Clear and Present Danger

Oct. 20, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Virginia has been a nice place to visit for Georgia Tech volleyball over the last few years, especially over the last six.

Since 2005, since the schedule makers bundled Virginia Tech and Virginia into the same weekend, the Yellow Jackets have gone 8-4, with a pair of sweeps and at least one win per trip.

They’d like to see that trend continue.

“I think it’s really major for us to have some sort of chip on our shoulder just for how we started,” said junior libero Susan Carlson. “We kind of had a rocky start. Just to get back on our feet and show everyone that we are the team that we can be and that we have a lot more to prove with the rest of our season. It starts now.”

Specifically at 7 p.m., at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.

The match has huge implications as the Jackets and Hokies both are 4-5 in the ACC, tied for sixth and only one game behind Clemson, which enters the weekend 5-4, in fifth place (the Tigers do the opposite of Tech, visiting Charlottesville Friday then heading to Blacksburg on Sunday).

The Jackets are looking to put together a road winning streak, a huge confidence builder considering they had dropped five of their first six matches on the road before winning in Miami last Sunday.

A key to the team’s success has been a bigger stress on defense. Carlson has been a big part of that, as she’s among the team leaders in assists, digs and service aces.

She credits her success to keeping things simple and focusing more on the aspects of the game other than hitting — actually EVERY other aspect aside from hitting.

“This is the first year that I haven’t’ been hitting and have tried to do a little bit of everything,” she said. “It’s mostly focused on passing, defense and serving. Knowing that that was my focus has helped me to really settle into a certain mindset on each skill.”

Tech needs to have a strong mindset this weekend as unlike most weekends, they play Friday-Saturday, instead of Friday-Sunday. Carlson said the lack of a travel day is not an acceptable excuse.

“I think it just comes down to knowing, you’re tired, you’ve been on the bus for a certain amount of hours, you’ve been flying, it’s not your normal weekend or your most ideal weekend,” she said. “But it comes down to the fact that we’ve worked so hard for victories and for a victorious weekend that nothing can get in the way, especially travel. Because no matter what, it’s about how each individual prepares for the game at the time. So I think you can have some excuses in the travel area but every one in the country is traveling.”

Carlson and Company will try to not only make themselves at home in both schools’ houses, but pretend they’re actually there.

“It’s maintaining focus that’s the big thing because we play in pretty big gyms and they don’t get a lot of fans compared to our environment at O’Keefe,” she said. ‘It’s about the 16 of us and just encouraging the person next to you and getting excited from big plays, doing all the little things that make it more like our practice gym and more like the game environment at home.”

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