Aug. 21, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There’s no tangible method to measure passion.
Even if there was it would still be difficult to measure Michelle Collier’s for volleyball — her passion is that high.
On Saturday afternoon that passion will be higher than usual for Georgia Tech’s first-year coach, as her Yellow Jackets will hold their annual Gold/White Scrimmage. The match starts at 4:30 p.m. at O’Keefe Gym.
The Gold/White Scrimmage is a dry-run for the team, which opens the season the following Friday in Columbia, S.C., in the Gamecock Invitational against Jacksonville, her former team, and gives fans a sneak peak of what’s in store for the upcoming season.
It’s a chance for the team to show what it’s been working on for the last three weeks as far as adopting Collier’s philosophy and playing with her passion for the game.
The match can’t come soon enough.
“We definitely want to see them go up there and compete,” said Collier, the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year, who was hired by Georgia Tech on March 21, after leading Jacksonville to a 30-4 record and its first NCAA Tournament bid in nine years. “We try to create some situations in practice where they’re doing that but it’s definitely not the same when the score is going and everything counts. I think they’re going to be super-competitive because everybody’s still fighting for positions and it’s kind of out in the open. So it’s a great environment.”
The competition should be spirited, as the squad has plenty of key spots to fill. Gone are last year’s top three hitters, its top two blockers, and top two servers. Also needed are locker room and floor leaders to step up and the void left by the graduation of its four seniors (outside hitters Ivona Kolak and Jen Percy, middle blocker Quinn Evans and setter Kaleigh Colson) as well as the transferring of middle blocker Chanell Clark-Bibbs.
But that’s where passion — Collier’s and her staff’s — and the hunger for playing time among the players comes it.
The 2014-15 Yellow Jackets are a clean slate and that means whoever kicks in the door gets on the floor.
“New coaches, new year, we have a bunch of new freshmen in and they’re all really good,” said junior libero/defensive specialist Wimberly Wilson. “That just raises the stakes for everybody since we all have a chance of starting.”
“All around needs some improvement,” added sophomore libero/DS London Ackermann, the team’s leader last season in digs (391, 3.34) and the top returning server (.930, 26 aces). “But just the attitude and everyone wanting to come to practice and wanting to compete.”
On Saturday, fans can expect to see different combinations in the three sets, as the players audition for Collier, who will be acting in supervisory role with her husband and volunteer coach Rafael Silva, a nine-year pro in the top leagues in Brazil and Spain. Assistant coaches Marcela Oliveira and Taylor McColskey will fill out the rosters.
About the only players who won’t be changing jerseys are the setters.
Sophomore Rebecca Martin, the team’s leading setter last season (410, 7.88 per set), will quarterback the Gold team, while junior Callie Bivings, who was second with 7.14 a/s, 307 overall, will set for White.
The young team will feature four freshmen and five sophomores, including sophomore middle blocker Annika Van Gunst, the team’s leading returning blocker (57), and second-leading-returning digger (242, 2.44 per set, behind only Ackermann), and twin sister, Teegan, second among returnees in kills (81) and third in digs (183).
The Gold/White Scrimmage not only will unveil the new team but also show off the newly painted floor at O’Keefe, which actually forced the team to move a couple of its early practices to the Zelnak Center.
The floor is ready now and the team believes it is as well.
Expect passions to run high. Even the assistants are pumped up.
“I’m definitely very excited,” said Oliveira. “We’re all kind of ready to step on the court and see where the team is. It’s been a very short period of time but I think we’ve grown a lot as a team. We’re just really ready to see that put into place.
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