Jackets sweep UConn in Courtyard Classic

Photo by John Nakano

This past weekend was loaded with volleyball action on campus as Tech hosted the annual Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic at the O’Keefe Gym. With Connecticut, St. John’s and Troy attending the tournament, the Yellow Jackets looked to improve on their record of 3-3.

The Jackets had their first match on Friday evening against the 5-3 Red Storm in front of an electric home crowd. Both teams had a slow start as points were traded back and forth with no team gaining momentum. However, after a score of 9-9, St. John’s went on a 9-2 run which was initiated by a massive kill from Alexandra Wachowicz. At first, Tech was unable to recover from this surge but was able to win back points with good ball movement until they were only down by two (21-19). A critical timeout by St. John’s helped the Red Storm regain composure and finish the set strong with a 25-19 set.

The second set played to St. John’s strengths as they put up multiple kills and confused the Jackets into committing five errors. The Jackets had no real offense and could not sustain a surge effort as they were able to in the previous set, which led to another set for the Red Storm (25-18).

The third set looked like it would be a repeat of the past two sets with three out of the first four points going to St. John’s. However, a little later in the set, the Jackets bench helped to spark to a 6-2 run, mainly from Chanell Clark-Bibbs who had the third highest hitting efficiency for the Jackets with .353.

With Tech’s resurging offense and ball movement, plus St. John’s highest number of errors in the match (7), the Jackets cruised through the set with only two errors. The Red Storm’s confusion and miscommunication in the third set could be summed up by the kill that was far from the line and ended the set. The Jackets went on to win the set 25-16 with the highest point differential in the game yet.

Any problems that St. John’s seemed to have had in the previous set vanished; they had 12 kills and only one error in the 4th set to win 25-11. Tech’s inability to keep up was evident; they had only five kills, six errors and a hitting efficiency of -.029.

Even though Tech lost the first match of the tournament, it was evident that many players on the Tech roster have the ability to impact the game and contribute. Nine out of the ten players that actively participated in the game played in all four sets while the Red Storm could only the same for eight out of their 11 active players.

Key performances from freshman setter Rebecca Martin, who had her first career double-double with 10 digs and 29 assists, and senior Jennifer Percy with 10 kills showed that the Jackets have depth and experience.

The second match was on Saturday morning in front of a crowd split evenly between Troy and Tech. Again, Tech did not seem to have enough to defeat the Trojans as they lost in four sets (3-1: 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19). As seen by the point differentials in the first three sets, the teams were more evenly matched than the set record suggests.

The Troy offense relied heavily on the contribution of Marija Zelenovic and Blair Winston, who had roughly 60 percent of the total kills for the team. However, the Jacket offense saw contributions from Percy, Clark-Bibbs, Ivona Kolak and freshman London Ackerman, all who were able to post double figure kills.

On the other hand, the Van Gunst twins saw playing time in this game. Annika had five kills while Teegan had six digs, which provided a spark off the bench. Again, Tech showed that the team has a lot of depth and potential with 11 players rotated to play on the court, putting up encouraging stats.

While each set started off with teams trading points and had eight lead changes, it was the winning hitting percentage that set the teams apart and set up the Trojans to sustain rallies from the Jackets. Tech only had an efficiency of .197, whereas Troy’s had a percentage of .259.

It seemed as if the break between the second and the third match allowed for Tech to reenergize and focus. The Jackets came out in the tournament finale and beat the Huskies in straight sets with a score of 3-0 (27-25, 25-18, 25-20).

With Percy’s 12 kills and Kaleigh Colson’s 28 assists, Tech was able to have higher hitting efficiencies than Connecticut in each set. Hitting percentage and nine blocks in this match helped to put senior Quinn Evans into the all-tournament team along with Clark-Bibbs who provided much-needed energy during substitutions.

The inefficiency of the Husky team could be seen, with only five players registering kills during the match. Devon Maugle from Connecticut had a 11 kills which helped to put the Huskies on the board, but the dominance of the Jackets could be seen with more digs and kills from Tech.

Coach Johnson seemed to think that this last match reflected the true potential of this team.

“It was nice to see us come together and play as a team instead of just people going out there and doing their own thing,” head coach Tonya Johnson said in an interview with ramblinwreck.com. “It was nice to see us put it all together. I think we are capable of being a good team if we can find some consistency of with what we do.”

The Jackets looks to continually improve as they travel to Tennessee to take part in the Tennessee Tournament starting Friday, Sept. 20, hosted by The University of Tennessee.