Photo by John Nakano

Last weekend, the volleyball team made the relatively short bus ride up to Knoxville, Tenn. to compete in the Tennessee Invitational.

Tech came into the tournament with a 4-5 record after recording a 1-2 record at home the previous weekend when they hosted the Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic. Despite losing two of three matches, the Jackets’ victory came at the expense of tournament winner Connecticut. Coach Tonya Johnson and the team hoped to ride the momentum of that game as they approached the coming challenges from Tennessee, Coastal Carolina and Jacksonville State.

Going into the first match on Friday against Tennessee, the Jackets knew that the key to slowing down the Vols offense was to keep team kills leader Jaime Lea in check. They were able to accomplish just that; Lea was held to eight kills while also having eight costly errors.

Senior Kaleigh Colson and freshman Annika Van Gunst combined for some old-school, new-school defensive teamwork, each providing a team high 12 digs. Colson also recorded a double-double with 26 assists. Senior hitter Jennifer Percy added ten kills for the Jackets and sophomore Chanell Clark-Bibbs had five kills.

The Jackets came away with the sweep (25-18, 25-21, 25-22), but the Lady Vols were competitive throughout the match, particularly in the deciding third set, which was tied at 18 all before the Jackets pulled off a four point rally, thanks to timely crafty serving by sophomore libero Wimberly Wilson.

The following day, the Jackets squared off against Coastal Carolina and, shortly thereafter, Jacksonville State. On the first match of the day, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers jumped out to a commanding lead by winning the first two sets.

Never ones to go out without a fight, however, the Jackets battled back in the highly contested third set which included 18 ties. Freshman London Ackermann bolstered the defense with a team high 16 digs, but the Jackets were not able to force a fifth set and fell 3-1 (18-25, 22-25, 25-22,17-25). Quinn Evans added nine kills for the Jackets and led the team with a .368 hitting percentage.

The team was allowed no time to dwell on defeat as they headed back to the court to face the Jacksonville State Gamecocks for their second match of the day. Finding themselves in a tight spot, down 23-22 in the first set, the Jackets pulled together to win the next three points and snatch the set from the Gamecocks.

Throughout the match, neither team was able to pull very far ahead, each matching the other stride for stride and point for point. Thanks to some outstanding team offense by Jennifer Percy, Courtney Felinski and Quinn Evans, who each had double digit kills, Tech finished the weekend strong, beating Jacksonville State 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-13). Kaleigh Colson provided a monumental 36 assists and 19 digs, both match highs, en route to her fourth double-double of the season.

Tech returned home with a 6-6 record and begins conference play tonight with an away game at Maryland followed by another game on the road Sunday against Pittsburgh.