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#TGW: My Old Kentucky Homecoming

Sept. 28, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Saturday was a very long day for Georgia Tech Volleyball players London Ackermann and Ashley Askin.

One reason was the eagerness a competitor feels to get back on the court following a loss — Tech lost, 3-1, Friday night at Duke, ending the team’s three-match winning streak.

But perhaps the biggest reason for the eagerness and time drag preceding Sunday afternoon’s match against Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, which begins at 2:00 p.m., is a lot more personal. Both are Louisville natives and will be playing their first collegiate match in their hometown.

“It’ll be fun playing against some of my old teammates,” said Ackermann, the sophomore Libero/Defensive Specialist, who leads the Yellow Jackets in digs (4.0 per match) and attended Assumption High School. “It will be really exciting to play in front of my family and friends and people that haven’t gotten to see me play in a college game yet. So I’m really excited about that. It’ll be nice to see everyone again.”

“I’ve been thinking about it since [Louisville] announced that they’re in the ACC,” said Askin, a freshman outside hitter, who is averaging 1.29 kills per set and went to high school Sacred Heart Academy. “I’ve always been excited to play Louisville and play on my home court. So I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I’m super-, super-excited.”

There also is an historic aspect to this contest, as it is the first athletic event between Georgia Tech and Louisville, since the Cardinals joined the ACC on July 1, 2014. The Yellow Jackets are not planning on simply rolling out the welcome mat.

“It’s a `Welcome to the ACC’ kind of thing,” said Ackermann. “It’s a great conference and going out there and competing and showing them what it’s about is a big part of this match.”

“It adds a lot,” agreed Askin. “We’re basically welcoming them in. The ACC is extremely competitive. They’re a very good team and they’re going to play some very good teams. I think this is going to be an awakening for them. We’re going to show them the ACC is no joke.”

Louisville (8-4) has already learned that lesson, dropping their Conference opener, 3-2, Friday night to Boston College. The loss, which ended a three-match winning streak, gave the Cardinals more losses in conference play than they suffered all last year, when they won the American Athletic Conference championship, going 18-0 in AAC play. The Red Birds will be looking to even the all-time series with Georgia Tech at 2-2.

The KFC Yum! Center, capacity 22, 090, should be rocking Sunday afternoon, but the Jackets expect to have pretty good representation. Their Kentucky connection is certainly doing its part.

“All of my family is coming, a lot of my friends in town or close to Louisville, my school program, my sister’s school program, which is where London went to school, too,” said Askin. “It’s going to be a big crowd. We always have a big crowd with us anyway. We have a lot of fans that follow us to the different places that we go. This game versus Louisville is going to be huge and I’m super-, super-excited.”

“I have no idea (how many supporters are coming) but there will be a lot,” said Ackermann, “It’s going to be pretty crazy. I have a feeling, knowing my mom, she’s already told everyone and I think she was gathering pom-pons and Georgia Tech signs from all last weekend making sure that everyone’s prepared to come and cheer me on. It will be exciting.”

The Jackets’ duo will see several familiar faces across the net as well, as both Ackermann and Askin played with Louisville sophomore outside hitter Maya McClendon, junior setter Katie George and senior DS Courtney Robison either in (KIVA, the Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy) or in high school, or both.

Neither Ackermann nor Askin has talked with their former teammates prior to the match, however.

“I think it’s going to be radio silence,” said Askin. “I’ll probably text her something but me and [McClendon], both, if someone gives us any fuel for fire we’re going to use it. So I don’t want to be like, `Hey, Maya, you’re going down,’ or whatever because she’s going to use it. I think being silent right now is pretty good. We’re both excited and it’s going to be a competitive match.”

Ackermann said it’s no problem resuming her friendship with Cardinals players, which will take a couple of hours off on Sunday.

“Maya and I were best friends all through club,” said Ackermann. “We haven’t talked much lately but she’s the type of girl that we’re far apart but as soon as we’re back together we’re best friends again. She’s a great player, a great competitor and I’ve learned a lot from her through the years.”

The Louisville natives do know that the team has a surprise for them, which they’ll find out about after the match. Of course, for Ackermann and Askin, simply seeing friends and family is enough.

“All I have requested is that my mother bring my dog (Sissy, a long-haired Chihuahua) to the hotel,” said Ackermann, with a laugh. “They haven’t told us anything but we are doing something and I’m really excited to see what that is.”

“I can’t wait to see my family. I miss them so much,” said Askin. “I have a baby niece that I haven’t really seen since I came here. She’s walking around and talking now. I’m just excited to get back in touch with my family, my past coaches, my KIVA coaches, my Sacred Heart coaches, everyone that’s going to be there supporting me. I have a huge support base back in Kentucky and I really want to see everyone and get that back.”

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