Saluting the Past

Oct. 6, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Georgia Tech Volleyball will come face to face with its past tonight when the Yellow Jackets (8-7, 1-4) take on ACC rival Maryland (9-8, 3-2) at 7:00 p.m.

As the current Jackets looking to make new history, they’ll do so in front of an O’Keefe Gymnasium crowd that includes several of their predecessors, who used O’Keefe as the setting for their historic triumphs.

It’s Alumni Night and the 15-or-so alumni expected to be in attendance will be recognized in a ceremony between the second and third sets of the match. It should be a happy homecoming.

“It is pretty neat to come back and it’s something that we have been doing for quite a while now,” said Danielle Olein Crowder (Class of ’97). “It’s fun to see everybody. It’s something that we look forward to every year, getting our families together. The kids all know each other now. So it’s neat for everybody to be able to see each other at least once a year.”

Returning to Atlanta is nice for the Crowders on a couple of levels. First, they are a Georgia Tech family, with wonderful memories attached to the campus, as it’s where Danielle and her husband, Chuck, who was a pitcher for Georgia Tech’s baseball team and an inductee into the school’s Sport Hall of Fame in 2010, met. Then there is the fact that Danielle, Chuck and their three sons (ages 5, 3 and 1) recently moved to Biloxi, Miss., where both work.

Olein Crowder played all four year she attended Georgia Tech, earning ACC Honor Roll as a junior, then, Second Team All-ACC and AVCA All-District III honors as a senior, when she led the team in hitting percentage, blocks and solo blocks. She was named Most Improved Player that season and still ranks ninth in school history in hitting percentage (.296).

She was an integral part of teams that won back-to-back ACC regular-season championships in 1994 and ’95 (going a combined 23-5 in conference play), and took home the 1995 ACC Tournament Championship, the first of two such championships in school history (the other was 2002; the ACC Tournament was dropped in 2004). That sophomore year remains the highlight of her competitive days at Tech.

“It was the first time that any women’s sport had ever won an ACC Tournament and we did it at Clemson, which was really neat,” she said. “It was just a fun atmosphere, great, lifetime friends that I have and to be able to share it with them was pretty cool.”

The ’95 team went 29-7 and, after going 12-2 through the ACC portion of its schedule, completely dominated in the Tournament, beating Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland in succession without dropping a game.

“Our team dynamics, that’s what really brought us together,” said Olein Crowder. “We were so close and like a family and just worked so well together. We were just in sync and unstoppable.

“[Head Coach] Shelton Collier did a great job of not only recruiting great talent but recruiting girls that all got along and liked each other. The team dynamic was what really helped pull everything together,” she added. “We loved being with each other every day, it was something we enjoyed and something that we all believed in. We knew we could do it and it was building our way to get to where we needed to be.”

Olein Crowder, who tries to stay close to the current team via RamblinWreck.com, remains close with her teammates and is looking forward to reliving the old days with them.

“I keep in touch with a lot of the girls,” she said. “This weekend, my Atlanta friends that I’ll get to see, Melissa Snipes, Shannon Greenwald, but I also keep in touch with Heather Bradley, Amanda Sabo and Aimee Boulet and a lot of girls who aren’t able to make it. I’m still very close with Cris Omiecinski-Leone, Kerry Bryan, and Jennifer Matullo. We all stay very close.”

It will be the first visit to campus since moving out of Atlanta but is still a special occasion. For her three sons, visits to their mother’s old stomping grounds grows in significance they grow up and start to recognize their sports pedigree, a process already under way.

“They’re finally getting to an age where they understand volleyball and they know that mommy played volleyball,” she said. “So they’re looking forward to going to the games and watching.

“They know that Georgia Tech is their school and they talk about ‘Buzz’ all the time,” she added. “They know that mommy and daddy played sports and they’ve seen pictures and different things. When they talk about playing baseball they want to play baseball like daddy did and do things like we have. So it’s neat. It’s getting there.”

The Yellow Jackets would like to say the same about reversing the recent stretch, which has seen the team drop four of its last five matches, three of them at love. They may have the perfect tonic in Maryland, and Boston College (6-10, 2-3), Sunday’s opponent. Tech has beaten the Terrapins five of the last seven times the teams have met, and has grounded the Eagles, topping them eight straight times (six of those 3-0), and 11 of 13 all-time.

Sunday’s match begins at 1 p.m.

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