Work Hoarse

Sept. 2, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Nicki Meyer believes actions speak louder than words.

It’s a philosophy that has served her well to this point in her volleyball career.

Fortunately for Meyer, she plays libero, a position that allows her to use both actions and words. However use of the latter, especially during matches, comes at a cost — the nearly complete use of her voice for days after a match.

But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

“Every coach I’ve ever had has always said the libero needs to be the most vocal on the court and that’s what I try to do,” said Meyer, formerly a Communications major (she now majors in Management). “I tried to have a presence out there this weekend, and I learned that from Jordan [McCullers], which is why I sound a lot like her. I’m just trying to follow in her footsteps.”

Meyer took a good first step in that direction at last weekend’s Georgia Tech Courtyard Classic, where she was named Most Valuable Libero, chalking up 39 digs, including a career-best 16, in a dramatic five-set victory over Louisville in the tournament finale. She’s more than a third of the way to matching her career digs total, as she came into the year with 96.

Post-match laryngitis, notwithstanding, Head coach Tonya Johnson doesn’t see much similarity in the games of Meyer and her predecessor. But Johnson likes the direction Meyer is headed and the respects the work ethic that has put her in her current starting position.

“Nicki is trying to be Nicki and trying to develop her game along the ball-control side of it,” said Johnson. “I’ve always thought she was a great defender since she walked into our gym. Every day since she’s been on our team, we’ve told her where she has to get better, her passing has to get better. I think she’s taken that upon herself. She’s doing a good job with it.”

Her teammates have noticed the difference.

“You can definitely see how hard she’s been working,” said sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Percy, who also made the Courtyard Classic All-Tournament Team. “Last year to this year has been a complete 180. She just owns the court. She owns her spot. She’s being so aggressive. That’s exactly what we need out of a libero, for her to come in and fill Jordan McCullers’ shoes. She’s doing a great job.”

“I love playing with Nicki,” added freshman setter Ali Santi, yet another Yellow Jacket on the Courtyard Classic All-Tournament Team. “I found a real connection with her from the beginning. We’re constantly talking on the court, making eye contact. Having that connection to libero is huge because they’re both really crucial positions. I just love being on the floor with her. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”

Meyer admitted that something she saw from her teammates has done her a world of good.

“I could see the faith they had in me and the confidence that they had in me,” she said. “I knew when they looked at me that they knew I could get the job done and that’s really what gave me the confidence that I needed.”

Georgia Tech headed to Houston, Texas, for this weekend’s Rice Tournament with a swagger and plenty of confidence. The Jackets open with University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), Friday at 1:30 p.m., then play a double-header Saturday, starting with Houston Baptist at 11:00 a.m. and concluding with host Rice at 7:00 p.m. (all games are Central Time).

It’s the first road test of the year for the team.

“I’m really excited because it’s going to let us get that on-the-road mentality that we need and create our own energy because we won’t have our fans there, who were unbelievable [last] weekend,” said Meyer, whose only previous visit to Texas came at age 13 for a national tournament. “So it’s going to be a test, once again, of our character and of our team. I think we’re ready for the challenge.

“We have to understand that we haven’t done anything yet,” she added. “We have to keep working hard and keep our focus and keep that mentality that we had, the mental toughness and the teamwork and everything that just clicked [last] weekend. We have to carry that over.”

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