Spring Ahead

March 30, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Russ Chandler Stadium and Mewborn Field weren’t the only places on the Georgia Tech campus where big swinging and heavy hitting has been going on.

O’Keefe Gymnasium has seen its share of both as Georgia Tech volleyball has been holding spring practice.

The Jackets will put all that hard work to use and give a peek as to how they might look in 2012 today when they host the Georgia Tech Spring Tournament.

Kennesaw State, Ole Miss and Troy also will participate.

The all-day event kicks off at 9:00 a.m., when senior and three-time AVCA All-American Monique Mead leads the Jackets against KSU. The Jackets play Troy at 11:30, then conclude their slate and the tournament with a 3:15 p.m. match against Ole Miss.

Head coach Tonya Johnson took time to talk to Sting Daily about the tournament, what she’s hoping to see from the team and how her squad may have something in common with the Tech women’s basketball team.

STING DAILY: What are your thoughts heading into the GT Spring Tournament?

Tonya Johnson: It will be a great test for us with Kennesaw State, Troy and Ole Miss, three very good teams that we’re looking forward to playing. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see how we do in regards to having a week off for spring break and only training for a week before we’re playing again. But we’re excited and we’re looking forward to having some new faces across the net from us.

SD: How much will you be experimenting with the lineup?

TJ: It’s an opportunity to play some different teams at different levels and to be able to put in some different lineups. It’s an opportunity for everybody to play and get better. So I’m excited to see what we’re about.

SD: Last season the big position battles were at libero and setter. How do those positions look this year?

TJ: They’ve been working really hard this spring. Nicki [Meyer] has and Susan [Carlson] has, and they’ve done a really nice job of being committed to it and getting after it in the gym every day. [Junior setter] Kaleigh [Colson] has done a really nice job as well. But it’s that time of year where you want to see how much everyone’s improved. So everyone will get an opportunity to play on Saturday.

SD: What are you looking for from last year’s group of freshmen (middle blocker/outside hitter Courtney Felinski, setter Ali Santi, middle blocker Ashtaan Horton and Libero Zoey Morton)?

TJ: What’s important is we’ve been able to break them down technically this spring. You don’t get the opportunity to do that in the fall because you’re so worried about team play more than individual play. So we’ve had an opportunity to break them down technically this spring and work on a lot of things. I’m excited to see what they do on the court. Courtney Felinski is having a great spring, Zoey’s had a really good spring. I’m excited to see them in action again.

SD: The women’s basketball team showed how far senior leadership can carry a team. Do you see this group similarly riding its senior leadership?

TJ: There are five seniors (rightside hitter Mead, liberos Carlson and Meyer, and middle blockers Alexis Woodson and Annie Czarnecki) that have worked really hard and have really dedicated themselves to this program. I’m excited that they go out with a bang. If we can put it all together, if we can get better at the right time and progress throughout the season, I certainly think we’re capable of doing great things. I’m excited to see the leadership of this senior class and how they’re going to lead this team this Fall, especially with having so many. It’s going to be weird having five seniors. It’s the most I’ve ever had. It’s been two every year I’ve been at Tech. So this class will be a huge class. It will be a class that I’ll forever be grateful to because it was the freshman class that came in when I came in, so it’s going to be really important to me and to the team to really send the seniors out with a bang.

Meet the Field:

Georgia Tech
2011 Record: 15-16, 8-12, 8th in Atlantic Coast Conference
Player to Watch: Senior Outside Hitter Monique Mead: Led ACC in Kills, with 588, (5.03 per set) last season.

Kennesaw State
2011 Record: 13-16, 8-5, 4th in Atlantic Sun Conference
Player to Watch: Junior Setter Sara Metroka: Second in Atlantic Sun with 10.12 assists per set in 2011.

Ole Miss
2011: 11-17, 7-13, 4th in Southeastern Conference Western Division
Player to Watch: Junior Outside Hitter Kara Morgan: Seven double-doubles, 266 kills in 2011.

Troy
2011 Record: 16-15, 6-10, 4th in the Sun Belt Conference East Division
Player to Watch: Junior Libero Courtney Cohen: Led Sun Belt and set school record with 525 digs. She has 956 in her career.

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