Hunter's Paradise

Oct. 3, 2010

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Sometimes you need a weekend away to get back to what you are.

The Georgia Tech Volleyball team needed — and got — just that this weekend, as they hit the road for back-to-back dates in Charlottesville and Blacksburg and came away with a pair of conference victories.

The sweep of the Old Dominion State reps was just what the doctor ordered for a team that needed a lift following a pair of home losses on Alumnae Weekend last week against Duke and Wake Forest, including a Sunday afternoon 0-3 setback against Wake.

“[The sweep] was especially important because we’ve been kind of down lately,” said junior outside hitter Bailey Hunter, who nailed a career-high 24 kills to put the hammer down on the Hokies and complete the sweep. “It was a true test of our character being on the road and Virginia and Virginia Tech are two teams not to be taken lightly despite their records.”

The Cavaliers, who enter Sunday’s match with Clemson at 6-8, 0-4 in the ACC, and the Hokies, who fell to 10-5, 1-4 in the conference, following their second consecutive five-set home loss of the weekend, proved stiff tests for the Volleybees, who had been having trouble putting teams away.

The match with the Hokies was especially rewarding, for Tech, which had to make a three-hour journey following the grueling four-set match with UVA. They won in five sets, something that has been difficult for them this season.

“We’ve struggled with fifth-game matches in the past,” said Hunter, who hit .333 for the match. “We’re 1-4 as far as they go. We needed a change in our mentality this week. So we weren’t going to be that team. We were going to come in, we were going to finish, we were going to shut the door and seal the deal when we were up.”

They chose the perfect place to make that change and end their five-set troubles, as the Hokies had dropped a five-set match the night before to Clemson. They’re now 3-3 in five-setters and now have lost three straight.

The ‘Bees showed their usual grit in coming back Saturday night, as they spotted Tech two of the first three sets, before coming back to tie the game 25-19, then win going away, 15-9 in the deciding set.

Jordan McCullers had a match-high 24 digs, while Mary Ashley Tippins had a match-high 51 assists.

Hunter pointed to her chemistry with Tippins as a key factor in her record-setting night.

“‘Mash’ and I had a really good connection tonight,” she said. “We were pushing the tempo passing wide so we could get good windows. ‘Mash’ was putting me in an excellent spot to hit. I could see my block. I knew what would take. I was going cross-court. I just kept going with that. It worked for me, so I kept doing it.”

Monique Mead, the ACC’s top killer, who had 22 kills against Virginia, blasted 14 more on Saturday, while freshman sensation Jennifer Percy followed up her career-high 17 kills Friday with 13 on Saturday. Asia Stawicka and Alexis Woodson chipped in with eight and six kills, while Tippins added 11 digs.

The match was a nice end to an action-packed weekend.

“We were all kind of reflecting, like, ‘Dang, we really did so much in 24 hours,'” Hunter said. “We played a five-game set after a four-game set and traveling. So it was pretty tough, but it’s always fun to know that you overcame all those adversities.”

The next challenge for the Jackets, who stand at 9-7, 2-3 in the conference, comes next week when they’ll hit the road again, this time headed South for a rugged Friday-Sunday weekend against Miami and No. 14 Florida State.

Hunter insisted that while it’s a tough trip — last year, the Jackets won a dramatic five-set match in Tallahassee, the Seminoles’ lone conference loss, then dropped a tough five-setter in Coral Gables. They’ll have a better, more confident mindset when they head out.

“Miami and FSU has always been a tough weekend,” she said. “We’ve got to put our best foot forward, have a good week of practice and be really focused for this weekend. It’s a Friday-Sunday, so we get Saturday off to kind of regroup and rest a little bit, to come out hot on Sunday for FSU.”

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