Photo by John Nakano

Tech opened the volleyball season 2-1, after defeating both Florida A&M and Chattanooga, before falling to College of Charleston in their final match of the Georgia Tech Invitational last weekend. Tech was looking for a repeat as champions, after going 3-0 in the Georgia Tech Courtyard Invitational last season.

In Tech’s opening match of the tournament and the season against Florida A&M senior Kaleigh Colson finished with six kills and eight blocks. Freshman Teegan Van Gunst had an impressive collegiate debut with 11 kills and seven digs leading the Jackets to a 3-0 sweep over the Rattlers.  Against Florida A&M, Scharae Steel led the team with 10 kills and also had four kills. Joanie Del Castillo added 10 kills for the Rattlers.

A&M got off to a hot start in the first set taking a 3-0 lead. The Rattlers and the Jackets would go back and forth throughout the set, until Tech went on a six point run to give themselves a 21-13 lead. Tech would eventually win the set on a kill by Teegan Van Gunst and take 1-0 lead in the match.

In the second set, Tech began to struggle with the serve, committing five service errors, which accounted for nearly a third of A&M’s 17 points. Luckily for the Jackets, Van Gunst and Colson continued their stellar play and Tech was still able to win the set and increase their advantage to a perfect 2-0.

Seniors Jennifer Percy and Ivona Kolak added five and four kills respectively in the third set to give the Jackets a 25-17 set victory, which clinched the match for the Jackets 3-0.

In the first set of the second match, it was Tech that got off to a hot start. The Jackets forced Chattanooga to take a timeout after starting out on a 7-1 run capped off by a nice touch shot by Van Gunst.

Tech appeared as if they would roll through the set easily, taking a 23-11 lead, but then Chattanooga went on a six-point run to decrease the point deficit to 23-17. A kill by Colson would end the Moc’s run, and then a kill by Percy would win the set for the Jackets and give the jackets a 1-0 lead.

Chattanooga took a 6-0 lead in the second set, but Tech finally got on the board with a kill by Percy. Back-to-back kills by Van Gunst would begin a 7-2 run by the Jackets and tie the score at 8-8.  The Mocs would have a 19-18 lead, until the Jackets went on a 7-1 run to win the set 25-20.

After taking a 9-2 lead in the third set, the Jackets would roll and take the third set 25-13, giving them back-to-back sweeps to open the season.

Colson finished the match with four kills and 28 assists. Van Gunst had another impressive performance, adding 14 kills and 11 digs. Senior Quinn Evans was very efficient with nine kills and a perfect attack percentage of 1.000.

“I thought our kids came out and played a heck of a match tonight,” Johnson said, according to ramblinwreck.com. “I thought we competed from beginning to end and it was nice to see us maintain our poise and be steady throughout the match. I felt like tonight we controlled the tempo of the match.”

“It was awesome. Big intensity, big atmosphere. It was great, a lot of fun,” Van Gunst said regarding her first collegiate appearance. “We were good. We obviously have some things to work on, get back in the gym. We have another match Sunday. We did a lot of good things out there to be proud of and we just have to keep working hard.”

It was the Sunday match against College of Charleston that was troublesome for Tech. Until this point, both teams were 2-0 in the tournament, so the tournament championship was on the line for both teams.

“I think the difference in the match was errors,” head coach Tonya Johnson said, according to ramblinwreck.com. “We were not prepared to compete today. I’m disappointed in how flat we came out and how undisciplined we were throughout the course of that match.

“There were a lot of areas we need to get better in, but a lot of that starts with having the right mentality when you step on the court to play every night.”

Colson had 25 assists and 13 kills, but it wasn’t enough as the Jackets fell 3-0 to the Cougars. Van Gunst finally cooled off, recording zero kills, after averaging 12.5 kills in the first two matches.

Freshman Rebecca Martin and Annika van Gunst both made their collegiate debuts for the Jackets in the loss. College of Charleston’s Sloan White finished with nine kills and four digs for the Cougars. Darcy Dorton added 11 kills and six digs.

Three players made the all tournament team for the Jackets. Zoey Morton was the libero of the tournament and both Kaliegh Colson and Ivona Kolak each made it. Sloan White from College of Charleston was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Tech will look to improve on their last performance this weekend when they head to Albuquerque for the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic. The Jackets will play Idaho State and UC Riverside on Friday and then New Mexico on Saturday.