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Grand Slammer

Sept. 15, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Monique Mead will never be accused of taking a game home with her.

When she’s off the floor, that night’s game is over.

The junior outside hitter and co-captain so completely shuts it down that she didn’t even know she’d slammed her 1,000th career kill in Tech’s 3-0 victory over Georgia last Friday night. The milestone came on her fifth kill of the second set, which made the score 20-11.

She didn’t find out about her accomplishment until hours later, when she went on Twitter.

“I don’t keep track that well,” she said, with a laugh. “My parents and I were out eating dinner and I saw it on Twitter. That was kind of exciting when I found out.”

It’s too bad she doesn’t keep track, because she’s missing the great start that she’s off to this season. Mead is not only in her customary spot at the top of the ACC with her 5.38 kills per set, but she leads the nation. She also has a nation-leading 6.1 points per set.

She’s hitting at a .255 clip, more than 20 points higher than her career-best total (.232 last season) and more than 30 points higher than her career average (.221) and is getting to 2.82 digs a set (96 overall), second on the team only to libero Nicki Meyer (3.09, 105) and well ahead of her career average.

“I think that she’s learning how to take over a match,” said Head Coach Tonya Johnson. “That comes with maturity and experience.

“She’s always wanted to be in a leadership role and she’s taken it on pretty well,” Johnson added. “I think she’s done a great job of accepting her captain’s role and then stepping up when her team needs her. That’s what captains do.”

Mead plans to continue to do what she does tonight when the Jackets (6-3) take on Clemson (8-3) as part of the Clemson Classic. The match begins at 7:00. It’s Tech’s final match of the Classic, as they took on Furman (7-4) Thursday night.

The match with the Tigers is an important road test for the Jackets, who went 1-2 their first road matches, two weekends ago at the Rice Tournament. Mead feels the team has an opportunity to make a statement in its ACC Opener.

“It’s so important because it tells you a lot about yourself and it tells you a lot about your team,” she said. “When you get off to a good start, especially when it’s an away game, that can build your confidence more. We want to finish tops in the ACC. The only way we can do that is to win. The only way we can win it is to get off to a great start. That’s something we’re going to try and do this weekend.”

The match against Clemson kicks off conference play and renews what has been a typical series between Georgia Tech and Clemson in any sport — hard-fought and intense.

“It’s always a big game against Clemson,” said Mead. “They’re always our first ACC school to play and they’re always our first last one to play.

“I know Clemson is always really good competition, they’re always a really good team and this year we’re also a really good team. So I know it’s going to be a great match to watch.”

If history is any indication, it’s also going to be a long one, as the last six times these teams have met the match has gone five sets. Tech has won four of the five, but trails in the all-time rivalry, 33-23.

“The Clemson match has become a big rivalry for us,” said Johnson, whose teams are 3-1 against the Tigers. “It’s amazing to think that the last six matches have all gone five. I expect it to be a battle again. They are a very solid team and we’re going to have to be prepared to compete, every point against them.”

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