After a whirlwind of a winning season, the Tech volleyball team was sorely disappointed to be left out from a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The women ended the season with a 26-8 performance that broke numerous records, including surpassing a total of 700 Division I wins in the program’s history. The stellar season continued past regular play as the Jackets were given the opportunity to compete in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), which kicked off with a home-court advantage in O’Keefe. Unlike last year’s performance in the same tournament, the Jackets continued well past the second round to a winning title. These are some of the highlights from the NIVC action.
Control from the Start
The Jackets swept their first match over Alabama A&M with a season-high hitting percentage of .545 according to ramblinwreck.com. After being named ACC Freshman of the Year just days before, freshman outside hitter Julia Bergmann hit a season high of seven service aces alongside ten total kills. Joining her in the double-digit kills arena were sophomore outside hitters Mariana Brambilla and Mikaila Dowd, as well as sophomore middle blocker Kayla Kaiser. Brambilla earned first-team all-ACC honors, while Kaiser and Dowd were both named to the second team all-ACC selection. The match against the Bulldogs further emphasized the strength of the younger players that had been seen throughout the season, while simultaneously giving the Jackets yet another morale boost as they marched to another victory.
Although she is only in her first year with the Jackets, Julia Bermann had no hesitations when making a name for herself throughout the past season. In addition to receiving first team all-ACC honors and numerous freshman-specific accolades such as ACC Freshman of the Week and ACC Freshman of the Year, Bergmann led the Jackets with 427 total season kills. She is the first Tech volleyball player to be named Freshman of the Year in nearly a decade — the last time a Tech player received the honor was when Monique Mead was awarded it back in 2009. Along with the ACC awards, Bergmann was also named Region Freshman of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), yet another honor that was seemingly a thing of the past for the Jackets – the last player to receive this award was Kele Eveland in 2000. Bergmann closed the season during the NIVC title match with a total of 15 double-doubles, aiding the Jackets to seal their victory over South Dakota for the NIVC title. Looking forward, she will be an essential asset to the strength and leadership of the Tech team, especially with the five experienced seniors that will have graduated by next season.
When viewing statistics from the past season, it is evident that the Jackets are young, yet extremely competent based on the high number of kills and percentages across the board for the underclassmen players — while a young team can sometimes be a tricky situation, it panned out well for Coach Collier and the Jackets this season, while boding well for the future team. Standout players who were named to all-ACC selections included underclassmen such as Bergmann, Brambilla, Kaiser, Dowd and sophomore setter Matti McKissock. The only upperclassman in that category was senior middle blocker Kodie Comby, who graduated in December. The AVCA awards were less-inclusive of the Jackets, but once again included Bergmann, McKissock, Brambilla and Comby. This steady and proven expertise of the up-and-coming Jackets not only shows that Collier and her coaching staff had a high level of success in terms of recruiting, but that the players and staff are able to work together to further the accomplishments of the team once all pieces are put into play.
Following her various achievements throughout the season as the head coach of an advancing team, Collier continuously touched on the idea that while she acknowledges the accomplishments, she wishes to move forward towards bigger and better successes. The Jackets will undoubtedly chase an entry into the NCAA tournament next year, especially after missing out behind teams that the Jackets beat whole-heartedly previously in the season. While there is no crystal ball to predict the season of Tech volleyball, it seems inevitable that the current underclassmen will continue to impress.