Nov. 24, 2013
THE FLATS – The Georgia Tech volleyball team (12-18, 6-12 ACC) overcame a 2-1 deficit in the match to defeat Syracuse (14-16, 9-9) in five sets (25-20, 21-25, 13-25, 25-23, 15-13) Sunday in the Yellow Jackets’ last home match of the season.
“What a special weekend for our four seniors; four very special people,” head coach Tonya Johnson said. “For them to finish their career at home 2-0 and it be senior weekend, I’m proud of those four. I’m proud of the effort that the team gave for them and they should be very proud of themselves for the effort they gave this weekend, going 2-0. It’s certainly something to build on.”
Fresh off a 15-service ace performance Friday night against Boston College, the Yellow Jackets were solid at the service line with 16 aces, which ties the most in a single-match in Georgia Tech history. The Yellow Jackets tallied 16 aces against Florida State in 2006. Chanell Clark-Bibbs led the Jackets with five aces and freshman Annika Van Gunst contributed four aces.
“All season long we’ve been talking about how we’re a good serving team,” Johnson said. “When we’re on, we play pretty well. I think today was evident of that; 16 service aces with Chanell having five of those and Annika getting four. I think they came through huge for us, especially in the crunch time when we needed to apply pressure, but stay aggressive from a serving standpoint. I think they did an incredible job of going back to the service line and staying aggressive.”
Three Yellow Jackets tallied double-digit kills led by Jennifer Percy’s 20, while middle blockers Clark-Bibbs and Quinn Evans pitched in 11 and 10 kills, respectively.
“Jennifer Percy getting 20 kills in a five-set match speaks volumes of her,” Johnson said. “I thought she struggled early on, but she got her rhythm going and she was able to score key points for us when we needed them. It’s always great to see your middles in double-digit kills. Our game plan was to make sure that our middles were involved in the offense, and with Chanell having 26 swings and Quinn having 25 swings, that’s a pretty balanced offense for us.”
In the opening set, the Jackets used four service aces to keep the Syracuse offense off-balance and limited the Orange to a .188 hitting percentage compared to Tech’s .240 hitting clip. A kill courtesy of Percy gave Tech set-point and a kill from Evans handed Tech the set, 25-20.
Set two was a back and forth battle that featured 10 tied scores and three lead changes. Georgia Tech had a two-point advantage, 16-14, when the Orange put together a 6-1 run to go up 20-17. The Orange used that momentum to win the set, 25-21.
Syracuse stayed in rhythm throughout the third game. Up 14-8, the Orange made an 8-1 run to go up 22-9. Syracuse rode that momentum to a 25-13 victory, holding Tech to a .022 hitting percentage.
Down 2-1 in the match, Georgia Tech recovered from a 14-8 deficit on a 7-1 rally to knot the score 15-15 in game four. The Jackets stayed with the Orange, tying the score on three additional occasions until Syracuse went up 20-18. Annika Van Gunst stepped to the serving line for Tech and put up three of the next five straight points, giving Tech a 23-20 lead. Kills by Clark-Bibbs and Percy forced a game five and kept Tech alive in the match.
“After being down 14-8 in the fourth set and 2-1 in the match, I thought that we came back and showed a lot of guts and a lot of character,” Johnson said. “We stayed poised and were making plays. The important thing was to put together some runs and get back into that set.
“I thought our serving helped us do that. I thought our serving was key today in getting them out of system and making sure that we were able to keep applying pressure.”
The Jackets got behind early in the fifth frame, as the Orange rolled out to a 4-1 start and had an 8-4 lead at the switch. Four-straight points from Georgia Tech brought the Jackets within one, 8-7, and Tech was able to take its first lead of the set on a Syracuse attacking error, 11-10. Knotted 13-13, a kill by Evans had Tech poised at match-point and a Syracuse ball-handling error handed Georgia Tech the set, 15-13, and match, 3-2.
The Jackets are back in action with their last two matches of the regular season next weekend. Georgia Tech faces off at Miami on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and squares off with Florida State on Friday at 4 p.m.