Feb. 13, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Monique Mead knows all about being the face of Georgia Tech.
In addition to leading the Jackets in each of the last three seasons, the talented 20-year-old outside hitter has represented the school the last two years as part of U.S. Volleyball’s National A2 Team, having earned a spot in their annual tryouts held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo.
This past weekend Mead sought to make it three-for-three.
“It’s always new people, new coaches, and new faces. So it’s always a great competition and a lot of fun,” she said.
While she admitted she felt more comfortable going in this third time around, there was a difference, as this time she was Tech’s sole participant.
“My first year I had “Mash,” (former teammate and student assistant coach Mary Ashley Tippins), last year I had Bailey [Hunter],” she said. “It’s definitely a lot different traveling by myself. It’s a little different than in the past but I’ll be okay.”
Just show Mead the court and she usually is. She’s led the ACC in kills each of the past two seasons and last season averaged a league-high 5.03 kills per set — her 588 kills were 112 more than the nearest player in the ACC, North Carolina’s Emily McGee, who had 473 and a 4.04 KPS average.
Mead wasn’t all alone, as Tech Assistant Coach Ed Tolentino accompanied her on the trip, and there were some familiar faces from ACC competition, as 18 other players from various ACC schools made the trip, including McGee.
“It was nice being able to see some of the competition, some of the ACC girls,” she said. “Being able to represent our conference was really nice.”
Overall there were 207 players from 73 different colleges that descended on Colorado Springs, including 55 outside hitters, 49 middle blockers, 44 liberos, 37 setters and 22 opposites (of which Mead was one).
Participants went through four sessions — one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday — with the groups divided into three teams, Red, White and Blue. To spice things up, the teams were changed for each session, often turning teammates into counterparts.
“[The organizers are] really good about splitting everybody up and putting everybody on different courts,” Mead said. “You’re constantly playing with a new set of girls, so it’s not like you can just get comfortable with your one best friend or teammate. They want you to get experience of playing with a lot of new players.”
With this being her third trip to Colorado Springs, Mead was comfortable with the routine and was her usual pumped-up to test herself against the quality competition.
“Obviously, all the girls that come here are really good. They are obviously, the stars at their school,” she said. “I think whenever you play around real good competition or whenever you play around really good players it makes you better. I’m always trying to get better and better my game.”
Then there is the ultimate goal.
“I just want to make the team again,” she said. “The experience of being able to wear the USA tee-shirt or USA jersey in practice, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Mead will find out if she’s made it three-for-three in earning a place on the team and the right to wear the USA jersey when the team is announced in May.