Nov. 14, 2013
THE FLATS – The Georgia Tech volleyball team (10-17, 4-11 ACC) overcame a 21-15 deficit in the fourth game to win the set, 26-24, and defeat the Clemson Tigers (12-14, 6-9), 3-1 (25-20, 13-25, 25-21, 26-24)Thursday night in front of a rowdy O’Keefe Gymnasium.
“I thought our kids stayed poised and showed a lot of character at the end of the match.” Head coach Tonya Johnson said. “They stayed relaxed and made plays, and that’s what finishing is about. It’s about making plays and I thought we did that tonight.”
Ahead 2-1 in the match but down 21-15 in the fourth game, Georgia Tech pulled together for an 11-3 run to claim the 3-1 victory. Four of junior Courtney Felinski’s nine total kills came in the last six points of the match to propel the Jackets past Clemson.
“What a great series there when Courtney stayed aggressive,” Johnson said. “When she stays aggressive, she does great things for us and she showed that tonight at the end of the match.”
Sophomore Chanell Clark-Bibbs paced Georgia Tech with a career-high 16 kills and senior Jennifer Percy added 15 of her own. The Yellow Jacket defense was solid and three players recorded double-digit digs in London Ackermann (14), Annika Van Gunst (12) and Zoey Morton (11).
“I thought we made some big defensive plays,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking about staying disciplined defensively and being stopped on contact. I thought we put ourselves in good positions to make plays defensively tonight.”
Down by one, 17-16, in the first set, Tech put on a five-point rally to go up 21-17. The Jackets used another four-point streak to gain set point, 24-20, and captured the set on a kill by Percy, 25-20. Georgia Tech’s defense held the Tigers to a .075 hitting clip and Percy notched a .667 (6-of-9) to lead Tech.
The Jackets overcame an early four-point deficit, 5-1, to tie the match, 7-7, in the second game. The Tigers stepped on the accelerator and used an 11-1 run to open the gap 18-8. The Jackets could not recover and fell in game two, 25-13.
With the third set knotted early, 4-4, Tech found its rhythm and put together five straight points behind a pair of kills by Clark-Bibbs and capped off by back-to-back aces by Annika Van Gunst to go up 9-5. Tech built on its lead and opened it to a 10-point advantage, 20-10, spurred along by kills from Percy and Annika Van Gunst, along with a block assist by freshman Rebecca Martin and redshirt sophomore Ashtaan Horton.
Horton came into the match in the third frame and provided a different look from a blocking perspective. After playing in just three sets in her injury-laden career, Horton put on a solid performance with three kills and two blocks through two sets.
“I’m really proud of Ashtaan for coming in and making a difference from a blocking standpoint,” Johnson said. “She made big plays when we needed them. She hasn’t played at all this year and this was the first opportunity she has gotten. She handled herself really well and did a nice job for us.”
The Tigers were down, 23-14, in game three, but regrouped with a five-point swing narrowing Georgia Tech’s lead 23-19. A kill courtesy of Clark-Bibbs gave Tech set point and a kill by Percy handed Tech the set, 25-21.
The momentum in the fourth game looked to be in Clemson’s favor, but Tech did not give up. The Jackets settled into a rhythm with four points in a row capped off with a pair of kills by Felinski to knot it 22-22 and then again 24-24. Another kill by Felinski had Tech at match-point and a solo block from the junior dealt Tech the set, 26-24, and match, 3-1.
The Jackets are back in action Saturday at No. 13 Duke. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m.