Aug. 2, 2010
In her first season as a head coach, Tonya Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to a 21-10 record and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2004. Johnson immediately won over Georgia Tech fans as the Jackets topped rival Georgia in a five-set thriller in her first career match as a head coach in front of the third sell out crowd in program history. Later in the season, the Yellow Jackets handed ACC champion and NCAA national seed Florida State its only conference loss of the season. The win was Tech’s first on the road against a ranked team since 2003. The Yellow Jackets finished in the top of the ACC in nearly every statistical category including second in assists, third in kills and fourth in hitting percentage. Defensively, Tech allowed the second-fewest kills, assists and digs in the league. Picked to finish eighth in the ACC preseason poll, Tech ended the season third and now Johnson and a veteran team look to take the next step in 2010.
The Yellow Jackets return four starters plus libero Jordan McCullers and nine letterwinners from last year’s team. Highlighting those returners are the teams’ seniors Mary Ashley Tippins and McCullers. Tippins, the squad’s setter, ranked first in the ACC and 20th in the nation a year ago averaging 11.27 assists per set. She was a first-team All-ACC member as well as an honorable mention AVCA All-American. Tippins had 36 service aces to rank seventh in the ACC and had five double-doubles last season, the first of her career.
McCullers is the team’s libero and was sixth in the ACC with 4.14 digs per set. She was second on the team in assists and a big part of Tech’s defense a year ago which ranked second in the ACC in fewest kills, assists and digs allowed. Junior Alison Campbell and sophomore Nicki Meyer will look to add depth at the libero/defensive specialist position. Campbell Played in 63 sets on the season and made 10 starts while averaging 1.40 digs per set. Meyer played a couple of sets last season. After playing in just a few sets last year, the Gainesville, Fla., native Meyer has been working very hard and looking to make an impact in 2010.
Sophomore right-side hitter Monique Mead returns as the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year. She was also an honorable mention AVCA All-American and spent a couple weeks over the summer training with the U.S. A2 National Team. Mead was second on the team and seventh in the ACC averaging 3.07 kills per game and posted eight of the team’s 14 double-doubles on the season. The Newnan, Ga., native had 22 double-figure kills matches and went over 20 twice. She was also third on the team with 56 assists and second in digs at 1.97 a set.
Junior Bailey Hunter is on the other side and looking to build off her break out season of 2009. She ranked first on the team and sixth in the ACC averaging 3.28 kills a set and also added six assists, 16 service aces, 89 digs and 35 total blocks. Hunter went 19 straight matches at one point last season with at least 10 kills.
Adding depth to the outside is sophomore Susan Carlson as well as a pair of incoming freshmen in Ivona Kolak and Jennifer Percy. Carlson played in 60 sets, while starting eight matches and ranked fourth on the team averaging 1.47 digs per set.
Kolak, a native of Kastel Gomilica, Croatia, helped lead her club to a third-place finish at the Under-18 National Championship and fourth-place in the I.B. League. In 2010, she was part of a second-place finish in the I.B. League. Percy, a native of Mobile, Ala., is ranked 69th on the prepvolleyball.com list of “Senior Aces.” She led her team to three state championships and a trip to the championship game in 2009 where she had 21 kills and 10 digs. Percy has been an all-state pick four times, including first-team in each of the last two years. She was MVP of the South team in the 2009 Alabama North-South All-Star game and is a four-time state all-tournament, all-county and Area Super 12 teams (three on first-team).
Junior Asia Stawicka anchors the Jacket middle and enjoyed a break-out season as well after missing half of her freshman campaign with an injury. The Warsaw, Poland, native was first on the team and seventh in the ACC with a .331 hitting percentage and was also tops on the team and fifth in the ACC with 1,09 blocks per set. Sophomores Annie Czarnecki and Alexis Woodson as well as freshman Quinn Evans will add depth to the middle. Czarnecki played in just a couple sets last season but has worked hard and are looking to crack the line-up in 2010. Woodson enrolled a Tech earlier and this will be her first season on the team.
Evans, meanwhile, is a 6-3 middle blocker from San Antonio, Texas, who was on the prepvolleyball.com list of “Senior Aces.” In 2007 and 2008, Evans led the team in both blocks and kill percentage while helping to win a district championship in 2007. In 2006, she became the first freshman in school history to earn a varsity letter in volleyball and went on to be a four-year starter and two-time team captain.
Freshman Kaleigh Colson will add solid depth to the setter position. The Austin, Texas native helped lead her high school team to a district championship and state quarterfinalist appearance last season. They won area championships three times while she was there, includinga regional quarterfinal appearance in 2008 and regional semi-final in 2007.
Coach Johnson has assembled another tough schedule for the Yellow Jackets which includes four early season tournaments and eight matches against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. Tech will make early season trips to Athens, Ga., Manhattan, Kan., and Clemson, S.C. The Yellow Jackets open the season with the annual Courtyard Marriott Classic the last weekend of August, their only tournament in the friendly confines of O’Keefe Gym this year. Following those early tournament will be the grueling ACC conference slate. Last summer, Johnson claimed the ACC was one of the “up and coming conferences in the nation” and she wasn’t kidding. After sending a league-record five teams to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, there will be no easy match in conference play this year.
Tech will host 15 matches at O’Keefe this year, one of the toughest places to play in the nation. Johnson hopes Jacket fans will come out in droves again this season and see a team that is loaded with both solid returners and a strong freshman class. Johnson’s goal coming to Tech was an ACC Championship and deep run in the NCAA Tournament and the 2010 team has its eyes set on just that.