Georgia Tech volleyball prepares for SMU Invitational

Georgia Tech sophomore outside hitter Teegan Van GunstPhoto Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics
Georgia Tech sophomore outside hitter Teegan Van Gunst (7)
Photo Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics

By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Current record: 2-1 overall

Last Week: vs. Jacksonville (W, 3-0), vs. Gardner-Webb (W, 3-0), at South Carolina (L, 3-1)

This Week: SMU Invitational 9/5 at SMU, 9/6 vs. Oklahoma and Texas Southern

Coming into a season with a new head coach can be a difficult transition for any program, particularly the first handful of games against competition.

Georgia Tech volleyball got to experience this first hand last week as it opened the 2014 campaign last weekend at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. under the guidance of Michelle Collier.

The Yellow Jackets won their first two games in sweeps over Jacksonville and Gardner-Webb before falling 3-1 to host South Carolina last Sunday.

“I think it went well overall last weekend,” Collier said. “We were able to do some things we needed to get better at as a team such as kills per game, hitting percentage and assists per game. All of those things we were focused on doing better than we’ve done in the past.”

Collier also saw areas of improvement needed after the South Carolina loss, particularly serving and passing.

“We had too many unforced errors,” she said. “We took a lot of reps in practice this week creating a routine for our serving and focusing on the process. We’ve done that in the past and hopefully we’ll be mentally better prepared for it.”

Georgia Tech had a strong effort offensively at the Invitational, led by outside hitter Teegan Van Gunst, who was named to the All-Invitational team after posting a team-high 33 kills over the three contests. Three other Yellow Jackets had at least 25 kills at the event; middle Ashtaan Horton (27), Annika Van Gunst (27) and Courtney Felinski (25). Horton also had a team-high 15 blocks.

“Our offense was balanced and we were able to distribute the ball and not let the opponent key in on one player,” Collier said.

“There were some good things we did offensively and defensively,” Teegan Van Gunst said. “We attack the ball well offensively and our defense is good but our serving and passing are thing we need to continue to get better at and be more consistent.”

The matches also allowed Georgia Tech to experiment with the two main setters on the roster Rebecca Martin and Callie Bivings. “We played a 5-1 lineup with Rebecca in the first two matches but used a 6-2 lineup with her and Callie in the last match,” Collier said. “They made good decisions and hopefully can build on that.”

The opening matches weren’t only the debut contests for Collier. The Yellow Jackets had several true freshmen see their first collegiate action, including middle Sydney Wilson and libero Annika Olsen who had a team-high 40 digs.

“They played great including our returners who didn’t have a significant role in the past,” Collier said. Sydney came into her own in one of the hardest positions to transition into from high school to college while Annika did a great job of passing and defending for us. Its exciting because they’re only going to get better.”

This weekend, Georgia Tech heads to Dallas to play at the SMU Tournament. The Yellow Jackets open with the host Mustangs on Friday before facing nationally-ranked Oklahoma and Texas Southern on Saturday.

“We’ll continue building on consistency and want to get better by not missing serves and digging more balls defensively,” Collier said.

“I had a couple of serving errors that shouldn’t have happened last weekend,” Teegan Van Gunst said. “I’ve worked in practice this week to be more aggressive but keep the ball in. We’re a group of hard working kids that like to get after it everyday.”


Georgia Tech volleyball defeats Gardner-Webb, falls to South Carolina

Sophomore libero London Ackermann
Sophomore libero London Ackermann

Release from Georgia Tech Media Relations:

The Georgia Tech volleyball team (2-1) swept Gardner-Webb (25-14, 25-21, 25-20) and fell 3-1 (22-25, 13-25, 25-18, 22-25) to South Carolina (3-0) on the final day Saturday at the Gamecock Invitational at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C.

Against Gardner-Webb, sophomore Teegan Van Gunst led the Jackets with 10 kills, while senior Ashtaan Horton and Annika Van Gunst added seven kills each. Horton hit .462 in the match as the Jackets out-hit the Runnin’ Bulldogs .315 to .168.

