Sept. 23, 2010
By Jon Cooper
When coming to a new team, a smart hitter knows it’s wise to make fast friends with the setter.
Jen Percy is a smart hitter.
One of her first friends at Georgia Tech was Mary Ashley Tippins.
But striking up a friendship with “Mash” wasn’t a contrived move. The two actually hit it off because they shared common ground.
“When I came on my recruiting visit “Mash” was automatically like, ‘You have a sister at Auburn? My whole family are big Auburn fans. They all went to Auburn,'” recalled Percy, a Mobile, Ala., native, whose older sister, Kristina, graduated from Auburn. “We had a connection right there.”
They’ve been connecting pretty regularly since, especially since the finale of the Varney’s Kansas State Invitational.
“I think she’s a lot more mature than what she looks or her age indicates,” said head coach Tonya Johnson.
“Percy stepped in when we were at Kansas State,” Tippins recalled. “She did really great. She stayed poised and didn’t really look like a freshman out there. I’m very excited to see what she’s going to bring the rest of the season.”
Since the match against Kansas State, Percy’s play has given the Volleybees good reason to be excited about her future, both distant and immediate.
Just one week after her debut, the former St. Paul’s Episcopal star set a career-high with eight kills in the five-set victory over Georgia that wrapped up the Bulldog Invitational. Then, in her next match, only six days later, she passed that with 13 kills against Clemson in the opener of the Clemson Classic.
“It was just amazing how much pride went into both of the games,” Percy said. “The whole team, everyone, shows just complete emotion and complete pride. It means so much to the school, to the program, to the team. It’s just awesome to be a part of it.”
Percy’s poise during her first rivalry match with Georgia and her ACC debut at Clemson — both on the road, no less — wasn’t lost on her teammates.
“Her confidence is getting up,” said senior libero Jordan McCullers. “It’s hard to come in as a freshman and expect to play. She’s trying to figure out where she fits in but she’s doing an awesome job. She’s going to be the real deal very soon.”
While it may be too early to talk about Percy’s ceiling, it’s not too soon to talk about her roofing.
“She gets up there and has just been roof-blocking people and shutting it down,” raved McCullers. “That’s a huge difference-maker for us to have somebody come in there and just be able to shut people down. Her blocking is really changing the way people are attacking balls at us because she puts up a solid block.”
“She really helps us out on the block,” agreed Tippins. “That was her main purpose for her to be over there to block. Then as she got more comfortable, her offense has really been on. She has these shots that you don’t see coming.”
Percy is pleased to see the way her freshman season is coming.
She appears to have found her swing as the team heads into the heart of ACC play, starting with tonight’s Alumnae Day match against Duke (a 7:00 p.m. start at O’Keefe, they’ll host Wake Forest on Sunday, starting at 1:00). Percy committed one error in 34 total attacks over her last two matches, against Florida A&M and Georgia State, and had only four errors in the entire Clemson Classic versus 29 kills in 77 total attacks. Her play earned her a berth on the All-Tournament Team.
But she knows there is still a lot to learn and she’s keeping her eyes open.
“I really try to listen to what people say and try to change it immediately and break habits as easy as I can,” she said. “Listening and interpreting as quick as I can have really helped.
“It’s definitely a lot of reps, practicing hard and practicing a lot,” she added. “Getting a lot of reps will definitely help you pick up the speed. Then really focusing on the things you do, the little things that you do, the more you do them, the easier it comes.”
“Some of the things that I love about her are that she wants to be great, she listens, she takes everything in and tries to apply it,” said Johnson. “I think those are signs of someone who’s going to be a great volleyball player in the future for Georgia Tech.”