Family Feud

Aug 24, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

There was a special fervor and intensity that could be felt throughout O’Keefe Gym on Saturday afternoon as Georgia Tech volleyball held its 2013 Gold and White Scrimmage.

Recognized as the final scrimmage of the postseason, this year’s Gold/White was more than just a show for the fans — although they did get quite a show. This was three sets of hard-fought points pitting position-challenger vs. position-challenger, classmate vs. classmate, and even sister vs. sister.

In the end, head coach Tonya Johnsonhad lots to be happy about.

“I was impressed with our ball-control today, from a defensive standpoint I thought we did some really good things and kept the ball in play a lot and we were able to create some offense out of that,” she said. “I thought overall the teams were evenly matched and so a few errors here or there in rally scoring can take a team out of it as you saw what happened in that third set. The White Team was up by five points, the Gold Team got back in it and they won.”

Gold won two sets to one, winning 25-20 in the opening set, then, after dropping a 28-26 second set, came from way back to take the decisive third, 25-22.

The entire scrimmage was a fight to the finish on every point. That mentality of never conceding goes along with this year’s team’s mindset.

“Our motto this year is, ‘We unite. We fight. We finish,'” said senior outside hitter Jennifer Percy, the White Team’s leading hitter (nine kills) and a co-captain for the 2013 season, with senior setter Kaleigh Colson. “So we really play as a team and it showed today when we had collective energy and a lot of positive energy as well. Our team is really a family. We’ve been working hard and we’ve been working together.”

They may be a family but during competition, there was little love for their sisters on the opposing side of the net. In fact, there were several times that twin sisters Teegan (Gold) and Annika Van Gunst(White) went mano-a-mano, challenging each other’s skills.

“Don’t you like to see that sister rivalry?” said Johnson. “I love it!”

The Van Gunst twins were part of an incoming freshman class of five, including setter Rebecca Martin, libero/defensive specialist London Ackermann and middle blocker Lauren Pitz, that showed Tech fans what they’ve been showing the rest of the team all during the preseason — that they’re ready to make a huge impact.

“The freshmen already are a part of our family,” said Percy. “They came in and immediately were just part of the bunch. They’ve definitely been playing like it. They don’t have any of that freshman shyness. They’ve been playing great and are just as much a part of the team as the seniors.”

“It’s really amazing,” added senior outside hitter Ivona Kolak. “The freshmen came in this summer ready to play. It’s amazing that you can count on everyone. Not just seniors but you can also count on freshmen, sophomores and juniors. That’s what makes a great team, when you can count on everyone on the team.”

It made for great competition on Saturday.

The Gold victory was invigorating for Kolak, who, in her final Gold/White Scrimmage led the victorious Gold team with nine kills and led both teams with six kills (all stats are unofficial).

“All four years I’ve been here I’ve never lost the Gold and White Scrimmage, so this is exciting,” she beamed. “This is my last Gold and White Scrimmage and I’m really sad about that but I’m also excited about the season that is coming.”

While Kolak has been a “Good Luck Charm” all four years on the Flats, sophomore middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbsstaked her claim as heir apparent to good luck charm for future years with her performance on Saturday.

Clark-Bibbs, who spent a large part of her summer playing with the U.S. Junior National Team, not only was on the winning team in all three matches (as was fellow sophomore libero/defensive specialist Wimberly Wilson) the talented middle blocker closed out all three games.

“Nobody wanted to lose. You could tell,” said Clark-Bibbs, who finished with a total of 14 kills (nine with gold, five with white). “It was a lot of fun, very intense.

“I wanted to go 3-0 today since I was switching between teams,” she added, with a laugh. “So I was trying to keep the energy.”

Clark-Bibbs’ and Kolak’s steaks both were in severe jeopardy, as in the third set, White led 15-8, the biggest lead of the day in any set.

But Clark-Bibbs wouldn’t let Gold lose.

“Everybody on the team is very competitive and we all want to win,” she said. “So you could feel that. It was very intense.”

Keying Gold’s third-set comeback was the connection between Clark-Bibbs and Colson. The pair hit on several scoring strikes, with short-sets from Colson to Clark-Bibbs.

“They connect really well together,” said Johnson. “That’s always a plus when that happens.”

“Quick, short sets seem to be very useful in the middle of the game, especially when long plays are going,” said Clark-Bibbs. “It’s good to end plays really fast.”

The Yellow Jackets are excited about the way they finished the preseason and are eager to open their regular season next Friday morning at 10:00 at O’Keefe in the Georgia Tech Invitational against Florida A&M, the preseason pick to win the southern division of the MEAC. For them it’ll be nice to bring the family together as one.

“Oh, heck yeah,” said Percy. “We’d love to see other people on the other side of the court.”

“Our team this year is really special,” said Kolak. “Our chemistry is strong and we’ve all bonded. We get along really well on and off the court and we have a lot of good hitters, a lot of good defending players. So when you put all of this together, it has to be a win. It has to be a great atmosphere and great plays.”

Johnson expects another special showing from the fans.

“What a great turnout for a Gold/White Scrimmage,” she said. “What a great crowd for our kids to play in front of. It was just a scrimmage so I expect bigger and better once we start the season next Friday.”

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