Buoyed by crowd, volleyball sweeps weekend

Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

After a rough start in Kansas this preseason, Women’s Volleyball opened their 2016 home season with three impressive wins over Georgia State, Kennesaw State and UGA.

The first game against Georgia State was a clean sweep, with the Jackets winning the first three sets on the way to an easy first win at home. Later that evening, however, Kennesaw State forced a fifth set, pushing the Jackets to earn the set and the win.

The big game came on Friday night, Sep. 9, as the Jackets played host to the Bulldogs, a team that was undefeated coming into that match. O’Keefe Gym was packed full of hundreds of Tech fans eager for a win, and the atmosphere throughout the entire match was energetic and electrifying.

The players were grateful for the atmosphere the crowd and pep band provided.

“The band did a great job as always; we love the band,” said junior outside hitter Gabi Stavnetchei after the game.

Not only was the atmosphere a factor in the Jackets’ impressive showing, playing the Bulldogs was “perfect” motivation.

“We just want to win so badly and at home when we have everyone on our side. We knew it was going to be a tough match; they were undefeated, and teams always tend to grow against their rivals.

“We were ready for a long game, but we were able to take care of our side and win in 3. Sweep[ing] the until-then-undefeated UGA at home with a packed gym was simply awesome.”

Despite struggling to close out sets against KSU the night before, the Jackets showed much improvement in the final few points of each, outlasting UGA 29-27 in the third set to perfect the sweep.

While every player had big moments in the game against UGA, both Stavnetchei and senior outside hitter Teegan Van Gunst led the attacking charge for the Jackets, tallying 10 and 14 kills, respectively, the two highest totals for Tech and tying a career high for the former.

Additionally, freshman middle blocker Kodie Comby had an outstanding match, registering 8 kills along with 3 block assists. This effort led to Comby being named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Freshman of the Week, the first ever Jacket to receive the award.

The Jackets looked aggressive up front against UGA, something that seemed to be lacking in the first two matches. In the middle of the first set, both outside hitters served up a spectacular string of spikes but were unable to convert those efforts into points.

This effort, though, sat well with the Jackets, as it sparked much more aggression from the rest of the team, sometimes too much for their own good.

“We can be really athletic sometimes and over-jump while blocking, which can make [it] really easy for the other team to score … We just have to make sure that … we can control where the balls go after hitting our hands and not our arms.”

Early-season miscommunications and follies are inevitable, particularly with new members joining the team and young players adjusting to collegiate volleyball. With a long road ahead, head coach Michelle Collier and her assistants will undoubtedly address these issues.

The Jackets have one more tournament this weekend — the Coastal Carolina Tournament in Conway, S.C., versus North Florida and Coastal Carolina on Sep. 16–17 — before opening up ACC play against the Pittsburgh Panthers on Sep. 23.

The team will hope to repeat the offensive and defensive dominance they showed last Friday against the Bulldogs.

This weekend’s games and all games are broadcast on ACC Network Extra. Tech returns home to O’Keefe Gym on Friday, Sep. 30, as the Jackets take on the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels in their ACC home opener.