GW Volleyball Preview 2012
Last season, the GW volleyball team went 20-10 in Coach Amanda Ault’s first season, finishing fourth in the Atlantic 10 Conference. But Coach Ault is “not settling” for fourth in 2012, as the Colonials prepare for a tough schedule both in and out of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The squad begins play against Pittsburgh on August 24 at the Purdue Invitational in Indiana, the first of a quartet of early-season tournaments, where they will face two opponents currently ranked in the top 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, including the #9-ranked host team on August 25. Along with their game against #21 Northern Iowa that same day, they will face #15 Tennessee on September 7 in College Park, MD, meaning the Colonials will play three ranked teams in the first few weeks of the season.
The team begins their A-10 schedule at home on September 21 against Charlotte. The A-10 now has 12 volleyball-playing schools with the addition of Butler and VCU, making this conference even tougher than it was. One of the Colonials’ biggest assets last season was the home court advantage, losing only one game at the Smith Center and nabbing five final-set victories against conference foes in front of the home crowd, a crowd Ault credits for energizing the team, saying that “walking into the first home match, we didn’t know what to expect but [the crowd] was overwhelming.” Unfortunately, GW has to face the top three finishers in the final conference standings on the road, including the Dayton Flyers, who return conference player of the year Rachel Krabacher and all but one of their starters in their effort to defend their A-10 title.
But the Colonials have some great players of their own coming back. Up front, team kills leader and 2011 All-Conference outside hitter Lauren Whyte is ready to build on what was a great junior year for her. Alongside her will be junior middle blocker Jamie Armstrong, who finished third in the conference in attack percentage and walked on to the basketball team mid-season to help out an injury-plagued squad. Along the backline, the Colonials return star libero Candace Silva-Martin, who led the A-10 with an impressive 529 digs (third most in a single season in GW history, behind her freshman and sophomore campaigns). Other returners include DC area-native Rachael Goss, who missed part of last season due to injury, and the team’s third-leading scorer, Taylor Knox.
This team, of course, is not without loss. Taylor’s older sister, Mackenzie, who was one of the most effective attackers on the team, has graduated. Also not returning will be Savannah Clark, who occasionally served as libero in lieu of Silva-Martin, now the roster’s only libero. But perhaps the team’s biggest loss is that of setter Katie Crosby, who averaged over 10 assists per set last season in a role that is key to the successful operation of a volleyball team’s offense.
Replacing Katie Crosby will be the job of Jessica Lubic, a transfer who redshirted last season at Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois under First Team All-American setter Kristin Hoffman. Having not played competitively since high school in 2010, where she notched 1,608 assists in her career at Kaneland High School in Illinois, it will be interesting to see how well she integrates and if that year off the court will have any impact. The team welcomes three other new faces, eager to help the team from the get-go. Outside hitter Margarethe Skjelbred is GW’s first recruit from outside North America since 2000 and a standout indoor and beach volleyball player from the north coast of Norway. Lefty Maddy Doyle will come to GW having already been crowned Miss Volleyball of Michigan and winning a national title with her club team, bringing a winning spirit to the Colonials. Alexis Huntey, who was runner-up to Doyle for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball title, will join Taylor Knox and Landon Garvik on the right side of the net.
Coach Ault is happy about the infusion of talent, noting that it is “much more competitive in the gym” with a “battle at almost every position.” This strong recruiting class is going to really help the Colonials have another successful season. The tough schedule and some of the losses may be slightly problematic, but with most of the key parts returning from last season, a coaching staff now completely settled in to Foggy Bottom, and a strong ambition and drive amongst the players, GW can meet and exceed their finish last season and can possibly contend for a top spot in the conference.
Our first broadcast of GW Volleyball on wrgwsports.com will take place on Friday, September 14th at 7 pm as the Colonials take on Princeton as part of the GW Invitational at the Charles E. Smith Center. The full broadcast schedule is as follows:
9/14 – vs. Princeton^
9/15 – vs. New Hampshire^
9/16 – vs. Brigham Young^
9/23 – vs. VCU
10/14 – vs. Temple
11/4 – vs. Rhode Island