Georgetown’s volleyball team (6-7) experienced a great deal of roster turnover during the offseason, and as a result, the team has nine new players this season, including eight freshmen. Because of this, the Hoyas have experienced inconsistent results throughout their nonconference schedule, never winning or losing more than two consecutive matches. Still, the team has shown signs of progress, and that continued this weekend, as the team won two out of three games at the James Madison University Invitational.
“We have talked all season long about this being a process, and each match is just one more piece in the process,” Head Coach Arlisa Williams said. “The first part was us getting to know each other and learning how to play together, and then to play at a high level and then to consistently play at a high level.”
On Friday, Georgetown defeated North Carolina Central (1-15) in straight sets. As a team, the Hoyas recorded 45 kills, compared to only 20 by the Eagles. Freshman outside hitter Alyssa Sinnette recorded a match-high 15 kills and added nine digs, while freshman setter Paige McKnight registered 32 assists, six kills and six digs.
“Paige puts up some good numbers. She has such a high volleyball IQ. I think as Paige continues to develop as a player we will see her being even more vocal and connecting with her teammates. She can find a way to get her hitters kills, and she has the potential to take over a match. We expect to see even more of that from her,” Williams said.
Just a few hours later, the Hoyas took the court against the host team, the James Madison Dukes (10-3). Georgetown started fast, jumping out to a 16-12 lead before extending that lead with a 6-0 run, eventually closing out the set by a score of 25-16.
However, after the first set, James Madison raised its level of play, taking the final three sets by scores of 25-16, 25-15 and 25-15. Still, the Hoyas had a number of standout individual performances, led by McKnight, who flirted with a triple-double, recording 22 assists, 10 digs and eight kills. Senior outside hitter Lauren Saar led the team with 11 kills, and freshman libero Kenzie Higareda added 13 digs. Still, the Hoyas could not overcome the Dukes, who had the advantage of playing on their home court.
“I think a big difference is, JMU, it was their home court, and when you’re playing with a team that has their fans there, the atmosphere is very different,” freshman outside hitter Liv King said. “Also, when you start higher up in points, you get out of the gates starting the game on a run, and that emotionally is a positive thing, and you want to keep going with that. It’s harder to fight back.”
Saturday, Georgetown bounced back to defeat Norfolk State (1-12), sweeping the Spartans in three sets by scores of 25-11, 25-19 and 25-17. King led the team with 13 kills, with a hitting percentage of .667.
“I think in that game my setter and I finally connected,” King said. “It was the first time that we were helping each other out, making each other look good, and our passing percentage was up. The thing is, when one hitter is doing well, it’s not just because the hitter is having a great game, it’s because other factors are doing well also.”
McKnight was one of those factors, earning another double-double with 35 assists and 10 digs. Sinnette added 10 kills and Higareda once again led the team with 13 digs.
“I don’t think any of us felt good about the outcome of the JMU match, and the players came out determined to play hard, stay consistent, maintain a high level of play from the first point to the last. I think it was just a change in mindset,” Williams said.
Moving forward, the Hoyas will look to improve their consistency as they continue to familiarize themselves with one another.
“Everyone who sees us play and every member of our team sees moments of brilliance in us. And then we have moments that are not quite as bright, and we’re just trying to minimize those,” Williams said.
The Norfolk State game was the final game of Georgetown’s nonconference schedule, and it will now prepare for conference play. The Hoyas will open up their Big East schedule against Villanova on Friday at 7 p.m.