Back on track: 2021 volleyball season preview
Eagles look to get back to ring chasing after disappointing 2020 season
American University women’s volleyball — and fans — finally returned to a familiar setting this past weekend. The Eagles hosted George Washington University at Bender Arena in their home opener for the 2021 season.
This non-conference matchup comes as a refresher after last year’s shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Eagles ended their 2020 campaign with a 4-4 record, getting bounced out of the Patriot League tournament in the first round just one year after winning the championship.
Last season was disappointing for the Eagles. After an outstanding 2019 season where the team went 24-8 and won the Patriot League championship, AU was expected to repeat their championship run in the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the scheduling restrictions imposed by the league last season took a big toll on the team.
The Eagles can look forward to a more complete schedule this year: 30 games, 16 conference matchups and 14 nonconference matches. This is a stark contrast to last year’s schedule, with only eight in-conference regular season games plus one playoff game.
The Eagles became very familiar with Navy, Loyola Maryland, Bucknell and Lafayette last year, which became an issue when they faced an unfamiliar foe in Colgate. Ultimately, that resulted in a first round elimination in the Patriot League tournament.
This year, the Eagles get to spread their wings again with a more typical non-conference schedule and go toe-to-toe with the likes of Georgetown, Oregon, Harvard and Pittsburgh. The strengthened schedule could be the shot AU needs to return to championship contention after a disappointing 2020 season.
The Eagles will enjoy 16 returning players, half of whom remain from the championship season.
Headlining a laundry list of notable returners for the Eagles is senior Carlie Fikse. Last season, Fikse led the Patriot League in hit percentage, which also put her at 27th in the entire NCAA. She was also fifth in total blocks in the Patriot League.
As a team last season, the Eagles were second in the Patriot League in hitting percentage, just behind Colgate. Unfortunately, in other statistical aspects of the game, the Eagles were pretty average compared to the rest of the league. They land just in the middle of the pack for kills, blocks, digs and assists, while also coming in at dead last in the league in service aces.
AU women’s volleyball returned to Bender Arena on Saturday vs. George Washington.