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Rotation No. 5: Libero/Defensive Specialist

Aug. 24, 2015

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

When Georgia Tech volleyball takes the court of O’Keefe Gym in the GT Courtyard by Marriott Atlanta Midtown Invite at noon Friday in its 2015-16 season-opener against Siena, London Ackermann will likely start at Libero/Defensive Specialist, especially after her performance in Saturday’s Gold/White Scrimmage.

She’ll have a lot of fans in the crowd, but possibly her biggest will be in fellow Libero Wimberly Wilson.

Ackermann, a junior and two-year starter, and Wilson, the team’s lone senior, were in constant competition over the summer and in training camp. They also are pretty much in constant communication off the floor, as they are roommates off the floor.

“They work really well together,” said head coach Michelle Collier. “They’re actually roommates, so they get along really well and I think they push each other to be better.”

The competition for that same spot has not driven a wedge between the two. If anything, it’s brought them closer. It starts with a level of respect that is atypical.

“We’re very positive toward each other. We let each other know when we make a great dig and we let each other know when we should have been somewhere else,” said Ackermann. “We’re very open to each other’s comments and we respect each other very highly. It’s a really good relationship.”

“We have a lot of respect for each other. We’re friends off the court, for sure, but we definitely respect each other on the court,” said Wilson. “I look for her to tell me, ‘Hey, you didn’t get this dig because of this.’ I think she does the same for me when she doesn’t make a dig. The more we push each other to get better the better the other person is going to be. We definitely have that relationship.”

Ackermann, a Louisville, Ky., native, came to Georgia Tech in 2013 and took over the Libero role six matches into the season on Sept. 7, at New Mexico in the finale of the Sheraton Airport Lobo Classic. She recorded nine digs in that match (actually one fewer than Wilson, the team-leader that day) and has not given up the spot. She recorded a team-high 391 digs in 2013 and led the team again in 2014, with 389 more in 105 sets. Her 3.70 per set, ranked eighth in the ACC, while her 3.56 per set in conference play (249 in 70 sets) ranked 10th. She had 77 more digs than her nearest teammate (Teegan Van Gunst).

Wilson, a Marietta product, had 31 digs in 64 sets last season, and made a career-high 120 in 2013. She has fully embraced her role in not only supporting Ackermann, but also pushing her, keeping her sharp and being ready at any moment for Coach Collier’s call to get on the floor.

Collier likes their relationship and the way they push each other.

“London has played more than Wimberly has but I think that Wimberly has done really well so far in the spring and the preseason,” said Collier. “She’s definitely right there just waiting for an opportunity. So London is going to have to stay consistent and make sure that she’s performing consistently at a level that we need her to perform when it comes to passing and defense because I think Wimberly is right behind her and she’s just waiting for an opportunity to get on the court. So it’s competition and it’s good to have that.”

The two friends see it the same way. They feel they are tailor-made for Libero and often see themselves as one in the same.

“We’re friends on and off the court and we have the most in common. We’re goofy, we’re two short kids, weirdos, whatever you want to call us. But it’s fun,” said Ackermann, with a laugh. “I feel like you have to have some kind of spunk about you. You definitely have to be the louder person, the person that is happy-go-lucky and keeps everyone together and talking. It’s a very vocal position.”

“We’re both just fun people. We like to have a good time and we’re very care-free on the court but we’re both competitive,” said Wilson. “Our outside personality is very care-free, ‘have fun’ so we’re able to bring that on the court and I think it shows.”

Ackermann and Wilson plan to use their platform as upperclassmen to help the youngsters on the team in staying loose but fiery.

“We know what’s going on,” said Wilson. “It’s the second year with Michelle, we’ve kind of gotten used to the routine and how everything works, so bringing that maturity to the underclassmen, who might not be so used to it, like some of the new kids, teaching them how drills work and showing them how we do things around here.”

“Mostly I feel like my job is more for the back row but considering since it’s just me and Wimberly, we’re all kind of working together,” said Ackermann. “Everyone’s getting used to being on the court together, as far as the new kids coming in. I think overall just getting to know each other, we’ve had some team bonding things that we’ve done during camp that have really helped in just having everyone come together, and get to know each other. That has really helped during camp as well.”

As Wilson heads into her final season she’s had some thoughts about how she wants to go out and what she wants and doesn’t want to see as she does.

“I want to end my senior year really proud of what this team did and what we did this season,” she said. “In the past, I’ve seen seniors walk away with regrets. That’s not something I want to do. I want to make sure that this year I’ve pulled out all the stops, that I’ve done everything I could personally. As a team, that we’ve given it our all, so at the end of the season, no matter what the outcome is, we walk away like, ‘That was our best. We did our best.’”

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