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Oct. 10, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Georgia Tech volleyball has started the second half of its season and while the Yellow Jackets currently sit at 7-10 and 1-4 in the conference, there’s still time to turn things around.

Head coach Tonya Johnsonbelieves that turnaround can start on Saturday night, when the Yellow Jackets take on Notre Dame (6-9, 0-4), the alma mater of current Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski (Class of 1979).

Here are five good reasons why O’Keefe Gym is the place to be Saturday at 7 p.m.

5. Rekindling a rivalry:Saturday night will be Georgia Tech’s first shot at Notre Dame as an ACC member. The two schools haven’t met on the volleyball court since 1995, when Georgia Tech came from 0-2 down to knock off No. 8 Notre Dame, 3-2. In that match, senior Kerry Annel smashed 33 kills, the seventh-best single-match total in school history. Notre Dame had beaten Tech in South Bend the year before, 3-0, so the series lead is at stake.

Johnson stopped short at calling the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame rivalry as heated as, say, “Good Old-Fashioned Hate,” however, reaching that point has to start somewhere.

“I don’t know that I necessarily view it that way,” she said. “I just look at them as another viable opponent that we have a lot of respect for. I think they bring a lot to our conference from an aspect in every sport but also to the conference in volleyball just because traditionally they’ve always been a great program.”

4. At Georgia Tech the fans matter:The Yellow Jackets have played some of their most inspired volleyball at O’Keefe this season. They opened the season with a pair of 3-0 wins over Florida A&M and Chattanooga, Then in their ACC home opener last weekend, they upended No. 18 Florida State.

Johnson knows the home crowd makes a difference.

“I think the part that I’m most excited about is that we’re at home,” she said.

3. The Irish can bring the heat:Georgia Tech will take on a Notre Dame team that features a pair of 2012-13 Honorable Mention All-Americans and First-Team All-Big East selections in junior outside hitter Toni Alugbue and middle-blocker/right side hitter Jeni Houser.

“Toni Alugbue is kind of their lead set-getter,” said Johnson. “She has 490 total attempts this year, which is leading the team, so she’s a very dynamic, athletic outside hitter who we’re going to have to be focused on. Also Jeni Houser, who’s their second attempt-getter, gets a lot of kills for a middle.

“They’re a very solid team. They return a lot of starters that have a lot of experience,” she added. “This is a team that we’re not going to take lightly because of their record. I just think that they’ve struggled and that they’re slowly trying to work their way out of that.”

Senior middle blocker Quinn Evans, who has played some of the best volleyball of her career and has been a force in the middle for Tech will help lead the charge as the Jackets look to get into the hunt in the ACC.

“Quinn has come into her own this season,” said Johnson. “She started out a little shaky in the beginning of the season and she has worked her way into where she has been way more consistent and has done some really good things for us. “

2. Support For `Dig Pink’:On Saturday night, the Yellow Jackets will be doing their part to help with breast cancer awareness with their annual “Dig Pink” night.

“Saturday is our `Dig Pink’ match,” said Johnson. “So we want people to come out and wear pink and support breast cancer awareness. We’ll be wearing pink uniforms for that match. It’s always cool to be in a different-colored jersey and to support such a great cause. We’re happy to be a part of that cause.”

1. The chance to have one of those cool pink jerseys: The team’s pink jerseys will be signed and auctioned off. Bidding actually begins at noon on Sunday, Oct. 13 via and closes on Sunday, Oct. 27 at noon. The bidding starts at $75 and increases in increments of $5. All proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

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