Arlisa WilliamsHello from the Hilltop!It’s hard to believe another year is underway. The players reported for pre-season on August 8 after a busy summer. Eight of our 11 returners participated in summer internship programs, gaining valuable experience for life after Georgetown. That’s no surprise after the work they do in the classroom, earning a 3.508 team GPA. For the sixth time in eight years, we received the AVCA Academic Team Award recognizing teams that have a team GPA of 3.3 or higher across the academic year. In addition, for the second year running, we received the BIG EAST Conference Team Excellence Award in the Sport of Volleyball for our work in the classroom. This is awarded to the university that has the highest GPA in their respective sport in the conference. We set the bar high and it’s so much fun to watch us surpass our goals.

We kicked off pre-season with our annual Welcome Back Dinner, enjoying the last night of our summer with friends and family. We had a Mexican inspired dinner, and learned about the highlights of our players’ summer and the last book they read. Both of our freshmen did the reading for the Marino Family Workshop! We hit it hard at practice the next day and haven’t stopped. This is one work-hard team. They are enjoying the fast paced drills and throwing their bodies around.

On top of the hard work, we have depth for the first time in a long time. On the outside, we have Lauren Saar, our MVP from 2013, Alex Johnson, a three year starter and newcomer Terese Cannon, who at 6’3″ will make a huge impact on the front line. In the middle, Danielle White, our top point scorer, returns along with Ashlie Williams and Elizabeth Riggins who both add athleticism and experience. On the right we have Shannon Ellis and Alyssa Gerardi, two solid players who are improving every day. We’ve got four in the back court making it hard to score. MacKenzie Simpson returns as the libero. She broke the 1,000 dig mark this weekend in our victory over George Mason. She is joined by Emily Gisolfi, Kieley Culbertson and newcomer Casey Speer, who spent a summer with the Youth National A2 Team. Caitlin Braunies is thrilled to have the ball handling from the backline and hitter to terminate up front. Casey helps out in the setting role too, running Casey’s crew at practice. With the depth, the desire, the competitiveness and the comraderie, I think we are in for a very special year.

I am also super excited about our staff. We return Otavio Souza who is in his second season with us. He’ll get us prepared for all of our opponents with video breakdown and help us train in the gym. We also have newcomer Sarah Gustin who joined us July 1. She brings 12 years of coaching experience, including four as a head coach and was named the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year last year for taking her team to the national championship. We’re having a great time strategizing and implementing new ideas that we think will move us forward.While we worked hard during pre-season, a theme you will hear throughout our year, we also gave back. The players and staff participated in the 10th annual DC Public School Beautification Day. We have been working with Johnson Middle School in Southeast DC’s Ward 8 since 2012. We were able to head out there for a day of planting, cleaning, painting and planning for the 2014 school year. The players saw first hand that they make a huge difference in the community. In turn, I think we have a new group of Hoya Volleyball fans.

Now it’s time to hit the court. We have a competitive non-conference schedule that should prepare us for a run at the BIG EAST Tournament come November. We are looking forward to seeing the players and the process in action. This past weekend we got a little taste. We played a tough match against #24 American University. We fought a much bigger team, won some big rallies and learned that if we stay consistent, we can compete with anyone. We then took that lesson to heart and defeated George Mason and Howard on Saturday to round out the DC Challenge. Our weekend was a team effort that wouldn’t have been the success that it was without the contribution and selflessness of every member of our program. However, we also have the special honor of Lauren Saar and Terese Cannon being named to the DC Challenge All Tournament Team. Lauren also received recognition on the BIG EAST Honor Roll for her weekend’s performance.

We will head to Philadelphia this weekend to take on Penn, as well as Colgate and Cleveland State. It should be a competitive weekend for us and I’m looking forward to getting on the road. If you’re in Philly, we hope that you’ll come out to support us!

I am looking forward to a great year and sharing with you all that we accomplish on the court, in the classroom and in the community.

See you soon!

Arlisa Williams

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