Over the past weekend, the Tech volleyball team delved into the heart of its schedule with the first couple games of conference play. The Lady Jackets took a road trip up north with a game at Maryland on Friday and at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Both teams sported better records than Tech prior to their matchups as the Jackets came in with an even 6-6 record.
Tech knew that the key to these weekend matches would be overcoming the stout defenses of Maryland and Pittsburgh as they have been holding teams to the second and fourth lowest hitting percentages in the ACC respectively.
Though the Jackets were boosted by career highs in kills from senior Jennifer Percy and junior Courtney Felinski, they could not hold off the Terapins late in the match, and, after a back and forth battle, they fell 3-2 (20-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-19, 14-16). Sophomore Libero Wimberly Wilson had an impressive game, posting 13 digs for the Jackets.
Coming out of a time-out in the first set, the Jackets were up 18-16, but Maryland pulled off a timely late set run of five straight points to take the lead at 21-18 and used that momentum to finish off the set. The second set, however, was Tech’s all the way. The Jackets started quickly with Ackermann serving the way to a 5-0 lead and Maryland was never even able to pull even for the rest of the set.
With the match coming into the crucial third set, both teams were unwilling to give ground. The set consisted of 14 ties and four lead changes, but the difference ended up being the disparity in hitting percentage as Maryland managed to hit .428 while holding Tech to only .182 for the set.
Fighting for survival in the match now, Percy put on a clinic in the fourth set, hitting .636 and accumulating eight of her game-high 21 kills. The Jackets pulled even for the match but couldn’t fend off Maryland in the deciding set, despite a game-high 39 assists in the match from Callie Bivings.
A couple of days later, the Jackets looked to rebound against the Pittsburgh Lady Panthers in only the second ever matchup between the two schools.
The Jackets lost the first set in excruciating fashion after fending off two set points, and eventually the Panthers prevailed 24-26. Tech wasn’t able to recover from that near miss, and Pittsburgh went on to close out the match 3-0 (24-26, 21-25, 14-25). The Jackets remained competitive in the second set, but Pittsburgh was dominant in the closeout, while Tech never had much of a chance to muster the beginnings of a comeback.
Once again, Percy and Bivings led both teams in kills and assists with 15 kills for Percy and 27 assists for Bivings; freshman Teegan Van Gunst led the Jackets with 11 digs. Though their record won’t show it, Coach Tonya Johnson claims to have seen some positive elements to build on for the remainder of the season.
The Jackets continue their conference schedule with home games against Florida State and Miami at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in hopes of restoring their record.