Oct. 25, 2009
by Kristy Rivero
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA — You know the phrase, “be seen but not heard”? It usually is ministered to children or novices, and has to do with the concept of earning the right to voice your opinions.
It also applies to college freshmen student-athletes: sit on the bench, watch, learn, and maybe next year you can contribute.
For the freshman members of the Georgia Tech volleyball team, there’s watching and learning, but there’s also contributing now.
Sitting? Not so much. These freshmen are being heard loud and clear. Monique Mead is getting the most attention.
The 18-year-old from Landmark Christian High School in Newnan was expected to be a defensive asset. Instead, she leads the team in kills, averaging 3.12 a set heading into this weekend’s matches, which ranked No. 7 in the ACC and first among all rookies.
“It’s great. I couldn’t do it without my team,” says Mead. “I have a great setter in Mash [Mary Ashley Tippins] who helps me with everything and it feels great. I’ve always known I’m short for this sport. When you see 5-9 on paper and then you go against these 6-foot hitters to be blocking against it’s crazy but I’ve been blessed.”
“She’s a very special player,” says coach Tonya Johnson. “She’s still learning the game and gets better every day she steps foot on our court. The fact is that her physicality helps her do some things that are very special.
“My expectations of her are very high because she graduated a semester early to come to Georgia Tech and so she got a little bit of a jump on the rest of the freshmen and she understands what we’re looking for in the gym and what we need from her on a daily basis in order for her to get better.”
It’s no surprise a Texan is also making her mark on Johnson’s squad. Hanna Tucci, from Regents School of Austin, Texas, is averaging 1.12 digs per set playing as a defensive specialist for the former Longhorns assistant (Johnson).
“[Johnson] was a big part at why I started looking at Tech,” says Tucci. “I had never heard of the school to be honest before coach Johnson came here, but once I started looking at it, I came on a visit and absolutely just fell in love with the school and I love the volleyball program as well.”
I’ve known Hannah for a while,” says Johnson. “I’ve been watching her play since I was in Austin and she was playing Austin juniors. She’s a great defensive specialist and she passes well and defends well and it’s really nice to have her on our team. Hopefully, she’s going to start the Texas pipeline into Georgia Tech.”
Susan Carlson is the third impact freshman so far this season. The native of Pasadena, Calif., is averaging 1.55 digs per set.
“Tonya told me at the beginning of the season when I first got my shot that this is an opportunity; nothing more, nothing less, and I took advantage of it so that’s put me where I am now,” says Carlson. “Susan is a California kid who has grown up playing the game on the beach and sometimes if you’re watching and take notice, some of her beach moves come out on the hardwood court,” Johnson said.
“I have to remind her every now and then that we’re not on the beach, but she’s just a volleyball-savvy kid who understands the game and understands the angles of the game. Her ball control is pretty solid, and she’s doing some attacking for us out of the back row. She’s working really hard and improving every day.”
Is it any surprise three freshman have helped the team so much?
“Absolutely not,” says Johnson. “I watched them all play club ball throughout the spring and as a staff we would talk about what can this kid add to our program… in the fall and so they’ve added exactly what we thought they would add to our team. They’ve done a nice job, and they’ve adjusted well to school and to volleyball here.”