Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Maturing GW volleyball team aims for Atlantic 10 tourney

Last season, the GW women’s volleyball team won five of its last six conference matches and despite missing the postseason play, had a good season, head coach Susie Homan said.

This season, however, the Colonial women have the senior leadership and overall experience they lacked a year ago. With two seniors and six sophomores who now have a year of college-level competition under their belts, GW was picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 conference in the coaches’ preseason poll.

The Colonial women have practiced for more than a month and Homan said the strength of her team is balance. For GW to succeed, though, a few players will have to stand out each night, Homan said.

“Individually, they need to have their best performances,” Homan said. “We will have to have a couple of people step forward.”

One player expected to lead by example is Tai Bethune, who already has received All-Tournament honors this season at last weekend’s Phoenix Airport Hilton Sun Devil Challenge in Tempe, Ariz. As middle blocker, Homan stressed Bethune’s huge responsibility to receive serves.

“Tai had a phenomenal preseason,” Homan said. “She needs to be a leader in that specific area.” But Homan said she knows the entire team must play well for the Colonial women to reach their goal – an appearance in the A-10 Tournament.

“Our goal is to get to the tourney,” Homan said. “We have to stay in the driver’s seat and work to control our own destiny.”

Last year, the Colonial women learned a tough lesson when they struggled throughout the middle of the season, which ended with a record of 21-12 and 11-9 in the A-10. Angela Vitale, a 5-5 defensive specialist for the Colonial women, said she thinks this year will be different.

“We’re more cohesive and mature now,” Vitale said. “We’re used to playing together.”

Vitale’s confidence in this year’s team can be attributed in part to a more experienced supporting cast. One of the key returnees for the Colonial women is junior outside hitter Theresa Ridder. She led the 1997 squad with 347 kills, averaging almost three kills per game.

Adding size to the front line is 6-1 sophomore Suzana Manole and 5-11 junior transfer Gabriela Mojska. Manole was the digs leader in 1997 with 353.

The team also welcomes back last year’s setter, sophomore Jill Levey, who led the team in assists with 1,233. Joining Levey for her second year with GW is sophomore Julie Jahnke. The 6-2 middle blocker recorded a .279 attack percentage and performed solidly on defense with 134 blocks, leading the Colonial women in both categories.

In addition, sophomore middle blocker Tracee Brown and outside hitters Devin Cahill and Renee Arnold should provide added support.

“I know there is a special chemistry and we have to work hard to keep it going,” Homan said. “We are working for each other and the success of the team both in practice and when we walk onto the court.”

Homan admits a certain lack of focus cost her team games and matches last season. She has stressed to her team the importance of focusing from start to finish this season.

Last weekend, the Colonial women had the opportunity to shut out the University of Connecticut, but lost their composure in the third game and were forced to a fourth before GW finally took control of the match.

“We need to finish the other team in three games if we can,” Homan said. “Momentum is everything. We have to take advantage of it.”

A loss of focus could cost GW this season because the A-10 is competitive from top to bottom, Homan said. Among GW’s toughest competition will be the preseason A-10 favorite Rhode Island. Last year’s other tournament teams – Virginia Tech, Dayton and Temple – also will be tough opponents.

But with teamwork, a stronger focus and an injury-free season, Homan said her team is destined for the postseason.

“We’re going to be there, ” Homan said. “We can feel it.”

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