This year’s volleyball team brings an extreme amount of experience to the courts. The team features five seniors and strong leadership and coaching staff.
“Something different about this team is the intensity. We are trying to become intense, focused on every point; every game is important. We have been let down the last few years not getting into the NCAA [tournament], so we must focus on everything [to get back to the NCAA’s],” said senior starting hitter Talisa Kellogg.
On of the biggest changes for the Jackets will be the rule change this season which shortens the games from 30 point to 25.
“We are taking a different approach to our training, especially since the games have been cut down to 25 points. We’ve been changing our training and focus for games that are not as long.” Kellogg said.
Senior Talisa Kellogg is coming off a stellar season after being named to the first-team All-ACC Volleyball team. The starting outside hitter led the team in kills with 499, with 3.96 kills per game in the past season and came close to breaking the school records.
Callie Miller also brings two years of starting experience and will lead the middle section of the offensive. She contributed to the offense by posting double figures in kills during 13 games last season.
Michelle Kandell is starting in the back row this season. The libero/defensive specialist posted big numbers last season with a total of 628 digs, a new school record, and averages three digs per game.
Allie Niekamp is the starting setter and contributes to the team by averaging about twelve assists per game. This senior is big part of the reason why the team was able to average almost 16 kills per game.
“We have [Mary Ashley] Tippins working for the setter position right now. She has learned a lot playing and practicing during the pre-season. Jordan McCullers is a DS (Defensive Specialist) and working in the back-row. We’re going to need her throughout the season. She’s definitely stepping into her role. Also, Brittany Roderick is on the right-side and is being talked about as a replacement for a former player; she has a lot to live up to and playing each day in practice, but we are really looking forward to her living up to her potential,” Kellogg said.
The team is looking to continue their momentum after winning 11 of the last 13 games and finishing the season with 16 conference wins.
Tech finished 22-10 overall and 16-6 in the ACC last year and was picked to finish second in the conference. Talisa Kellogg and Callie Miller were picked to the preseason All-ACC team. However, the team was picked second in last year’s preseason polls but finished at a lower ranking. Nevertheless, the Jackets are striving for a bid to the NCAA tourney as well as leading the conference.
“We have a lot of chemistry since the majority of the team members are seniors. We have been together through a lot, so it’s easier to reel in the younger players. We have evolved into seeing the bigger picture and seeing the goals that we are striving toward like being ACC Champions and finally making it to the NCAA’s,” Kellogg said.
The season begins with one of the most crucial matches of the season: playing state rival Georgia on the road. After beating UGA last season, the Jackets strive toward another momentous win and potential bragging rights.
“[In the] first game, [we want to] kill Georgia…We have been watching video and we are pumped for that to be our first match…with it being Georgia, that puts 10 times as much as importance. We want to just beat them and start the year off with a win,” Kellogg said.
The Jackets recently signed a two-time High School All-American, Bailey Hunter. As one of the top recruits in the nation, the freshman plays as an outside hitter and should be a force on the Jacket’s for years to come.
The Jackets are coached by Bond Shymansky. The head coach has led a team that has won an average of over 25 games per season.
“The importance of this [first] match needs no explanation to any Tech fan. Our team has been focused on this match since the first day of pre-season. We know that playing in Athens will provide an extra challenge for us, and we are counting on support from our faithful fans,” Shymansky said.
Furthermore, he has led the Jackets to three NCAA appearances, a finish in the ACC championship and back-to-back ACC season crowns.
The team will also receive extra coaching assistance from the former all-star Kele Eveland. She returns to Tech as a highly decorated female athlete. She is the only athlete from the ACC to be picked for the first-team AVCA All-American team. She has spent the past four years playing professionally in Granada, Spain. In her capacity as a assistant to the coaching staff, Eveland will be an offencive specialty, she was a setter in her four years at Tech
“We have a lot to offer and some freshmen who are ready to contribute right away. It’s going to be a good year,” Kellogg said.