Aug. 14, 2010
One of the first things opponents notice about Monique Mead is the warm, engaging smile she’s always wearing.
“I usually am [smiling],” said the 5-10 sophomore and Newnan native. “That’s just how I am. I’m always smiling a lot, goofy.”
Mead’s smile is enough to make them want to flash their own pearly whites…at least until they notice something else Mead prominently features, a lethal spike.
It’s part of an arsenal that helped her earn ACC Freshman of the Year, All-ACC First-Team, and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) honorable mention All-Region and All-America honors.
It’s also an arsenal that she improved during the summer while playing her way onto the Women’s Senior A2 Team National Program, the only freshman to make the 24-woman team. The experience was a wonderful lesson.
“I played with some of the best girls in the country and just seeing all those girls, Texas girls, the Cal girls, the Hawaii girls, they’re all really good,” she said. “Just trying to learn from them because they were all older than me. So I was just trying to take in what they were doing and try to use it here.”
She’ll get her first chance when Georgia Tech opens its 2010 season against Indiana Aug. 27 at O’Keefe Gymnasium (7:00 p.m. start), as part of the Georgia Tech Courtyard Marriott Classic, which also includes UAB and Alabama A&M.
It’ll be her first match as a sophomore, which brings with it a whole different feel than her freshman season.
“Last year, being a freshman, you don’t have as much respect, I guess, as you do when you’re older,” she said. “So I feel like people are going to want more from me. So now I have to take on more responsibilities the older I get.”
Wanting more from Mead and getting it from her is par for the course.
In high school, from 2005 through 2008, Mead led Landmark Christian School to four area championships, where she finished her career with 1,380 kills, was first-team all-state and area 3 AA/A Player of the Year in 2008, and 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year for Georgia.
She also led her club teams to National Championships at age 16 then again at 18.
“She’s an unbelievable right-side hitter,” said Yellow Jackets teammate Alexis Woodson, who also played with her on the 18U National Champion. “She’s dominant, she’s strong. All throughout the time I played with her, nobody could touch her. Nobody could block her.”
Not much has changed.
Mead was seventh in the ACC (second on the team) with 3.07 kills, had 14 double-doubles, including one in her debut against Georgia (20 kills, 10 digs), had 22 double-figure kills matches, including twice going over 20 (her other 20-kills match was Nov. 13 when she had a career-best 21 against Miami), and served 30 aces and had 90 blocks.
She was a big reason for Tech’s finishing with a 21-10 record (15-5 in the ACC) and third in the conference last season, defying the prognosticators and who picked the Jackets for eighth, and helping Tech reach its first NCAA Tournament in five years.
Where Tech will be selected to finish in 2010 will be announced early next week, not that the Jackets will be paying too much attention.
“One of our mottos this year, especially in ACC play is going to be ‘Breaking the Ranks,'” she said. “We were ranked eighth last year and we did much better than that. This year, no matter what our ranking is, we’re always going to strive to be first. We want to get the highest that we can get.”
Mead knows that will be a tougher task this time around, as both she and the Jackets no longer have the luxury of flying under the radar.
“People are going to be looking out for me so I have to be aware of the fact that I can’t just swing wherever I want to,” said Mead, who started all 31 matches and was one of only seven Tech players to play in all 116 sets on the season. “Just knowing that they’re going to know my tendencies. So I’m trying to improve and have different shots or more shots.”
One thing is for sure, she’ll keep on smiling until opponents find a way to stop her. Any chance of that?
“No way,” she said, breaking into her signature smile. “No way.”