Oct. 26, 2016
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Fans heading to O’Keefe Gym tonight can expect to be engulfed by a wave positive energy about what can be.
First, there’s the momentum created by Georgia Tech volleyball, which comes in at 17-5 (8-2 ACC) and riding a seven-match winning streak, which last week saw the Jackets take a five-set victory at Wake Forest on Friday then a four-set conquest at Duke on Sunday.
“We definitely knew we had the talent to do it. We knew based on even last year that we just had to be more consistent with how we played the game every night,” said head coach Michelle Collier, whose team enters the week tied for fourth in the ACC — they now hold the tiebreaker with Duke — only two games off the pace. “We started to see changes in practice in the spring and then we had a really good preseason with the consistency and the work ethic and the personalities that they were bringing to the gym and the energy and the intent in practice. Once you do those things on a consistent basis they become easier to do in matches and I think that’s where we’re doing a lot better now. We’re able to stay consistent, which is how we play the game of volleyball and how we wanted to behave as a team.”
The win at Wake was the sixth in the last seven trips to Reynolds Gym, and the third in the last four meetings overall, all five-set matches. The ‘W’ at Duke was the first in Cameron Indoor Arena since Oct. 9, 2004 — the penultimate win in a series-high six-game winning streak over the Blue Devils. Tech exorcised a 12-match losing streak to the Devils last season.
Collier has led the Jackets to winning streaks of at least seven games in back to back seasons (they had an eight-game streak last season) for the first time since Bond Shymansky had teams do so in 2006 (nine straight) and 2007 (seven in a row).
“We talked about an opportunity to create moments and we knew that that match would be a cool moment for all of us involved, just with the history and how hard it is to win there,” Collier said. “We knew we had an opportunity to do something special and we performed at a level that got us there. So that was exciting.”
Clemson (6-16, 1-9) comes to town tonight, which normally would be exciting enough. But this time, it’s almost secondary.
Tech won’t be seeing red when looking at their rival’s orange jerseys when they take the floor tonight. The only color that matters is pink as the Jackets will be wearing their pink jerseys for Jackets for the Cure presented by UnitedHealthcare. The match begins at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network Extra. (The first 500 fans will receive rally towels and doughnuts, courtesy of Krispy Kreme — $2 tickets are available for fans wearing pink).
It’s a night dedicated to spreading the word about breast cancer awareness and an important night for the Jackets, who annually participate to do their part for Breast Cancer Awareness month. To further raise money, the jerseys will be auctioned off beginning at noon Oct. 26 and will run until noon on Nov. 2. Bidding begins at $50. Bidding is increased in $10 increments. All net proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“It’s a very important day. We want to honor every woman that goes through breast cancer and that’s our way to show how strong women are and be proud of their fight,” said Collier. “We all know people that have been affected with that and we’re very grateful for the opportunity that we have to play for this really important cause. I think that one of our jobs is to empower our young women to be more than they ever thought they could be and I think it reflects on any situation that they deal with in their lives, what they’re learning through sports, and through being a part of our program, it’s something that they can carry over and be confident with what they’re doing, be strong and kind of face anything that hits them in life.”
Junior outside hitter Ashley Askin and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Frerking have already shown that strength as they’ve dealt with family members face and beat breast cancer. They’ll be playing for them tonight.
“My aunt was battling breast cancer all last year. She found out last July,” said Askin. “She had her surgeries and everything and is cancer-free but it’s still a day-to-day thing. To be able to say that she’s a survivor and the positive attitude that she’s had throughout the whole journey, that’s the main thing. I want to go out and play and reflect what it takes to go through those things. You have to be a fighter and you have to be positive.”
“My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was younger. She beat breast cancer and is a survivor,” said Frerking. “Pink Day means a lot to me and means a lot to a lot of us on the team and a lot of the people that are going to be in the gym. We’re definitely going to take it very seriously and show our appreciation and support for all those women affected by breast cancer and people affected by cancer in general.”
Askin’s experience has taught her the importance of early detection, a lesson she is eager to pass on to her peers and other people in attendance.
“I actually talked to my aunt about it,” she said. “Her biggest stress was the importance of getting mammograms. She went in, didn’t have any problems, wasn’t expecting anything but they found it in one of her breasts and then they ended up finding it in both of them. So just making sure that you go in and get those exams is super, super important. Men can get it, too. So it’s not just women. Your health is something so important to you and just making sure that you can be proactive and stay in touch with everything is just the biggest thing.”
Frerking believes it’s important to not be complacent and get in for physicals and take advantage of the numerous specialists that are available, as her mom diligently did with her and her sister and two brothers.
“It’s extremely important to use what we have, different doctors and things we have learned over the years with early detection. It’s very important to take advantage of the doctors we have,” she said. “No one is safe from stuff like this. I was one of those people that thought, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ Especially when someone you know so personally and is so close to you, when it happens to them, it changes everything and it hits home to you. Everyone kind of thinks, ‘Oh that won’t happen to me.’ But it can happen in a flash. Your whole life can change in a heartbeat.”
Perhaps the most important message the Jackets want to send out is that those going through cancer and those that have beaten it and are fighting daily to keep it away, are not alone.
“It’s important for us to use our platform to bring awareness to that and show support to those who have been affected by it and whose lives have been touched by it,” said Frerking.
“It’s such a hard thing to go through,” said Askin. “To have all that love and all that support from everyone might be a reason why so many people can fight through it and get through it is because of all that love and support — increasing awareness, and letting people know, ‘We’re in this together.’ Just continue the love and the support. Spread that awareness, spread that support and just keep everything positive. It’s hard to go through those things and to be positive and have that outlook helps so much.”
For more information on the Susan G. Komen Foundation visit ww5.komen.org.