Four teams, Tech, Indiana, Alabama A&M and UAB, all opened their respective seasons with last weekend’s Courtyard Marriott Classic. Tech hosted the tournament at O’Keefe Gym and won two of its three games. Tech dropped the opener to Indiana on Friday, Aug. 28 but won both matches the following day.
The first match of the Classic had the Jackets taking on the Hoosiers. After losing the first two sets (25-20, 25-20), Tech made a strong comeback in the second half of the match. In the third set, Tech opened up a big lead with sophomore right side hitter Monique Mead setting the pace for the Jackets with seven kills. This ultimately led to a set point for the Jackets (25-22). Tech took the lead again in set No. 4, advancing to set point at 24-16 and ready to claim the win.
The Jackets earned the twenty-fifth point and won the fourth set, making the score 2-2.
The fifth and final set was a back-and-forth affair, but Tech finally took the lead late in the set at 13-11. Indiana quickly gained three straight points to hold the set at match point. The Jackets responded with a strong attack to tie the game at 16. However, the Hoosiers proved too much and ended the match with two straight points.
Junior middle blocker Asia Stawicka, junior outside hitter Bailey Hunter and Mead collectively had 42 kills. Senior defensive specialist Jordan McCullers had a team high 19 digs, and sophomore outside hitter Susan Carlson achieved a career-high 10 digs.
Saturday proved to be a much better day for the Tech volleyball team.
The Jackets’ first opponent of the day was the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. A tighter defense and more intense offense helped Tech to a quick win (25-11) in the first set, with Mead and Stawicka each getting four kills. The second set began with an 8-0 lead for the Jackets and a comfortable win (25-15). Alabama A&M put up a fight in the third and final set, but fell short after a large run by Tech, ending the set and match at 25-14.
McCullers, playing libero, made her 1,000th career dig and completed seven assists in the match. Mead and Stawicka combined for 24 kills, and Hunter added seven kills along with three service aces. Sophomore libero Nicki Meyer achieved a career high five digs, and freshmen outside hitters Jennifer Percy and Ivona Kolak made their first career kills.
The final match of the Courtyard Marriot Classic marked the end of opening weekend. The Saturday evening match was between the Jackets and the UAB Blazers.
Tech took the lead over UAB early in the match, forcing the Blazers into their first timeout with Tech up 13-7. To combat the Blazer’s aggressive offense, Head Coach Tanya Johnson put in junior outside hitter Alison Campbell, who has recently become a more defensive player. The final point was an out-of-bounds shot from UAB and a set win for Tech at 25-19.
The second set, like the first, was another convincing win for the Jackets. Tech won thanks to great digs by McCullers and Campbell. Tech kept the Blazers behind, as major kills made by Mead, Hunter and sophomore outside hitter Susan Carlson kept the Jackets ahead. Tech won the second set 25-14.
As the two teams began the third set, UAB came alive for the first time. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Jackets. An early kill by senior setter Mary Ashley Tippins set the mood for the set as Tech quickly ran up a large lead. Johnson took advantage of this opportunity and played some reserves.
A nine point win in the third set (25-16) signified the end of Tech’s opening weekend.
“I’m proud of the way we bounced back…I thought we showed great character last night in coming back after being down 0-2… But to come back and play and respond the way we responded today, was pretty good,” Johnson said.
The Jackets will next compete in the Varney Invitational. Tech plays Oral Roberts and Loyola Marymount on Friday Sept. 3 and finishes the invitational against host school Kansas State.