#STINGDAILY: Steering Committee

Sep 5, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Next Match: The Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic in Albuquerque, N.M. (all starts ET)
    Today: vs. Idaho State, 12:30 p.m.
    Tonight: vs. UC Riverside, 7:00 p.m.
    Tomorrow: at New Mexico, 4:00 p.m.

There are so many ups and downs, so many momentum swings that take place during a volleyball match. Managing that pendulum and riding the emotional waves is a difficult, yet vital task. It’s a responsibility that can’t just be handled by anybody.

Georgia Tech has put that responsibility into the capable hands of their senior co-captains, setter Kaleigh Colson and outside hitter Jennifer Percy.

It’s their job to navigate the emotional seas, knowing when to get their teammates up and how to keep them from getting down. For the most part, it requires them keeping their teammates on an even-keel. While they go about it differently, the two combine to form a perfect combination to keep the team together and pulling in one direction.

This weekend that direction will be west, as the Yellow Jackets (2-1) will participate in the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic, in Albuquerque, N.M., along with Idaho State (2-2, Big Sky), UC Riverside (0-3, Big West) and host University of New Mexico (2-1, Mountain West). The Jackets have never played any of this weekend’s opponents. (Live stats can be found on RamblinWreck.com).

“From a leadership perspective I think they both do a great job with this team,” said Head Coach Tonya Johnson. “It’s a little hard for Percy from the standpoint of she’s in for three rotations and out for three rotations but Kaleigh is just steady and she provides a calming factor. [Her teammates] all say, ‘When I need to calm myself down I just look at Kaleigh because she has that calming effect on everybody.’ That helps them stay poised and that helps them from an execution standpoint knowing that everything is going to be okay. ‘We just have to make a play on this next ball.'”

The Yellow Jackets opened their season at last weekend’s Georgia Tech Invitational, going 2-1, and frequently found itself in uncharted waters, as Colson is the lone returning starter. Senior outside hitter Ivona Kolak, sophomore middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs, and junior libero/defensive specialist Zoey Morton, are getting used to their starting roles, and the team also has been breaking in freshman Libero/Defensive Specialist London Ackermann, and outside hitter Teegan Van Gunst and her twin, Annika, a middle blocker.

The duo of Percy and Colson have embraced their duties in igniting the squad (Percy’s job), or cooling things down (Colson’s) depending on the situation.

“We pretty much balance each other out,” said Colson, an Austin, Texas, native. “[Percy]’s more the loud vocal leader and I’m more the calm, in-the-moment kind of leader. When I know I don’t have a role covered she has it covered and vice versa. We definitely complement each other. I love playing with her. I’m really comfortable with her and I know that she has my back and she knows I have hers.”

“It’s awesome leading with Kaleigh because we do balance each other out,” said Percy, an OH from Mobile, Ala. “She’s more of the calm one in the situation and I’m more of the loudmouth who is going to get the pep going. So it’s really awesome being together with her.”

The duo got the Jackets off to a good start last weekend, leading the team to 3-0 sweeps in their Friday matches against Florida A&M and Chattanooga before the team suffered a 3-0 sweep at the hands of College of Charleston on Sunday.

Colson earned All-Tournament Team honors after averaging 9.33 assists per set while hitting .542 for the Tournament, serving perfectly, and tying for the team-lead in both service aces (4, tied with Ackermann) and digs (28, tied with Morton).

Percy came out of the first weekend as the team’s leading hitter, putting away 27 kills, 10 in the victory over Chattanooga, and averaging a team-best 3.0 K/S, while also making six blocks (third on team) and getting six digs (sixth-best).

Among the other Jackets to distinguish themselves over the weekend were Kolak, who earned All-Tournament honors, finishing with 22 kills, Morton, who was named Libero of the Tournament, making 28 digs and averaging 3.11 per set, and Teegan Van Gunst, who had a 11 kills in her collegiate debut against FAMU then added 14 more in the nightcap against Chattanooga, both were team-highs.

The duo will try to get the Jackets back to their winning ways and keep their Friday record perfect beginning today against ISU.

As the Jackets look to get back to their winning ways, they know they can look to their captains to get them right where they have to be.

Their personalities are such that you almost can set your watch by them. Percy will be the one to get the fire started in the early match against ISU, while Colson will be called upon to sustain the intensity against UCR in the nightcap.

Percy’s fine being the “Morning Glory”

“I’m a morning person,” she said, with a laugh.

Meanwhile, the later the better for Colson.

“I’m not a morning person,” she said and smiled, before adding the caveat. “But volleyball any time of day!”

*****

Here is a brief look at this weekend’s opposition.

Idaho State at a Glance:
Picked for second in the Big Sky, the Bengals return five starters, from last year’s team that went 23-8 (16-4). ISU has a superb senior setter in 2012 Big Sky Regular Season MVP Lori Mendenhall-Lee and have shown a two-prong hitting attack thus far, led by redshirt sophomore OH Tressa Lyman (58 kills, 4.46 per set) and junior OH Alydia Fields-Grimm (42 kills, 3.23 K/S). Defensively, redshirt junior L/DS Kylee Searle-Sessions has 47 digs in the four matches, and was named to the Tiger Invitational All-Tournament Team. Of interest to the Jackets is that one of the Bengals’ two wins this season was a 3-0 whitewash of new ACC foe Pittsburgh.

UC Riverside at a Glance:
The Highlanders are in a rebuilding stage after seven seniors graduated from 2012’s team, which went 8-24 (2-16) and finished at the bottom of the 10-team Big West. UCR has gotten off to a slow start under first-year Head Coach Michelle Patton as they dropped all three matches at their opening weekend tournament, the Wildcat Invitational, getting swept by Texas Tech and Seattle, while dropping a five-setter to host Weber State in between. A bright spot was Ashley Cox, the team’s leading hitter last season. The sophomore OH earned a berth on the All-Tournament Team after averaging 3.82 kills with a .216 hitting percentage. Freshman setter Nae Bender averaged 5.50 assists per set to lead the squad, while sophomore Alissa Apecechea chipped in 3.80 helpers. Junior middle blocker Tyler Dorsey had eight blocks to lead the team.

New Mexico at a Glance:
The host Lobos earned a 2-1 record at last weekend’s University of Arkansas Invitational in Fayetteville. New Mexico, which returns all six starters from last season’s 20-13 (7-9) squad, sandwiched sweeps of UMKC and Northwestern State, around a thrilling five-set loss to host Arkansas. Junior right-side hitter Chantale Riddle, a 2012 All-American and All-Mountain West performer, and senior L/DS Miquella Lovato, an All-Mountain West selection, were named to the all-tournament team. Opponents had no answer for Riddle, who had a team-high 40 kills (3.64 K/S), three service aces, 11 blocks, and 19 digs. Lovato had a tournament-high 54 digs, a team-high four aces and 12 assists. Senior middle blocker Lexi Ross also was a handful in Fayetteville, blasting 30 winners in 54 attempts, a sizzling .519 hitting percentage. That included a 13-for-22 performance against Northwestern State, with only one error. The .545 hitting was a career-best, while the 13 kills matched her career high. She added two aces, six digs and 12 blocks. Good news for Georgia Tech is that it won’t see UNM until Saturday. The Lobos are 26-8 in home-openers since 1980 (a .765 winning percentage) and are 6-0 under current head coach Jeff Nelson. UC Riverside gets first dibs on the host.

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