After an impressive opening weekend in the Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational, the Jackets were ranked 11th and headed to Columbus, Ohio for two games against 12th-ranked Ohio State. Freshman outside hitter Larissa Mendes and sophomore middle blocker Liv Mogridge were coming off two standout performances, leading to their selection on the Road 2 Tampa Bay All-Tournament Team last weekend.
This was a big week for the Jackets, looking to remain undefeated against ranked opponents as well as the Big Ten. Even more special, senior setter Bella D’Amico was returning to her hometown for the first time in her tenure at Tech.
In the first game, the first set went back and forth before the Buckeyes took it. The Jackets came out strong, winning 6 out of 7 early points and taking an 11-8 lead. This seesaw affair continued until a 16-12 Tech lead. From there, the Buckeyes took momentum and won the set 25-20.
The second set began with both sides alternating points as Tech took a 12-10 lead. The Jackets heated up and found their stride to take the second and third sets, 25-19 and 25-15 respectively.
The fourth set followed a similar script as the first, but this time in favor of the Jackets as they came out on top in a tight one, 27-25, to win the match 3-1.
During her time at Tech, junior hitter Bianca Bertolino has been a consistent juggernaut against opposing teams due to her versatility. Once again, she demonstrated her versatile ability as she finished a double-double by accounting for 14 kills and 10 digs.
Senior hitter Tamara Otene also added a double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs. D’Amico displayed her strong captaincy, being the catalyst on the offensive side finishing with 34 assists.
Tech looked to carry their momentum from a strong and competitive showing in the first game to their second match against the Buckeyes.
In the second match of the weekend, the first set was defined by lead changes as both teams were alternating points throughout the set. Ultimately, consecutive points by Mogridge sealed the first set for the Jackets to take the set 25-22 and take a 1-0 lead. Tech started out the second set strong by taking multiple early leads. The Buckeyes responded each time and ended the set by winning eight of the final ten points to take the set 26-24 and tie the match 1-1.
The third set was highly competitive as it was neck-and-neck until the end when the Jackets took a 20-16 lead. Tech then took advantage of this lead and won the set 25-18, taking a 2-1 lead.After three tightly contested sets, the Jackets were looking to close out the game in the fourth and complete an undefeated trip to Columbus over the Buckeyes. However, Ohio State was not going to give up without a fight. The Jackets and the Buckeyes had yet another back-and-forth set with neither team able to take control of the set until the end. The Jackets ended the set on a high note and won the fourth set 25-21, winning the match 3-1.
Tech got it done on both the offensive and the defensive side as they had a more accurate hitting percentage of .212 compared to the Buckeyes’ .127 and a plus 5 advantage in blocks. Mendes notched a double-double on the night, being responsible for 16 kills and 14 digs. Senior libero Paola Pimentel put together a defensive clinic with 23 digs.
Pimentel’s exceptional performance led to her being named ACC Defensive Player of the Week. Mendes has now collected accolades in back-to-back weeks to open the season, as she was also named ACC Freshman of the Week. Fans should be excited about what could be in store for this season.
Tech walked out of the weekend with back-to-back four-set wins to move their record to 4-0, including a 3-0 record against teams in the top 15. The Jackets have emerged as one of the nation’s top teams as they continue a dominant start to the season. They are looking to build off this and continue to be one of the nation’s elite teams as they travel to the FAMU Tournament on
Sept. 8 and Sept. 9.