, owns her high school's record for career assists (1,608) and service aces (148), and earned All-Western Sun Conference and First Team All-Area honors as a junior and senior.
Margarethe Skjelbred is the first non-Canadian international recruit to join the Colonials since Suzana Manole (Bucharest, Romania) was on the roster in 2000. Skjelbred hails from Bodo, Norway, and played scholastically at Top Volley Norway. She is also an accomplished beach volleyball player, having appeared in numerous international tournaments
The Colonials will host 11 matches at the Charles E. Smith Center, participate in a quartet of early season tournaments and face four NCAA Tournament teams as part of its 28-match 2012 schedule.
GW will travel to the Purdue Mortar Board Invitational (Aug. 24-25), UniWyo Cowgirl Classic (Aug. 31-Sept. 1) and the Maryland Invitational (Sept. 7-8) as part of its non-conference schedule. The trio of tournaments feature matches against three NCAA Tournament teams from last season in Purdue, Northern Iowa and Tennessee.
The Colonials open their home schedule on September 5 against UMBC. During the season GW will host the GW/NIKE Invitational with BYU, Princeton and New Hampshire before hosting conference opponents in Charlotte, VCU, Duquesne, La Salle, Temple, Fordham and Rhode Island.
Road conference matches include Butler, Saint Louis, VCU, Charlotte, Xavier and defending A-10 Champion and NCAA Tournament participant Dayton.
Read more about the Colonials' 2012 schedule here.