Aug. 21, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Head coach Michelle Collier has kept a lid on how her Georgia Tech volleyball team is going to look in 2015-16.
On Saturday, Collier can finally unveil what her staff and players have been cooking up for the upcoming season when the team holds its annual Gold/White Scrimmage. The action begins at 3 p.m. at O’Keefe Gym. The event is open to the public and the team will meet the fans and sign autographs following the match.
“It’s always fun to play in our gym and have people come out and support us. They can see how hard we’re working and tell us that we’re doing better and we’re improving, and they’re excited for the season,” said Collier. “It’s a nice kind of relationship we have. The families come down, they watch their daughters play and see that their hard work is being put into play.”
It’s as important for the players.
“The Gold and While will give us a little bit of a taste of what it will be like to play at O’Keefe,” she added. “They’ll have their families’ support. It will be good to see that in a more official environment for the Gold and White Scrimmage.”
The 2015 Gold/White, Collier’s second as head coach at Tech, will be an important final preseason look at the squad that returns the majority of last year’s team, including five starters and the libero. She and her staff will have five full sets to observe.
“I’m looking for them to be able to put everything together at a level that we need them to put it together at to be competitive within our preseason and within our conference,” she said. “It’s making sure that they’re applying the things that we have been talking about and hitting upon through preseason and that they’re doing it consistently through five sets.”
The use of personnel is a game-time decision.
“We have to work on different lineups and find the different possibilities so we might play a little bit with [switching lineups] or I might have a set lineup. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do,” she said. “I’m going to have to talk with my staff and kind of figure out what is going to help us the best. I don’t want this scrimmage to be just one more thing that we play. It’s another opportunity that we have to get better. So we have to make sure we’re taking the best out of it.”
Collier won’t have to worry about Saturday being “just another match.” There’s a high level of excitement around the team, especially when it comes to playing in front of the home fans.
“I’m so excited. I can’t wait,” said junior Annika Van Gunst, who will see time at middle blocker and right side hitter in her third Gold/White Scrimmage. “I can’t wait to see everyone in the stands again. It’s been so long, it seems like, since our last match and I’m just ready to get it started again.”
“I’m very excited. It’s probably one of my favorite scrimmages or games to play in just because it’s the first one,” said junior setter Rebecca Martin, who will be playing her third Gold/White. “We get some good turnout from the fans and it’s the first time we really get to show our stuff and show exactly what Georgia Tech is made of. I’m very excited to get all the fans and everybody back in O’Keefe.”
Fans in O’Keefe will see final auditions for starting spots. The battles for positions have been intense throughout camp and the players have been going at each other, basically since the summer. Saturday will be a dress rehearsal for next week’s opener in the Georgia Tech Invitational at O’Keefe, which also includes Siena, Coastal Carolina, Tennessee-Martin and The Citadel.
Senior Libero/DS Wimberly Wilson feels the Gold/White not only will be enjoyable but also is important in helping take the pressure off the season opener, especially for some of the younger players.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite like when you come up here for the first time in a jersey. You see the whole gym just filled with fans,” said Wilson, who will be playing in her final Gold/White. “You don’t really understand what a big deal it is until it actually happens. I think Gold and White is kind of a little sneak preview of it. So I’ll definitely be watching their faces to see how they feel about it. But that’ll be good for me, too.”
Sophomore outside hitter Gabriela Stavnetchei certainly expects to feel less pressure in this year’s Gold/White than last season’s.
“I’m feeling way more comfortable on the court now so I think I can take the pressure off myself,” she said. “If I make one mistake I’m not going to be as nervous as last year. I’m really excited to play. The Gold/White Scrimmage is really fun. We have a lot of people come watch us. We’re playing against each other, so it’s a really good opportunity for everybody to see how hard we’ve worked this whole summer and this preseason.”
“I’m looking forward to it a lot. It will be really great,” agreed junior libero/DS London Ackermann, also playing in her second Gold/White. “I hope that my family gets to come into town, we’ll see about that, but it will be great to see friends and family here to support us.”
“We’re all really excited and we’ve all been working really hard to be ready for that first scrimmage,” said Benda, who transferred to Georgia Tech after starting last season at Marquette. “The energy in this gym, with all of our fans here will be awesome. I’ve heard that we have a huge home court advantage so I’m really excited for that.”
“I came to a couple of matches last year and it was just unbelievable, seeing the gym packed and the atmosphere,” said Frerking. “It gets loud in here, too, so that’s going to be so much fun on the court or off the court. It’s going to be really exciting, every point, it’s going to make you want to grind it out and go after everything and really get after it.”