Volleyball | Hoyas Split Tournaments, Now Turn to Big East Play

The Georgetown volleyball team split matches in the Air Force Invitational and the Denver Invitational on a long road trip to Colorado, completing its final two tournaments of the nonconference season over the past weekend.

Georgetown went 2-2 in its matches over the weekend, splitting their games in the Air Force Invitational with a win against Air Force (9-4) and a loss against Northern Colorado (6-6) on Friday. Georgetown then played in the Denver Invitational on Saturday and split games against Southern Utah (2-10), in which the Hoyas defeated the Thunderbirds, and a loss to host Denver University (8-4).

Sophomores Symone Speech and Paige McKnight led the way for Georgetown offensively throughout the weekend, forming a dynamic scoring duo in key moments. Speech accounted for 55 kills over the weekend, nearly a third of the entire team’s kills, and McKnight set a career high in assists with 57 against Southern Utah on Saturday. Speech was named to the All-Tournament team for the Denver Invitational due to her outstanding offensive play.

Sophomore libero Kenzie Higareda, who leads the team with 219 digs on the season, also contributed significantly, accounting for over a quarter of the team’s digs in its matches over the weekend.

Speech remained modest in response to being named to the All-Tournament team.

“It feels really good to be recognized that you’re working really hard. I want the team to do well, and I really want to do what I can to help my team win, and it feels great to be recognized for that,” Speech said.

On the other hand, Coach Arlisa Williams lit up when asked about Speech’s play over the weekend, seeing a burgeoning leader and a player truly coming into her own this season.

“Symone was amazing for us this weekend, and I think a lightbulb went off for her, and she is just hitting over top of everybody and hitting hard, super fast blocking-wise. She is very talented athletically, and now she’s trying to contribute more emotionally. Volleyball is a game of momentum shifts, and we really thrive on that energy. She’s really trying to bring that on the floor and off the floor,” Williams said.

Georgetown dropped the first match of the set, falling in straight sets to University of Northern Colorado. The Hoyas won the opening point of all three sets but could not maintain the leads, falling 16-25, 24-26 and 19-26.

After the difficult opener, the Hoyas turned things around in a big way against the Falcons in their second match. This time, it was Georgetown’s turn to win in straight sets, picking up the 3-0 victory. Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Sinnette led the way with 14 kills.

Looking back on this tournament and the weekend as a whole, Speech commented that these experiences are causing the Hoyas to truly grow in the mental aspects of the game, something that was on display in the Air Force match.

“One of the things we learned the most about is our energy and staying positive throughout the game, because when we get down or hit our heads that’s when we make errors. When we stay calm and play our game and focus on our control, we do well and play so much better as a team,” Speech said.

On Saturday, Georgetown came from behind to force a fifth set against Southern Utah and then again stormed back from behind to win the deciding points. Three different players had 20 kills for Georgetown.

Coming off that match, Williams praised the team’s mental toughness to get through a grueling match.

“They are really working on their mental part of the game, and I think that helped them power through the Southern Utah match. It was a really awesome thing to watch them finish that match, and I was really pleased,” Williams said.

The Hoyas’ final match of their back-to-back tournaments saw them fall to the Denver Pioneers in straight sets. The Hoyas did not finish any of the sets within five points of the Pioneers.

Coming off this uneven weekend, the Hoyas are looking to take the lessons and successes of the nonconference season into Big East play against St. John’s.

“The starting six — extremely talented. We have considerable depth that we can use. We are a highly offensive team, and we continue to get better. We know when we communicate effectively, when we have great energy, when we compete with enthusiasm, we play better,” Williams said.

Georgetown will play Sept. 20. against St. John’s in its Big East opener.

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