Eagles look dominant in volleyball’s return to Bender Arena

AU takes 3-1 victory over GW to cap off weekend series

Eagles look dominant in volleyball’s return to Bender Arena

For the first time in two years, the American University volleyball (2-1, 0-0 PL) team played in front of an electric crowd at Bender Arena on a Saturday night, and dominated, defeating George Washington University 3-1 on Aug. 28. 

AU head coach Barry Goldberg said that the return of fans to Bender Arena was “amazing,” and commented on how packed the arena was, with almost 700 fans in attendance. 

The Eagles lost earlier in the day to George Mason, but bounced back for their prime-time matchup to cap off the weekend’s DC Challenge series. 

The match started out fairly even, but AU took the first set by eight points and seemed to be cruising to a victory. However, GW came storming back in the second set and crushed the Eagles by a seven-point margin. The Minutemen didn’t let up in the third set, and it seemed that the Eagles were going to be dominated for the second set in a row. 

Unfortunately for the Minutemen, the Eagles responded with a vicious counterattack that GW was powerless to stop, scoring nine unanswered points to take the lead, and by the time the third set ended, the Eagles hit a rhythm that seemed unstoppable. 

The momentum from the third carried over into the fourth and final set, where AU opened on a 4-0 run. By the time the Eagles had built a 10 point lead, the Colonials were struggling to even respond. With a vocal and energized crowd on their feet, AU fans erupted as the Eagles stifled every attempt GW tried to go on a run and come back. 

The Eagles victory was led by an outstanding performance from junior Zeynep Uzen. Uzen, who was named to the 2021 Patriot League All-Preseason Team and was the 2019 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, scored 18 points off an average four kills per set.

AU freshman Esma Sipahi also had a great performance, chipping in a team-leading 22 assists and a double-double from junior Asli Celikkol, who put up 11 kills and 11 digs off a .400 hitting percentage and helped the Eagles fly to an impressive victory over their crosstown foe.

“We’re gonna take these next couple weeks, get our game together. We learned a lot tonight,” Goldberg said post-game. 

The Eagles are looking to get back to championship contention just two seasons after their remarkable 24-8 record, capped off by a Patriot League championship win. 

Goldberg said that the team is focused on what’s in front of them, looking towards league play, and that the Eagles are “dealing with what you have now.” Goldberg also said they’re using their upcoming road trip as an opportunity to get better in preparation for league play. 

“We’ve got all those nine teams up there, and they’re ready to go,” Goldberg said, as he pointed to the banners of the other nine teams in the Patriot League. “Once we get to [league play], it’s all on the line there.” 

The Eagles will return to Bender Arena to face UMBC tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

apowers@theeagleonline.com

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