The Jackets were on the road for the first time this season as they competed in the Varney Invitational at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. on Sept 3-4.
The teams playing in the tournament were Oral Roberts University (2-5), Loyola Marymount University (4-2), Tech (3-3) and Kansas State (4-3).
Tech first faced off against Oral Roberts on Friday, Sept. 3, and the match resulted in a quick win for the Jackets. Big leads in the beginning of each set helped Tech stay in the lead and cruise to an easy victory, giving them a third straight win for the season.
Sophomore right-side hitter Monique Mead had a match high of 18 kills and was the only player on either team to hit double digits in kills during the short match. Senior setter Mary Ashley Tippins had her second double-double of the season as she made 31 assists and 11 digs, and senior libero Jordan McCullers led the defensive charge with 16 digs. Tippins and McCullers combined to notch five service aces out of Tech’s nine for the match. Overall, the Jackets held the Oral Roberts attack in check, allowing the Golden Eagles to hit just .057 for the match, and only one Oral Roberts player had more than three kills.
Tech’s second match of the day was against Loyola Marymount. The Jackets got off to a strong start and led 7-2 in the first set, but LMU answered Tech’s run by taking the lead at 15-14. Tech then gained four straight points, forcing the Lions into a timeout. After tying the score at 21, LMU could not stop Tech’s offense as the Jackets scored four of the last five points of the set to win 25-22.
The second set against LMU, like the first, started with a comfortable lead for the Jackets and sent the Lions to an early timeout at 8-4. Tech remained in control of the second set, receiving plenty of kills from Mead, sophomore outside hitter Susan Carlson and junior middle blocker Asia Stawicka. The Jackets won the set 25-19.
Going into the third set, Tech was eying a sweep, but LMU gained early control of the set and eventually won to remain alive in the match. The Jackets contested every point to create a period of 15 ties and 17 lead changes. Tech even took back the lead and held match point at 26-25, but the Lions quickly gained the three points necessary to take the set.
The Lions used the momentum from the last set to win the fourth one. It was a difficult win for the Lions, as the lead continued to switch back and forth between the two teams. With LMU up 21-17, Tech was forced to take a timeout and tried to come back for a 3-2 win. Loyola Marymount, on the other hand, won the set 25-23, and tied the match at two sets each.
The final set began with a two point lead for the Lions, who maintained it until Tech tied the set at six points. LMU continued to gain their lead, forcing a Tech timeout with the score at 9-7. The Lions took advantage of their lead to win the set and match, 15-9.
Tippins had her second double-double of the day and her third of the season as she posted 44 assists and 12 digs. McCullers let the Jackets with 12 digs, and Mead recorded a career-high 23 kills in the five-set match.
The evening of Saturday, Sept. 4 marked the last game of the Varney Invitational. Tech played against the tournament host, Kansas State, who had won each of its games in the Invitational to that point.
An early six point lead for the Jackets in the first set forced the Wildcats to use both of their timeouts early in the set. The set was highly contested until the 23-point mark. There, the Wildcats took the next two points and won the set.
The second set was a quick win for KSU. The Wildcats did not give any room for the Jackets to recover as they took the second set win at 25-18.
In the third set, both teams went on runs as the momentum shifted back and forth. After KSU pulled ahead 20-19, two kills by junior outside hitter Bailey Hunter sparked a four-point run that gave Tech a 23-20 lead. With a win in sight, though, the Jackets were unable to pull out a set victory; the Wildcats won the final five points, getting the last two on service aces by KSU setter Caitlyn Donahue and took the set 25-23 and the match 3-0.
Kansas State won the third set to win the match 3-0 and claim victory in the Varney Invitational.
Stawicka and Mead had eight kills each against KSU. Mead also helped defensively with seven digs. Carlson had a career high of 10 digs, and McCullers notched 17 digs, her highest total of the weekend. Freshman outside hitter Jennifer Percy also had two kills and completed five block assists.
Mead and Tippins were selected for the All-Tournament team. This is the second time this season they have been selected for an All-Tournament team, as both were named to the squad for the Georgia Tech Courtyard Marriott Classic on opening weekend.
The Jackets will travel to Athens this weekend to compete against Florida Gulf Coast, No. 9 Washington and UGA in the Bulldog Invitational.