Nov. 11, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
For the truly selfless, it sometimes can be hard to know just how big an impact they’ve made.
On Wednesday night at O’Keefe Gym, Wimberly Wilson is going to learn how big an impact she’s made.
Spoiler alert for Wilson: It’s pretty big.
“Wimberly’s one of a kind,” said head coach Michelle Collier. “She’s such a consistent [source of] energy and positivity in our program. There is not a bad day for her. There is not a day when she is down. She’s always lifting everybody up, making everybody smile. I know the girls are excited to celebrate her and celebrate her day, and make sure that we make it memorable for her because it’s the least that she deserves. She has done so much for this program.”
“Everything that she does is for the team. She’s just so selfless,” said junior setter Rebecca Martin. “We appreciate her so much and there are a lot of things that fans or outsiders don’t really see but we notice. We take care of her and she takes care of us. We love her so much.”
Wilson, a defensive specialist, is the lone senior and will be honored prior to Georgia Tech taking on Clemson on Senior Night (the match begins at 7:00 p.m.).
“It’s really an incredible feeling,” said the Marietta native. “My teammates are some of my best friends and just to know that they’re out there playing for me and they’re super excited about my Senior Night, it’s incredible. It’s a really great feeling.”
It’s a feeling that she has earned via her actions and spirit, frequently in a supporting role — actions often unseen by many and support felt by all. But she also has done her part when called upon. Wimberly’s among the team leaders in serving percentage, nailing ‘em at a career-best .958 clip, and has excelled defensively, setting her career-high with 18 digs in the five-set thriller at Syracuse.
The ability to stay ready is a tribute to her experience and dedication to the program.
“Wimberly’s always been ready to play whatever role we’ve asked for her, at any time,” said Collier. “She has always done it to the best of her abilities and not complained one single day about her playing time. She really just loves being a part of this program, she loves being on the court, enjoys the training, she enjoys the environment. It’s really unique to see players that are that appreciative for the opportunity as she is.”
The opportunity is running out, as the Yellow Jackets have only five matches left following Wednesday, but Wilson has no regrets and has enjoyed every day of the 2015 season — and preseason — even if it has passed by quicker than she’d have liked.
“I feel like preseason was honestly just yesterday,” she said. “It’s amazing to think that we only have about three weeks of the season left. Time really just flies by.”
Being able to see the end of the road won’t distract any from the joy of the journey. The 2015 season has been especially satisfying as the Jackets already have 17 wins, four more than last season and the most since 2012, with eight in ACC play, two more than last year and also the most since ‘12. Last weekend they added to the luster of the season by offing Duke for the first time since 2007.
Wilson’s joy comes in seeing the players come of age.
“I think just watching everybody really grow,” she said. “I think back to preseason and we’ve made such large strides from where we started and to see all the hard work come to fruition these past couple of weeks has been really, really exciting.”
Of course, even more exciting would be to see the team continue those winning ways. Two seasons ago, Wilson was a freshman when the team went 19-12 and 10-10. There’s nothing she’d love more than to see the team hit 20 and 10.
“That would honestly be excellent,” she said. “We have our goals set on getting to the NCAA Tournament and we know what we have to do to get there. Everyone’s on the same page, everyone knows what they have to do and wants to put the work in to get there.”
The first obstacle is the Tigers, a match Wilson admittedly has gone to great lengths to advertise.
“I’ve already invited pretty much any person I know, any person I don’t know,” she said, with a laugh. “The invitation is open to anyone. Hopefully we get a nice crowd and a great fan section.
“The whole team is focused on winning this next match,” she added. “We really want to go out swinging this season and we know we’ve hit a couple of really big milestones and I think we’re expecting to hit other milestones in the future as well.”
Her teammates certainly are locked in for Wednesday.
“That’s a big match,” said Martin. “It’s also our Senior Night. So we’re going to try to celebrate Wimberly before and just try to take care of that because it would be great to send her off with a win.”
While she doesn’t want the ride to end, the four-year journey has been a great one.
“It hasn’t really set in and I don’t think it will set in until I see the team at practice and I’m not there anymore,” said Wilson, who is on course to graduate in May 2016.
She hopes she has been impactful to those around her.
“I hope people remember me by my hard work and my energy and my passion,” Wilson said. “I hope people when they think about me think, ‘She pushed me every day to be the best volleyball player I can be in the gym.’
“I’m an Atlanta kid so I’ve watched Georgia Tech volleyball my whole life,” she added. “To be there and see it in person, to be a part of it has just been an incredible experience.”
Her experience is something that many will not forget soon.
“She definitely has taught a lot to every player in this program that we have an opportunity to be a part of something special and she makes it feel special every day,” said Collier. “So it’s really cool to see that. She will leave a legacy here. Her demeanor and the things that she’s about will trickle down to the rest of our program as we continue to develop our culture.”
Wednesday also is Veterans Night, with free admission for fans with a military ID.
Fans also can get in for $2 by bringing a canned food donation as part of a drive with the Atlanta Community Food Bank.