FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Senior Libero Mackenzie Simpson
Senior Libero Mackenzie Simpson

After a year of transition and inconsistency, the 2014 Georgetown volleyball team (2-1) will attempt to establish a new winning tradition.

The team heads into the new season with a firm foundation, returning five seniors, as well as a majority of its defensive force from the 2013 season. But fresh talent and a renewed attention to detail are needed ingredients in the Hoyas’ push to the top of the Big East.

The Hoyas will look to improve on their 10-19 record from last season. Following the realignment of the Big East, the team had a disappointing 4-12 conference record against largely unfamiliar opposition. This subpar finish to the year saw the Blue and Gray fall short of placing into the postseason Big East tournament.

Head Coach Arlisa Williams says that upperclassman experience will be key to closing the gap between the Hoyas and their conference opponents this year.

“They’ve got that experience that they are able to share with our younger players,” Williams said of the returning players. “Based on their leadership and their experience here, we have got a lot of players that are really jumping on board and ready to help us be great in the Big East.”

Junior Lauren Saar and senior MacKenzie Simpson return this season as key team fixtures; Saar led the offense in 2013 with 345 kills, and Simpson anchored the defense with 423 digs. The pair are set to steer the team as captains this season, and will look to raise the standard of performance for the entire squad.

“Those two offensive and defensive [players] complementing each other are also our captains,” Williams said of Saar and Simpson’s dynamic. “They bring with them some great skill, but also some of those intangible pieces: the work ethic, the never-say-die attitude that we need. They both love the game, and both of them have a sense of urgency and want us to do as well as we can this year.”

Williams is also enthusiastic about the elements that the freshmen bring to the table. In particular, 6’3” freshman outside hitter Terese Cannon will give Georgetown a competitive edge throughout the season.

“[Cannon] plays at such a high contact point,” Williams said. “We’ve got other players in our gym who touch 10 feet, but we haven’t had an outside hitter in my time at Georgetown who is playing above the basketball rim. The fact that she’s playing so high above the net brings something that we haven’t had before.”

Freshman setter Casey Speer has also started to make an impact.

“[Casey] steps on the floor and the whole dynamic changes,” Williams said. “Everybody just feeds off of her and her energy and how positive she is. She told me in our meeting at the end of preseason that she wants to be that player who typified Georgetown volleyball as a scrappy team that never lets anything fall.”

FILE PHOTO: ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Junior Outside Hitter Lauren Saar
Junior Outside Hitter Lauren Saar

Last weekend’s D.C. Challenge provided an early opportunity for Georgetown to assess its preparation levels and set goals for improvement. Despite strong efforts and changes in momentum in all three sets, the Hoyas fell 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-21) to the American University Eagles in the first match of the weekend.

However, the spirit and grit that persisted through the ups and downs of last season shone through when Georgetown took back the court on Saturday, defeating the George Mason Patriots 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 25-13) and sweeping the Howard Bison in straight sets (25-13, 25-16, 25-15).

Williams was pleased with the end results of the D.C. Challenge, but wants to fine-tune some of the fundamentals.

“We score points with kills, blocks and aces,” Williams said. “Hopefully we’ll see our numbers go up in those categories, as well as continue to put up the defensive numbers with digging and passing consistently.”

If the Hoyas remain detail-oriented and capitalize on their potential, Williams believes they will find success.

“We are getting to a point where we are working hard and are able to execute,” Williams said. “I think that if we can do some of the things that we were doing last year at a slightly higher level than we did last year, it will allow us to have some of the success that we want.”

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