GU Drops GMU in Four Games

By Ted Bauer Hoya Staff Writer

Despite occasional poor play, the Georgetown volleyball team improved its record to 16-3 on Wednesday night in Fairfax, Va., defeating the George Mason Patriots in four games (15-4, 14-16, 15-12, 15-8). The Hoyas remain 1-1 in Big East play, which resumes this weekend.

The third game saw the return of Big East Preseason Player of the Year Julia Vtyurina, although only for one game. Outside hitter Vtyurina, the 1998 Big East Rookie of the Year, is regarded as one of the top players in the conference, but damaged her ankle in warm-ups for a game three weeks ago and has not played since.

Before the game began, Vtyurina’s presence was taking effect. She dazzled both teams and the 183-person crowd with pre-game performance.

“She had a great warm-up,” said freshman outside hitter Lauren Warner, who has stepped up in Vtyurina’s absence. “We were all really excited to see her back.”

Vtyurina recorded three kills during her limited playing time.

Knowing that Vtyurina was returning on this night, and anxious to prove their four-game loss to Rutgers last Sunday was a fluke, the Hoyas were fired up in the first game. The Patriots ran off two points to open up the game, but Georgetown responded with 10 unanswered points, led by the game-high five kills and three aces of junior captain Kiran Gill.

“We were incredibly fired up in the first set,” said Warner. “We just played really well during that set and didn’t commit too many errors.”

The Hoyas committed only one error in 24 total attempts during the first game for a remarkable .542 team hitting percentage; for the game Georgetown committed 22 errors, an improvement of seven over their 29 against Rutgers Sunday.

The second game was a different story. Georgetown managed to take a 8-4 advantage early on, but lost focus. The game was tied 8-8 when Gill recorded a kill, one of her nine during the second set. George Mason sophomore outside hitter Natalia Torres-Tirado responded with a kill to even the game again. The Patriots were able to overcome the excellent blocking of freshman middle blocker Anna Kleinsorge and senior captain Elisa Davidson to win the set, 16-14.

“We had a lot of communication errors during that set,” Warner said. A communication error is most often a defensive lapse when a ball is hit between two players and both think the other is going to cover it. The Hoyas had similar problems against Rutgers.

One positive element of the set was the team’s blocking, a major problem all season for the Hoyas. Georgetown finished the game with 13 team blocks, one of their highest outputs of the season. The Patriots recorded only six blocks as a team. Kleinsorge had five blocks on the contest, while Davidson recorded four.

“Our blocking was very good during the entire game,” Warner said, “and in the second set, even though we lost, Anna and Elisa especially blocked really well.”

After the game loss, Head Coach Li Liu fired up the team by inserting Vtyurina for the third game. Liu had a problem every Big East coach would kill for: she had Vtyurina, Gill and Warner for two outside hitter spots. She paired Gill and Vtyurina as outside hitters, and shifted Warner to the right side position. Davidson, the normal right side player, sat out the third game. It is unclear how Liu will balance her triumvirate of amazing hitters when Vtyurina returns to full time action.

Sparked by the return of one of their top players, the Hoyas jumped out to a 3-0 lead on three consecutive aces by sophomore setter Amy Schweitzer, who finished with eight for the game. Georgetown built a six-point lead at one point but let the Patriots tie the score at 12-all due to an attack error, one of four during the game for the Hoyas. The Patriots could not advance beyond the tie, as they fell 15-12 following another Schweitzer ace.

During the third game, George Mason’s Torres-Tirado recorded eight kills en route to 19 for the game. Despite her performance, the Hoyas were happy with their defensive effort, as they neutralized freshman hitter Shelbylynn McBride, holding her to a mere seven kills. McBride was noted as the Patriots’ go-to player by Liu and Assistant Coach Duane Koester, but the Hoyas contained her by serving directly at her and often serving at her upper body. In order to return a serve towards the upper body, the player must step back or get out of position. Balance is lost.

“When their setter would want to set up McBride for the kill, she would never be ready because we had her out of position by constantly serving at her upper body,” explained Warner. “Sometimes during the first set, she was jumping halfway across the court to get a serve, and she couldn’t get back into position to do anything else.”

The fourth game was relatively easy for the Hoyas as they defeated the Patriots, 15-8, to win the match. The Patriots trailed only 9-7 before Georgetown’s final run, sparked by the excellent play of outside hitters Gill and Warner. The final individual statistics are no less impressive. Gill finished with 19 kills to complement her eight digs and .405 hitting percentage. Schweitzer had one of her best games of the season, registering four kills and three digs to complement eight aces and 39 assists. Davidson played well defensively, recording 13 digs.

“Elisa dug the ball really well, and [senior captain] Kim [Adams] served well during that game,” Warner said. “We played a very solid game, defensively and otherwise, but we needed to work on our communication.” The win was especially important because the Hoyas need out-of-conference wins against neighboring teams to increase their local ranking. This ranking is one way Georgetown will earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament if the team fails to win the Big East Tournament in mid-November at Pittsburgh. With wins so far over Virginia, Howard, George Washington, Maryland and UMBC, Georgetown’s local ranking is strong.

The team returns to conference play this weekend with two matches. On Saturday at 1 p.m., they collide with Providence College; and on Sunday they face Boston College at the same time. Both matches will be in McDonough, and the team does not return home again until the second week of November.

“From what we have seen, neither one of the teams is bad,” Warner said. “Our goal is to beat both of them, and I think we can do it, but they will pose a challenge.”

Providence is led by sophomore Sarah Katinger, the Big East leader with an average of five kills per game, and Colleen Lee, the Big East leader in assists per game. Nevertheless, their team record is 6-8 and only 1-1 in the conference. Boston College stands at 6-10 (1-1 Big East) and ranks near the middle of the conference in every statistical category. Junior setter Kyleen Charlton, who recorded over 1,000 assists in 1998, is the Eagles’ standout player.

 

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