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#STINGDAILY: Gold/White, Let's Fight

Aug. 16, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

The players on the Georgia Tech volleyball team like each other.

They really do.

They like each other a lot.

That point needs to be stated and re-stated, as some doubts might arise on Saturday afternoon when the team holds its annual Gold/White Scrimmage beginning at 3 p.m. at O’Keefe Gymnasium.

With the season-opening Georgia Tech Courtyard Invitational a week away and starting jobs on the line, Saturday promises to be more intense than your ordinary intersquad scrimmage.

“I think it’s an opportunity for them to kind of show off a little bit against each other,” said Head Coach Tonya Johnson, who will be coaching her fourth Gold/White Scrimmage. “You’re kind of wishing it was someone else on the other side of the net, but I think it’s fun. It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their skills in front of our fans. We typically have a good draw for that. I hope for the same this Saturday.”

“They’re always really fun,” said senior rightside hitter Monique Mead, who will play in her final Gold/White Scrimmage. “Our first year or two I think that it was closed for just families, but this past year it was really surprising to see how many people came out to watch, besides family. We had friends there, we had a few fans there. We’re hoping we can re-create that for this Gold-White Scrimmage.”

Fans coming out will see an experienced Jackets team, with 12 returning players, nine of them upperclassmen, featuring Mead, redshirt senior outside hitter Bailey Hunter, and a pair of senior libero/defensive specialists, Nicki Meyer and Susan Carlson. Last year’s starting setter, junior Kaleigh Colson, also is back, along with outside hitters Jennifer Percy and Ivona Kolak, and middle blocker Quinn Evans all juniors and key contributors off the bench. Johnson believes the team’s experience will pay off handsomely.

“I think there’s a great advantage to that [experience],” she said. “They understand the system, they understand what our expectations are and they set the bar high the minute they walked into the gym on the first day of preseason practice. That’s important, just from the standpoint of having all of those upperclassmen for the younger kids to look up to.”

The kids are reason for excitement as well. Sophomores Zoey Morton (L/DS) and Courtney Felinski (OH) look to build on strong freshman campaigns.

Then there is the trio of incoming freshmen, middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs, setter Callie Bivings and libero/defensive specialist Wimberly Wilson, who already are pushing for court time.

“They came to summer school early and they really got to know the team and got in here and did open gym with the team and really made it be known that they wanted to be a part of this and a part of this right away,” Johnson said. “I’m excited about all three of those guys.”

One of the best positional battles is the four-way shaping up at middle blocker, between Clark-Bibbs, Quinn, senior Annie Czarnecki and redshirt freshman Ashtaan Horton.

Ashtaan Horton has really turned the corner. She had a great tournament in Europe and I felt like she kind of turned the corner there and she has continued on through preseason,” said Johnson. “Annie Czarnecki also has done a nice job this preseason thus far. So there are some people that are standing out and that are doing a nice job.”

Hunter, who was a medical redshirt last season, is a new face for the 2012 season but a familiar one to Jackets volleyball.

“It will be really nice to have her back,” said Mead. “We have a lot of new players. We have new DS’s, we have a new middle (blocker), we have a new setter, so everyone has a possibility to play. Seeing anybody new on the court is exciting for me as well as everybody else. Whoever gets on the court, I know Bailey especially, is going to be a nice, fresh experience that I haven’t seen in a while.”

Mead believes the fans that come out will like what they see and hopes they come out en masse just for the effect they have on the players.

“We do get tired of playing each other but it’s different when you have a little bit of a crowd because you get really competitive,” she said. “You really want your team to win and even though they’ve split up the teams pretty evenly, on both sides, that competitive nature just comes out of all of us. Everybody wants to win, regardless of who you’re playing.”

Fans are invited to stick around after the match to meet the team and to collect autographs.


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