Volleyball on pace for finest season in years

Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

The volleyball team is well on its way to achieving its first winning record in four years.

With a month left to go in the regular season, the team boasts an impressive 17-5 record. Their 8-2 mark in the ACC ties for fourth in the conference, a noticeable improvement over their 12th- and 11th-place finishes in each of the last two years.

The team is riding an incredible seven-match winning streak dating back to Oct. 2nd, all against ACC opponents. Four of these seven matches were three-set sweeps, and only one — on the road against Wake Forest — required a decisive fifth set.

Their win against Duke last week was the team’s first in Durham, N.C., since 2004. The game brought out the best from a number of performers: Gabriela Stavnetchei notched a double-double along with three of her teammates while London Ackermann set up the offense solidly with 22 digs.

“Duke is so good defensively that we needed everyone to be efficient,” said head coach Michelle Collier, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com. “We are playing really consistent and we were making plays. It was a great team effort. Duke’s a tough team to beat. So it was a great win, and I’m very proud. It was a great win for our program.”

The Jackets’ strength is their tactical ability on offense, making it difficult for their opponents to counter their attacks. It shows in the statistics: the team is second in the conference in kills, assists and opponent hitting percentage. They are also second in digs, reflecting their ability to keep the play alive and set up their own attack consistently.

Individually, senior Teegan Van Gunst leads the team and is second overall in the ACC in kills and points, with 4.27 and 4.80 per set, respectively. After a recent victory over Wake Forest, Collier was effusive in her praise of Van Gunst’s leadership abilities.

“I think that Teegan Van Gunst’s leadership really showed up today, and she carried a heavy load as she always does,” Collier said after the win.

Senior London Ackermann is also making her mark on the ACC leaderboards, posting an average of 4.82 digs per set to take third in the conference. She broke Tech’s all-time dig record earlier this season, earning heaps of praise from her head coach.

“London is awesome. I’m very happy for her,” Collier said. “She’s a player that we put a lot of responsibility on defensively as far as how we defend the hitters and she’s usually defending the best hitters on the other side which are the outsides.

“This season, she has been tremendous … we’re definitely going to miss having her back there
next year.”

There is room for advancement, too. The Jackets are only two games behind 10-0 North Carolina in the ACC standings and have games scheduled against all three teams above them (UNC, Florida State and Notre Dame) in the final month.

Wins over two or even all three of these programs would be a boost for the Jackets, vaulting them into the national rankings and putting them on the path towards their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2009. Doing so would not only move the team a step closer to a national championship but also convince even more recruits to sign.

Tech hosted 6-16 (1-9 in conference) Clemson on Wednesday night after press time at raucous O’Keefe Gym. The Jackets face slumping 4-17 (1-9 ACC) Virginia tonight and will welcome 8-13 (3-7 ACC) Virginia Tech next Friday night.