Volleyball returns to the Coliseum as West Virginia hosts George Washington, UMBC and Penn State in the Mountaineer Invitational tournament on Thursday and Friday. Competition starts Thursday at 10 a.m. between No. 20 Penn State and UMBC, the Mountaineers’ first serve at noon against George Washington on ESPN+.
WVU (8-0) debuts in Morgantown after winning its first eight matches on the road, the program’s hottest start since 2013, and the best under coach Reed Sunahara. Through their eight wins, the Mountaineers have lost just two sets, while sweeping six of their opponents.
Sunahara is excited about the group he has this year. With a mix of returning veterans, added transfers and young talent, he says his team’s maturity sets it apart from others, and that’s been a massive help in its success.
“We have players that have been with us for three, four years now, so that makes a big difference, especially from when they started and where this program was to now, and they’ve developed a good team and a good culture,” he said “Hats off to them for…putting us in that situation, and I really like the players we have now.”
That experience is apparent in the teams two captains, setter Lacey Zerwas and defensive specialist Alexa Hasting, who each top the Big 12’s stat columns in assists per set and digs per set, respectively. Stealing the headlines, though, is Briana Lynch, who was recently named the WVU Student-Athlete of the Week after helping lead the Mountaineers to their undefeated weekend at the WNY Invitational in Buffalo, New York.
West Virginia’s first matchup at the Mountaineer Invitational with George Washington (0-8) on Thursday will be the 31st-ever meeting between the two programs in an all-time series that dates back to 1978. The Colonials have taken the bulk of the wins, but are winless thus far this season.
WVU then squares off against UMBC (3-8) to cap off the evening. This series also dates back several decades, with the Mountaineers taking a 2-0 win over the Retrievers in 1979 — but Thursday’s clash will only be the 10th meeting in history between the two programs.
The Mountaineers close out their home tournament against No. 20 Penn State (5-3). The Nittany Lions have slipped in the rankings after falling to all three ranked opponents they have all faced.
WVU will likely be extra hungry against Penn State. The two programs have faced 28 times since 1979, with Penn State taking all 28 meetings. In that span, WVU has taken just seven sets from the Nittany Lions.
Most of all, though, the Mountaineers are excited to be back home. The entirety of 2021 was played in a nearly empty WVU Coliseum as fan attendance was restricted due to COVID-19 for much of the season.
“It’s always good to sleep in your own bed, we’ve been on the road for three weeks now,” “It’s nice to be at home, and more importantly, playing in front of our fans who can watch us, probably for the first time in a long time.”
The Mountaineer Invitational is set to begin at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, with the Mountaineers’ first serve set for noon ET against George Washington. The entirety of the event will be shown on ESPN+.