THWG: The Next Generation

Sept. 17, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

It wouldn’t have been surprising if then-head coach Shelton Collier told his Georgia Tech volleyball team, “To Hell With Georgia. We’re never losing to them again!” to fire up his team prior to its Nov. 26, 1999 match against Georgia at O’Keefe Gym.

The Yellow Jackets, who had been 0-for-20 in the series, won that day, 3-1, and have won 13 of the last 14 matches in the series since, including the last six meetings at O’Keefe.

It’ll be a different Coach Collier, Michelle, with a different pronunciation (Cole-ee-yay) who will try to continue the mastery over the Georgia when the Jackets (4-5) and Bulldogs (5-4) tangle Friday night in Tech’s 2014-15 home opener. The “Gold Out” match begins at 7 p.m.

Of course, Collier won’t have to say much to get her team fired up.

“To Hell With Georgia” should be enough. That sentiment is a key line in the school’s legendary fight song, “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck (From Georgia Tech)” — has been since 1910 — and can be found in shortened form, “THWG” all over campus.

“THWG” may be the most important grouping of letters Georgia Tech student-athletes ever learn and that importance is ingrained early on. Georgia Tech’s four freshmen, outside hitters Ashley Askin and Gabriela Stavnetchei, middle blocker Sydney Wilson and defensive specialist/libero Annika Olsen already know it.

“`To Hell With Georgia,’ it’s like a battle cry,” said Wilson, a Fayetteville, Ga., native. “We’re kind of still in preseason. We’re going to play a lot of big teams with a lot of fans like it will be at the Georgia-Georgia Tech match this weekend.”

“To hell with them. It just means give it your all,” said Askin, adding with a laugh.

The teams did not meet last season, for the first time since renewing the rivalry in 1997 but they are eager to renew hostilities.

Olsen, a Johns Creek, native, said circling the date of the Georgia match on her calendar was one of her first orders of business. For her, it’s personal.

“I was raised a Georgia fan,” she said. “When I decided to come to Tech I had to kind of turn my back on Georgia and become a Tech fan, which I am, 100 percent a fan for. My twin brother goes to Georgia and my other sister went to Georgia. So there’s definitely a family rivalry there. So I’m excited to show them who’s boss.”

That means continuing Tech’s run of success.

“I think it’s kind of like a Tech pride kind of thing,” Olsen said. “We’ve done so well in the past we have to continue it. It’s pressure but it’s like a good pressure. We know that we can rise up and face the challenge.”

Non-Georgia residents understand the rivalry, even if they haven’t yet experienced the intensity of it.

“I know that we have a giant rivalry with Georgia so I’m very excited because this makes everything more special. I’m even more fired up,” said Stavnetchei, a native of Curitiba, Brazil. “I’m real excited to play. I think it’s going to be amazing. Everybody’s going to be excited to beat them and to play them. I’m very excited for that.”

“It’s going to be exciting,” said Askin, a Louisville, Ky., native, who in the coming weeks will face Notre Dame, her parents’ alma mater, and Louisville. “I’ve never been to a Georgia-Georgia Tech game before so I don’t really know, but just from like the scrimmage and other games I’ve been to, it’s always packed and loud and everything and with the rivalry, it will be intense.”

As in all sports, Friday’s match will pit friends and former teammates against each other. Wilson and Olsen played club ball with Georgia outside hitter Amanda Dachs and DS/Libero Elle McCord, while Askin played with UGA DS/L Cassidy Anderson.

On top of everything else, the match is Georgia Tech’s home opener and a Gold Out game. Olsen expects a big, loud O’Keefe crowd for the Jackets to feed off.

“I’m excited because the gym has so much energy and is so loud,” she said. “I just can’t wait. It’s the Georgia game. It just takes it to a whole new level.”

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