Three Yellow Jackets tallied double-digit kills against South Carolina in Teegan Van Gunst (13), Annika Van Gunst (12) and Courtney Felinski (12). Junior Callie Bivings recorded a double-double with 24 assists and 10 digs, while freshman Annika Olsen added 18 digs.

The Jackets’ offense out-hit the Gamecocks .269 to .258, but serving aces proved costly as Tech tallied 14 miscues to South Carolina’s five.

“South Carolina came out strong and we were unable to get them out of system with our serving,” head coach Michelle Collier said. “We adjusted well in the third and fourth game and got better offensively and defensively, but our serving and passing game was not at the level we need it to be to win the match.

“Overall it was a great weekend. We were able to see a lot of people get playing time and we did a lot of great things as a team. Now it’s back to the gym to work hard and adjust some things for the next tournament.”

Teegan Van Gunst was named to the All-Tournament team after tallying 33 kills on the weekend and averaging 3.30 kills per set.

The Yellow Jackets are back in action next weekend Sept. 5-6 at the SMU Tournament in Dallas, Texas. The Jackets take on SMU at 8 p.m. Friday to kick off the Tournament, and have two matches Saturday against Oklahoma at 11 a.m. and Texas Southern at 5:30 p.m.

Georgia Tech volleyball prepares for new season

Sophomore libero London Ackermann had a team-high 391 kills in 2013.
Sophomore libero London Ackermann had a team-high 391 kills in 2013.

By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Coming into the 2014 season, the Georgia Tech volleyball team embarks on a new era with new coach Michelle Collier, who comes to Atlanta after a successful two-year tenure at Jacksonville University, leading the Dolphins to a 30-win  campaign last season and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

“This is a bigger challenge for my career,” Collier said in reference to what attracted her to the Yellow Jackets’ program and the Atlantic Coast Conference. “Georgia Tech has a lot of history and an established program in one of the best conferences in the country. Professionally it was a no-brainer and when you put together Atlanta and everything it has to offer me and my family, it was an easy yes.”

The Yellow Jackets are hoping for a turnaround after winning 12 contests last year.. “The offseason has been great and we’ve been able to get in our vision for how we’re going to train and our system,” said Collier. “The girls were open-minded and brought into everything we’re bringing in as a staff.”

The returning players have noticed the chances throughout the summer. “Everyone is adjusting well to the new coaching staff and enjoying it,” sophomore libero London Ackermann said. “The way that we practice and are coached is faster than we’re used to. Our ball control will be a lot better and the attitude of the team will be more positive.”

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets lost their top three attackers statistically but return several top contributors from last year. Sophomore middle blocker Annika Van Gunst had 121 kills last season along with 242 digs, which were the second-most on the team. Senior outside hitter Courtney Felinski notched 156 kills for Georgia Tech as well.

“It’s helpful to have experience returning with Annika and Courtney providing leadership to our younger players,” Collier said. Sophomore Teegan Van Gunst and freshman Ashley Askin have also impressed the coaching staff from the outside hitter position in preseason training.

Georgia Tech has an inexperienced group in the middle position as the lone returners, senior Astaan Horton and sophomore Lauren Pitz, played only five combined matches last season. Freshman Sydney Wilson will also be in the rotation. “They’ve done a great job and have a big challenge ahead of them,” said Collier. “The players have embraced what we’ve asked of them and the work ethic has been great.”

The defensive libero position will be rotated between junior Wimberly Wilson and sophomore Ackermann who had a team-high 391 digs last year. “No one has their role locked locked in,” Ackermann said. “Preseason is all about competing for your spot. I hope to get that jersey.”

The Yellow Jackets’ roster is one of the youngest in the ACC, with only two seniors and two sophomores, making an immediate impact on the team a reality. “That’s one of the reasons they came to Georgia Tech,” Collier said. “They’re working hard to bring the program back to where it was. That drives everyone to do better.”

Ackermann adds that “a lot of people look at it as a bad thing but I think its awesome because we’re growing up together and getting to know the game.”

On a successful season, Collier said that “we’ll have to be disciplined with our work ethic.” She added that “everyday is going to be a day to get better and we’ll have to focus on that.”

Georgia Tech opens the season this Friday against Jacksonville at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C.