Volleyball Gets Started Friday in DC Challenge
Aug. 28, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC - The 2008 Volleyball season gets underway Friday when the Colonials face American in the first match of the DC Challenge. The GW-AU match will take place at George Mason University's Recreation Sports Complex (Fieldhouse) on the Fairfax, VA, campus. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for youth and senior citizens.
Saturday's four matches all take place at GW's Charles E. Smith Center beginning with the GW-George Mason match at 11 a.m. followed by the American-Georgetown match at 1 p.m. American then takes on George Mason at 5 p.m. with the final match between GW and Georgetown beginning at 7 p.m. Admission on Saturday is $4 for adults, free for children under 12 and GW students with valid GWorld card. Tickets are available at the door, 22nd & G Streets, NW.
All 12 of GW's home matches this season can be viewed live online via video streaming at www.GWsports.com anywhere in the world for a monthly subscription fee of $9.95 (or $79.95 for a yearly subscription that includes all GW's men's and women's basketball home games as well as several road games). Fans can watch the video by clicking on the Watch link in the All Events box or click on the Audio Video link at the lower left corner of the website's main page and follow the instructions for "GW All-Access."
Now in its third year, the DC Challenge pits four local teams: GW, American, George Mason and Georgetown in a round-robin format. The Colonials won the inaugural DC Challenge in 2006 with a perfect 3-0 record. Last year, GW posted a 1-2 record in the Challenge dropping matches to George Mason and American while defeating the Hoyas. The GW-AU match at Bender Arena featured the largest crowd to watch a college volleyball match in the District, 1,516 spectators.
George Washington volleyball in 2008 will feature a mix of young, as well as veteran, players. The Colonials return 11 letterwinners -- including four starters -- from a 2007 squad that qualified for the A-10 Conference Tournament for the first time in three years. New to the team will be four highly touted newcomers who figure to make an immediate impact. The returnees should also reap the benefits from a nine-day, five-match exhibition tour of Italy taken in March where they faced stiff competition from professional squads from Italy and Slovenia. "We've improved in our system of play," coach Jojit Coronel said. "We know that if we make errors, our chances of winning decrease dramatically. During the spring, our hitters matured and realized that being smart, tactical and playing within the system is the way to our success. If we can serve, pass, side out, defend and transition better than our opponent, then we will be a successful team. Moreover, we can only succeed in doing these things if we rely on a total team effort."
The setter position is up for grabs to begin the season following the departure of graduated starter Jess Buche. Junior Madelyn Bagby has the most collegiate experience at setter after splitting time with Buche the last two seasons. She gained valuable experience and confidence this past season after appearing in 29 games while recording 168 assists. Coming in to compete with Bagby for the starting setter position is freshman Alyssa Valentine, a 5-10 setter from Tustin CA. "I want to put the best players on the court that give us the best chance at winning immediately," Coronel added. "These players are going to have to prove they can practice and play at a high level, consistently, and always be at their best individually and collectively."
Four players will come into fall camp wanting to make a positive impression on the coaching staff. Returning starter Abby Syverson was an Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team selection as a freshman in 2006 and is joined by sophomore Katie Zulandt, and freshman MacKenzie Knox. Syverson gained some international experience as part of a U.S. team in the Global Volleyball Challenge Tournament held July 20-24 in Croatia. Knox, a high school teammate of Valentine, is expected to step into the lineup immediately in the middle. "Alyssa Valentine and MacKenzie Knox will make an immediate impact ," Coronel said. "They know how to win at the highest level. Valentine will be a key player in running our first team and second team offense. Knox will have an advantage offensively since she has played with Alyssa over the last three years."
After losing all-conference performer Janine Brown to graduation, two of the three outside hitter positions are expected to be covered by senior Liz Moult, Butz and sophomore Leah Hill. All three should be up to the task. Moult has been a dependable offensive weapon for two years while Katie Butz, Jackie Yaniga and Hill stepped into the lineup early last season. Hannah Stuart and freshmen Alex Coward and Jenny O'Brien also will compete for playing time. "Liz has gained the experience and savvy to position herself as one of our `go-to' players on offense," said Coronel. "Leah, Hannah, Alex and Jenny will give us tremendous depth on the outside. Their volleyball skills are highly tuned but it's their athleticism and court awareness that will pay major dividends."
Senior co-captain Maggie Wright returns as the starting libero after making the transition from setter/defensive specialist to libero in 2005. A two-time A-10 Academic All-Conference and ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District selection last season, Wright was third on the squad with 333 digs as a junior. Sophomore Chelsea Cramer and walk-on Anna Iofin, will back up Wright. "Defensively, Maggie is right there with the best liberos in the country, Coronel says."
The GW Volleyball program welcomes two new coaches this season as former University of Washington standout Diane West and former Oklahoma star Patrice Arrington join the Colonials staff. West is an assistant coach while Arrington is a volunteer assistant coach. West will be training the defensive specialists, passers and outside hitters while Arrington will be working with the outside hitters in the areas of attacking and blocking.
"The schedule is tough," says Coronel. "Playing defending national champion Penn State will be an eye-opener. We'll have an immediate benchmark to work from after that match. We also know that we have to prepare for that type of speed and caliber of play. Pre-season is always difficult but this year should be tougher with the hope of increasing our RPI and getting our young team battle ready for the A-10."
The Colonials begin non-conference play for the third straight year in the DC Challenge, Aug. 29-30, against local rivals Georgetown, American and George Mason. The Colonials won the Challenge two years ago and nearly captured last year's title by taking a 2-0 lead at American in front of the largest crowd to witness a collegiate volleyball match in the District of Columbia. GW couldn't hang on and fell, 3-2, to the Eagles in the title match. GW then revisits a pair of former Atlantic 10 foes when it competes in tournaments at Penn State and West Virginia. The Colonials travel to the Nittany Lion Invitational at Happy Valley to face top-ranked Penn State and Villanova, Sept. 5-6, before hosting its own annual George Washington Invitational from Sept. 12-13. This year's GW Invitational field features Delaware State and Rider. GW then competes in the West Virginia Invitational in late September against the host Mountaineers along with UMBC and UNC Greensboro. The Colonials open A-10 play with a two-match road swing beginning Sept. 26 at Duquesne before facing Saint Louis two days later at the new Chaifetz Pavilion, site of the 2008 A-10 Championship, Nov. 20-23. Defending A-10 champion Dayton and Xavier visit Smith Center for Parents/Alumni Weekend Oct. 3-5. Long-time nemesis Temple will be across the net for Senior Night on Nov. 16.
RULES CHANGES FOR 2008
The NCAA has implemented two new rules changes for the 2008 season. Each set (game) will now be decided at 25 points (rather than 30) and each team will be limited to 12 substitutions per set. Coronel is in favor of both changes. "I like the rules change to 25 [points to win a set]," he said. "It's a quicker game and players and teams must be focused and ready immediately. Twelve substitutions is good for the game because it requires players to become more well-rounded rather than specialized."