Oct. 18, 2012
By Jon Cooper
There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.
It’s become something of a mantra for Georgia Tech volleyball thus far this season.
It’ll be something they’ll be counting on this weekend when Florida State and Miami, the top two teams in the ACC and the Nos. 12 and 24 teams nationally come to town — FSU is in tonight beginning at 8:30 p.m., Miami is a 1 p.m. Sunday start.
The Jackets are 9-0 thus far at O’Keefe Gym — two wins away from matching their best home start in the Tonya Johnson Era (they started 11-0 in 2009) — and will be counting on every bit of that home court advantage in trying to set the Sunshine State teams.
Redshirt senior outside hitter Bailey Hunter said the team is very much aware of the streak and will use it as incentive.
“Being at home and keeping that winning streak alive and not dropping one at home is really important,” said Hunter, who enters the weekend second on the team in kills (253) and digs (164).
“We really just have to play free,” she added. “With the games we’ve lost this season it’s been all on us and it’s all stuff that we can control. We have to make sure that we control the controllables throughout the game and that everyone takes care of their responsibilities. It’s going to take all 15 girls to win both matches. We have to have every single person on all cylinders, prepared at all times to come in and take care of their responsibilities and get the job done.”
The Jackets enter the weekend with a 6-3 conference record, tied for fourth in the ACC with North Carolina and one game behind third-place NC State, both of whom beat Tech on their home floors three weeks ago — they come to O’Keefe in three weeks. Tech also is only two games behind the Seminoles and Hurricanes. That makes this weekend a big one as far as positioning.
Tech will be riding an emotional high and expects a carryover from its four-set win Tuesday night in Athens.
“It was nice to beat them in front of such a big crowd,” said Hunter, who assured herself a perfect 5-0 career mark against UGA. “Plus we played really composed and that was good for us and will give us a lot of momentum for [tonight’s] game and for Sunday’s game.”
While being successful on the court is huge in ACC volleyball circles, there is something bigger to be taken into account when the Jackets meet the Seminoles.
Tonight is Tech’s annual Dig For The Cure, a night dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Fans can participate in raffles and buy special pink T-shirts. The team’s game-worn pink jerseys also will be auctioned off on RamblinWreck.com with bidding beginning at noon Saturday and lasting through noon on Nov. 3 (each jersey begins at $75). All the proceeds from Friday and the auction will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“Dig Pink is always a really big game for us,” said Hunter. “We pack out all of our games but to pack that one out and promote breast cancer awareness is really important to our team because there are a lot of team members that have been affected by it. It’s really near and dear to our hearts. There’s a lot of money and a lot of opportunity to make money for the cause, so it’s important.”
“I love dig for the cure because it gives me a chance to contribute to a cause that is so much bigger than winning a game but helping a cause that can save!” said senior libero Nicki Meyer, the team’s leader in digs with 241 digs (3.35 per set, just out of the league’s top 10). “It gives us a chance to take a step back and see the big picture and fight for something as a team like the millions of people affected by breast cancer.”
Not necessarily as important as Dig For The Cure but important, nonetheless, is ACC Sportsmanship Week, which also will be part of the weekend.
“It’s more promoting the sportsmanship aspect, everyone knowing that it’s a focus for us and to keep that in mind for them,” said Hunter. “Before each game the commentators do a really nice job of talking about sportsmanship so to have an actual weekend focused on that is really good and probably beneficial for players and fans together.”
Hunter wanted to make clear that being good sports shouldn’t preclude the O’Keefe crowd from being its usual deafening.
“I think our fans have kind of mastered that fine line because you can definitely teeter and can get onto a player and say some things that are kind of hurtful,” she said. “The only thing that I would say that they do, is when the other team is serving and they’re bouncing the ball and they’re making that noise that they always make. But it’s never anything specifically targeting a person or the team, which is very respectful. They give just enough to keep us motivated and generate energy.”