ATLANTA (Nov. 18) — When one sets foot on the Georgia Tech campus, the legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games can be seen rather clearly.
From the re-creation of Alexander Memorial Coliseum to the thousands of new living spaces provided for the Tech student body, to the state-of-the-art Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Olympic mementos are everywhere. However, it turns out that the Jackets’ volleyball team might be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Atlanta games.
Scouring the roster of the 1996 German Olympic women’s volleyball team, the name of Hanka Pachale can be found. Hanka came to meet and know a number of American college coaches during the Olympic games who were in attendance, leading those coaches to begin recruiting in Germany for potential players. On one such recruiting trip abroad, Hanka Pachale’s younger sister, Maja, was spotted.
Maja, playing for the club team in her hometown of Schwerin, Germany, caught the eye of multiple coaches, including Tech head coach Shelton Collier. After being recruited by Minnesota and Maryland, Maja later committed to Tech, where she has flourished.
“We surely got her through the grapevine of recruiting,” said Collier. “We were very fortunate to land her.”
“I’m very lucky to be here,” said Pachale, who echoed Collier’s comments on her remarkable road to become a Jacket. “And, I really feel it was the right decision.”
Pachale excelled right away on the Flats, both on and off the floor. A Dean’s List student majoring in Management, she was a starter all season as a freshman at outside hitter, finishing second on the squad in kills with 420.
This season as a sophomore, Pachale presently leads the ACC with 4.68 kills per game and ranks among the top 25 in the nation. She has been a force on the floor throughout her Tech career. In a loss to N.C. State on October 8, Pachale established a new Tech record for kills in a match, putting away 38 against the Wolfpack.
With her success in the power game from the outside on the floor, Pachale has affectionately received the nickname of “Der Hammer.”
After being an ACC all-Freshman team selection in 1998, Pachale is in line to be Tech’s first sophomore to be a first team all-ACC selection since Cris Omiecinski in 1993.
As the 1999 volleyball campaign winds down, Pachale’s role as the team leader becomes ever more important with the Jackets heading this week to the ACC Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
“As the season goes into the final stage, we’re trying to get things going well,” said Pachale. “While in college, I really want to win an ACC championship.”
Pachale’s numbers have been remarkable, as she has seen herself quickly rise among career leaders. She is presently ninth on the all-time kills list, although she is more than halfway to Omiecinski’s record total of 1749 in less than two seasons.
Regardless of how successful her collegiate career may be, Pachale will likely head back overseas after her days at Tech to further her career due to the lack of a professional game here in the States.
Pachale played for the German Junior National Team during the summer of 1997 before coming to Tech, and would like to follow in Hanka’s footsteps, playing for the German National Team someday while also pursuing a professional volleyball career.
“After college, I just want to keep playing volleyball,” said Pachale. “I think that’ll probably make me go back to Europe.”
“When I played with the Junior National Team, I was never one of the first six or eight players on the team, so when I got here I got a lot more experience, and now feel a lot more confident about my game,” said Pachale. “When I go back, I think I can achieve so much more because of my confidence.”
Her teammates and coaches have been able to see that confidence and reap the benefits of it as well. However, the added confidence hasn’t been something that’s come instantly or easily to Pachale.
“Even as a sophomore, she is the player we look to as the team’s leader on the court,” said Collier. “She’s really improving all the time. She’s improved a lot since last year, and she works at her game to improve it. She really sets an example in the gym, and is one of our best practice players every day.”
“Her personality is really exceptional,” said Collier. “She has fit in really well, and can relate to our players in a comfortable way.”
Pachale, who speaks fluently in English, German and French, is truly multi-talented.
“She’s really special,” said Collier. “We knew she was a great player, but she’s really a special person.”