Tech volleyball core back for one more

Mariana Brambilla rests during a practice in the offseason. She was one of Tech’s stars last season, and was recently announced as a captain for this fall. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

There is a lot of excitement and anticipation for the Jackets’ volleyball season. They are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent history while bringing back most of their core players. Last year’s team earned their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2009 and their first tournament win since 2004. This team carries momentum for this upcoming season and begins as the 24th ranked team in the pre-season poll.

Last year’s team was led by current seniors Mariana Brambilla and Matti McKissock as well as current junior Julia Bergmann. Brambilla and Bergmann are coming off first team All-ACC seasons and McKissock is coming off a season in which she was second team All-ACC.

It is essential in sports for players to be in sync with one another, but it becomes especially critical to a team’s success in volleyball. Proper on-court communication and understanding of each teammate can lead to the right decision to execute the play. These players are the centerpiece of the Tech’s team and their chemistry with one another has only grown through the years. Even in the highest pressure moments in games, they are able to place the ball where they can get it best. The continuity will prove to be a vital factor in the team’s success this upcoming year.

The team chemistry will be a key aspect as they look to advance to another NCAA tournament. This group is consistently a difficult one for others to prepare for. They can dominate the court from a multitude of places on the court. Together they have broken several records and appear to have their eyes set on breaking more this upcoming season.

In addition to returning talent, the Jackets will also be bringing in several new talented players to the program. One of the newcomers entering through the transfer portal is Nebraska’s setter Nicole Drewnick. Additionally, the freshman class is bringing in Lauren Sanden at libero and defensive specialist, Ashlyn Goolsby as a highly recruited freshman setter, and Laura Fischer at right side and middle blocker. While the amount of playing time the incoming talent will receive is still uncertain, they will be able to learn from the exceptional upperclassmen leadership and provide depth for the team.

On Saturday the 21, the first chance to see the team against another opponent came as Tech hosted South Carolina in a scrimmage. This was an important scrimmage as it tested the depth of the Jackets’ squad. Fifteen players were able to receive playing time in a five-set win for the Jackets.

The veterans of the team made big plays early on to put them in a strong position. The later stages of the game provided for more opportunities for the newer players to get experience before the season began, including Fischer, who played important points in the fifth set to help the Jackets secure the win.

Looking ahead to the season schedule, the Jackets are slated to play a strong non-conference schedule before they dive into conference play. They open the season by traveling down to Orlando to play in the UCF Challenge against Penn State, UCF and St. John’s. The following weekend, they make the trip cross country to California to take on Long Beach State and UCLA, both of which are perennial championship contenders. Tech wraps up their non-conference schedule by playing four out of their next five at home. They face several tough programs to begin the season before facing familiar teams in conference play.

Tech has the makeup of a team poised for a strong season with a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Head coach Michelle Collier has consistently proven to be one of the best coaches in the ACC. Several players are entering their senior seasons and have an added competitive chip to end their tenures with an even stronger tournament run than this past season. While Tech begins the season ranked 24th in the nation, they have the capacity to rapidly rise in the rankings. With plenty to build on from last year, they are poised for another strong season this fall.