The Tech volleyball team is looking to turn their season around Friday night when the Jackets travel to New York to face off against Syracuse. The team has recently hit a bit of a rough spot, dropping five straight conference matches and being swept 3-0 in four straight games. While their ACC schedule has been very tough, the Jackets get a little bit of a break with their next three opponents in the bottom half of the ACC standings.
“Our conference is so tough. I don’t think you can take a night off in this conference because all of our teams are good,” said Coach Tonya Johnson. “That says a lot about our conference and the direction we [the ACC] are going in. There are no easy matches in this conference.”
On Oct. 4, the Lady Jackets handed Florida State its only ACC loss of the year—winning in dominating fashion 3-1, but since then consistency has hurt the Jackets as they have not reached that level of play since.
“I think it’s important for us to establish some consistency and being mentally. We need them to understand that every night is going to be a battle and we have to stay poised in the tough times instead of shooting ourselves in the foot. That is probably the most important thing for this group to take away from what’s happened to us and going forward,” Johnson said. “I just felt like we just played extremely well that night and came to play. That’s the match we keep drawing back on for our kids to understand that we’re capable of so much more and we just have to show that consistently.”
This has been a rebuilding year for the Jackets as they are replacing some of the all-time greats to play at Tech. Many freshman have been getting a fair amount of playing time in key parts of matches, which could help the Jackets in the future.
The development for freshmen London Ackermann, Teegan and Annika Van Gunst has been going along very well this season.
“Our libero, London Ackermann, has matured and grown up a great deal. She had a great week of passing last week. We’ve been harping at her about her discipline and she is getting better and you can see that in her play as she is passing better and getting more digs per set,” Johnson said.
“Anika is developing on the right side and playing a little bit in the middle. I think she is understanding the timing and the speed of the game,” Johnson added. “Teegan is coming along. She has been one of our steadiest passers this season. She has done some really good things for us on the back side of the court.”
Coach Johnson believes the future is bright for the Jacket volleyball program as she looks to build them back to their winning ways of the early 2000s.
“I think with so many young kids on the floor right now and going through some growing pains I certainly think the future is great. Young kids don’t understand the speed of the game until they are in it. This is a much faster game then being in high school,” Johnson said.
Senior outside hitter Jennifer Percy has stepped up this season and is leading the team in kills by a large margin.
“We’re having to rely on a lot of people from an offensive standpoint. Jennifer Percy has always played on our L2 spot so she has never had to carry the load for this team,” Johnson said. “From that perspective it’s a new thing for her as well. We’re trying to get her to step up her game and understand what the team needs her to do. I think she is responding and has improved tremendously.”
Percy has been a leader on this year’s team and is helping mentor the younger players on the team.
“It’s unbelievable knowing this is my last year and being a leader is definitely a responsibility and it’s nice the team looks up to you and they trust you in that role,” Percy said. “I’m helping to mentor them [the freshman] and understand that this is a process and you’re not going to be coming into college volleyball throwing lightning bolts right away. It takes time and helping them understand the game is also very mental.”
Percy believes the team can snap out of their bad habits and has set goals for herself and the team.
“Individually, I’d like to see myself put down more balls and get more kills. Averaging four to five kills per set is somewhere I’d like to be and become more of an offensive threat,” Percy said. “For the team. I’d like to see us turn this ship around and build in a positive direction which we are capable of doing.”
Both Coach Johnson and Percy agreed that mental toughness and competitive spirit were the two things the team needed to work on the most to improve and begin to win games during the rest of ACC play.
“One thing we need to improve on is our mental toughness and competitive spirit. We’ve been in a little bit of a losing streak and that’s taken a toll on some people. We have renewed mind right now and we are definitely getting our work ethic back,” Percy said.