Nov. 15, 2017
Sydney Wilson has never been big about talking about herself.
She’s never been big about talking at all, really.
The 6-foot-2 middle blocker from Fayetteville, Ga. (Sandy Springs Hight School) has been the quiet cog in the machine that you always know you can rely on.
It’s been that way for four years.
“She has been on the court since day one,” said head coach Michelle Collier. “She hasn’t missed a practice. She has always been there.”
She’s also always been in Collier’s starting lineup. Wednesday night’s Senior Day match against Clemson (a 7 p.m. start at O’Keefe Gymnasium) will make it 83 straight matches.
Consistency on the floor in addition to consistency being in the lineup was Wilson’s biggest goal for 2017 and one she feels she’s accomplished.
“I think I have,” she said. “These past couple of matches have been disappointing but other than that hitting-wise I’ve been pretty consistent. Blocking-wise, as a whole I could work on that. I wouldn’t say necessarily that this has been my best blocking season.”
Wilson’s not-best blocking season has still seen her average 1.01 blocks per game, just outside the ACC’s top 10. That’s a place she’d like to reach with four collegiate matches remaining in her career.
“That would be great,” she said. “I want to leave a legacy, so to be top-10 in the ACC for blocking would be great for me.”
Regardless of whether she cracks the ACC top-10, Wilson’s legacy within the Georgia Tech program is assured. It’s simply a matter of how high she finishes in the top 10 in every blocks category.
Sydney has made 434 career total blocks — 74 solos and 360 block assists. The 74 solos rank fifth in program history, four shy of passing Laura Rullman (1985-88) for fourth, her 360 BA’s rank ninth, two behind Asia Stawicka (2008-11) for eighth, and her 434 total blocks rank seventh, seven behind Alexandra Preiss (2000-03) for sixth. If she stays at 1.01 blocks per set, she would match Carla Gartner (1995-98) and hit 10th in program history in blocks per set.
Wilson has been unmatched as far as Georgia Tech blockers since 2014. She’ll take the court Wednesday night leading the team with 21 solo blocks (no other Yellow Jacket is in double figures), 78 block assists (26 ahead of second-place Kodie Comby), and 99 total blocks (Comby is next at 61). She’ll be the first Yellow Jacket to lead the team in total blocks and block assists all four years and will be only the second to lead in solo blocks all four years, the first since Kyleen Bell (1998-2001).
Wilson’s blocking prowess isn’t surprising. What has been pleasantly surprising this season has been her play on the hitting side.
“She has taken her game to the next level,” said Collier. “You can see it in her numbers. I think her number of kills per set have increased, her hitting percentage has increased and she is somebody that you can, almost every match, have put up good numbers for you. She has been very consistent not only in match time but I also think in practice to turn it up a notch a little bit. She’s way more vocal, way more intense with her movements and the things that she’s doing. That approach to practice has helped her perform better in matches.”
Wilson’s kills (204 entering Wednesday) and kills per set (2.08), rank third on the team behind fellow seniors Gabriela Stavnetchei and Ashley Askin, and second personally in her career — only her sophomore year (281 kills at a 2.36 percentage) was better — but her .312 hitting percentage (also third behind Stavnetchei and Askin) is up 61 points from her previous best last season and is 74 points above her career average coming into 2017.
“Consistently hitting I feel like there’s been an improvement,” said Wilson.
There was no better display of that consistency and improvement than the Georgia Tech Invitational, on Sept. 7 and 8. Over those two days, Syd torched Xavier, North Florida and Kansas State, putting away 21 kills vs. only one attack error and hit a blistering .636 against UNF (a career-high), on her way to earning tournament MVP.
“At the beginning of the season I was hitting really well, like .800, .700,” she said. “This past match against UNC I hit negative but other than that my numbers have been looking pretty good. So I would say hitting efficiency is where I’ve improved the most.”
Wilson would love to save her best for last, starting Wednesday against Clemson, then continue Sunday against ACC-leading Pittsburgh, next Wednesday against Miami and, last but not least, against Florida State, who the Jackets host next Friday in a special 1 p.m. start.
“In the ACC everybody can beat everybody so we just kind of have to look at everybody like they’re first in the ACC,” she said. “Clemson is playing a lot better than they were when we first played them (a 3-0 win Sept. 22) so we have to come out swinging. We always play Miami and FSU tough. So it would be nice to leave with ‘W’ against them and against Miami.
“I know, we’ve never beaten FSU so it would be nice to leave with ‘W’ against them,” she added. “I know, personally, I’ve never played great against FSU so I’m really hoping that I go out there and can leave with a bang.”
While Sydney plans to leave it all out on the O’Keefe floor, she doesn’t plan to leave the sport. Once the season ends and she graduates in May — quite an undertaking in itself, as she’s taken five classes in the fall and will take six more in the spring — she’s wants to extend her career.
“I want to see how long I can play volleyball, I’d probably go somewhere in Europe,” she said. “All my focus will switch to post-collegiate career once the season’s over but right now I’m just focusing on finishing strong. I understand that all good things must come to an end, so it’s kind of bittersweet but I’m excited to see what’s coming next.”
Collier shares that excitement and sees great potential for Wilson moving forward.
“Maybe we haven’t been hard enough on her that she wants to keep playing,” she said, with a laugh. “I think she should keep playing. I think that there’s still so much that she could learn. The way that she approached this season was just a hunger of trying to learn the game and trying to learn things to take that position to the next level. She’s been able to increase that. I’m excited to help her continue her career. She has the health to have longevity in the game and I think that learning-wise and level-wise her ceiling is super high. There’s just so much more that she can do with this game.”