Jackets cap 3-0 start with comeback win

The volleyball team began their season with a perfect 3-0 start, overcoming the competition in the Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic from Aug. 26-27. The Jackets played well all weekend and pulled through in tough situations to win all three matches against Kansas State, Tennessee Tech and Louisville.

Georgia Tech kicked off the weekend on Aug. 26 with a 3-1 (19-25, 25-15, 25-23, 27-25) victory over the Wildcats of Kansas State. Through the match there were 14 lead changes and 36 ties, but the Jackets came through late with a 10-4 run to end the third set and never looked back. The Wildcats led at 24-23 at the end of the fourth set, but Georgia Tech came back and closed out the set and match with a 27-25 victory.

Junior rightside hitter Monique Mead posted 20 kills and 17 digs on the night on .381 hitting, and showed why she had been named All-ACC in 2009 and 2010.

The Jackets then swept Tennessee Tech 3-0 in their first of two matches on Aug. 27. Tennessee Tech began the first set with a 3-2 lead, but was immediately overwhelmed by a 14-0 run by Georgia Tech.  The Jackets easily won the first set 25-11 despite a small 4-0 run by Tennessee Tech.

The second set started off similarly to the first, with a 14-1 run by the Jackets. However the Golden Eagles continued to chip away at the lead through the set despite being down as much as 15-3 before improving their play. Tennessee Tech could not overcome the deficit and lost to the Jackets 25-17. Georgia Tech then closed out strong with a dominant 25-12 third set.

In their second match of the day, the Jackets played their last game of the Courtyard Classic against the Louisville Cardinals in a hard fought match that lasted five sets.

Louisville, the reigning Big East volleyball champions, prevailed in the first two sets, but Georgia Tech swept the solid Cardinals in the last three sets for the win the weekend title and start the season undefeated.

In the first set, Louisville led early at 2-0, but senior outside hitter Bailey Hunter got Georgia Tech’s first kill. Then, a Cardinal attack error and a kill by Mead set the score to 4-4. Louisville then began to separate itself with an 9-1 run and did not look back.

The Cardinals were offensively solid with 15 kills to Georgia Tech’s seven and the Cardinals only made one error compared to the Jackets’ eight. Feeding off of their successful kills and Georgia Tech’s errors, Louisville went on to win the set 25-12.

The Louisville energy from the first set transferred into the second set. Senior middle blocker Asia Stawicka had a strong kill through a block, yet the Cardinals had an early lead of 7-3 over Georgia Tech.

With six kills and seven errors, the Jackets struggled to build their tempo against Louisville’s 12 kills and five errors. Battling the sharp Cardinals, the Jackets were able to muster up five 2-0 runs and one 3-0 run, but fell to Louisville 25-15.

“We were not playing Georgia Tech volleyball…we needed to take some pride in the name on the back of our jerseys…they stepped up to the challenge and showed a lot of character resiliency,” said Head Coach Tonya Johnson.

The third set proved to be the turning point as the Jackets changed the game’s cadence. Kills by Hunter, Percy, and Mead put the score at 6-3 early. Junior libero Nicki Meyer had a diving save, and sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Percy had a kill off a Cardinal’s hands, giving Georgia Tech a 7-3 lead.

“We came out ready to fight [for the remaining sets]…there was a switch that flipped on,” Meyer said.

Mead arguably had her best set, making 11 of her 30 kills of the match. Taking advantage of the Cardinal’s combined attack and service errors, the Jackets rolled to a 25-19 victory.

The fourth set was also dominated by the Jackets, with Georgia Tech starting off on a 4-2 run thanks to Meyer’s acrobatics, kills from Hunter and Mead, and a block from Stawicka and Mead.

After the Jackets extended the lead to 7-3, the Cardinals took an early timeout. Percy contributed with a kill, and Hunter added a spike to set the score at 10-9. Junior middle blocker Alexis Woodson finished off the fourth set with a kill.

The combination of Georgia Tech’s fifteen kills and four blocks as well as Louisville’s ten service and attack errors and no blocks led to the Jackets taking the fourth set, 25-21.

Georgia Tech’s vigor continued into the fifth set, with a late lead change to give Georgia Tech the set and match win. Early on, due to Cardinal attack errors, the Jackets had a 3-0 lead. Louisville then surged back to tie with the Jackets at 8-8 in the middle of the set and eventually go up 10-9. However, the Cardinals could not hold on as Georgia Tech went on a 6-1 run to close out the set 15-11 and win the match 3-2.

Both teams were comparable competitors with Louisville hitting .286 and Tech hitting .201 for the match. The official score was 12-25, 15-25, 25-19, 25-21, 15-11.

“Everyone’s mentality changed. We had a drive to win. The fans were great, but we needed to motivate ourselves on the court. [Our motivation] needed to come from within ourselves and that was the biggest change [in the last three sets],” Mead said.

Mead was named MVP of the tournament after posting 30 kills, two aces and three blocks for the Louisville game. Mead also earned ACC Player of the Week honors after her performance.

Also, with a career-high of 16 digs, Meyer was dubbed the Most Valuable Libero and had an ace to add. Freshman setter Ali Santi also added 14 digs, one kill and 41 assists.

Woodson and Hunter were instrumental in the Tech comeback against Louisville with two kills and three blocks, and then six kills, one ace and one block, respectively. Other standouts included Percy, who had seven kills and two blocks, and Stawicka, who had six kills, one ace and three blocks.

On the road for the first time this season, Georgia Tech heads to compete in the Rice Invitational in Houston, Texas. On Sept. 2, Tech will match up against Texas-San Antonio and then contend against Houston Baptist and Rice the following day.

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