The Sports Inquirer spoke with Georgia Tech volleyball player Kayla Kaiser before the team’s practice Nov. 5. The sophomore middle had a season-high five blocks, eight kills, four digs and two aces in the Yellow Jackets’ 3-2 comeback win at North Carolina State Nov. 3.
Topics included Georgia Tech’s win, the team’s eight-game winning streak all in ACC play, the team’s blocking approach on defense, moving up to second place in the conference standings and preparing to visit first-place in the ACC and second-nationally ranked Pitt Nov. 8.
The Georgia Tech volleyball team (12-7, 3-4 ACC) fell in a heartbreaking five-set match at Pitt (15-4, 5-2) Friday night at the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse.
With the Yellow Jackets ahead by one point in the first game, 10-9, Georgia Tech opened that lead to 13-9. Tech kept the pressure on and won the final four points of the set. The Jackets hit at a .370 hitting clip to win the set 25-17, while holding Pitt to a .111 attacking percentage.
Pitt took its first lead of the match late in set two, 19-18. From there, the Panthers went on a 6-1 run to win 25-19.
In game three, Georgia Tech jumped out to an 8-5 lead and went on a 5-0 run to take a 13-5 advantage. Pitt pulled within four, 24-20, but a cross-court kill by Ashley Askinput the set away for Tech.
Georgia Tech overcame a 7-2 deficit in game four to tie it at 10. Georgia Tech stayed with the Panthers until Pitt went on a four-point run to take a 20-16 lead. Pitt held on to win 25-21 and force a fifth set.
At the switch in game five, GT trailed Pitt 8-3. Georgia Tech dug deep and Lauren Pitz had three kills and a part in two blocks to pull Tech within one, 13-12. Askin’s kill made it 13 all, but Pitt pulled ahead with match point 14-13 and held on to win 15-13.
“I’m very proud of how our team competed tonight,” head coach Michelle Collier said. “We showed a lot of grit and fight, and pushed Pitt. Small details got the win away from us. Now it’s time to refocus, and prepare for a good Virginia Tech team on Sunday.”
– Teegan Van Gunst tallied her 11th double-double of the season with 15 kills and a season-high 20 digs. Annika Van Gunst matched her season-high with 15 kills and Sydney Wilson added 10.
– Rebecca Martin tallied her first double-double of the season with a season-best 52 assists and 10 digs.
– Martin eclipsed 2,000 career assists and solidified her spot in Georgia Tech’s top 10 career assists list.
– London Ackermann held down the back row defense with 21 digs, and Lauren Pitz tallied 10 blocks for the Jackets.
Midway through Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Georgia Tech volleyball team has continued to find its level of play under first-year head coach Michelle Collier. The Yellow Jackets (9-10, 2-4) have won two out of their last three contests after going through a four-match losing streak earlier this season. Georgia Tech hosts Pittsburgh (15-2, 3-1) in a home contest this Friday before heading to Miami (11-6, 4-2) on Sunday.
“Our team is still in the beginning stages of developing,” Collier said. “We’re learning more about the game and the players are starting to understand their roles. We have so much more to go.”
Georgia Tech’s last home match was a successful one as it defeated North Carolina State 3-1 (25-16, 28-26, 26-28, 29-27) on Oct. 10. The Yellow Jackets had a balanced offense with three players posting double-digit kills; Annika Van Gunst (18), Courtney Felinski (13) and Teegan Van Gunst (11).
“Our pin hitters are doing a good job and carrying a heavy load,” Collier said.
Georgia Tech also had a strong defensive effort led by Sydney Wilson and Teegan Van Gunst who had seven and six block assists respectively. London Ackermann had a career-high 27 digs in the victory.
“We definitely did what we wanted to do with our game plan,” Collier said of the NC State contest. “They run a quick offense so we wanted to be disciplined with our hands and force their outsides to swing around a solid double block. We served and passed well which kept pressure on their offense and set up our defense.”
Felinski added, “We stuck with it at the end of the last three sets which all were close and went past 25 points. We kept control in those situations, maintaining positive momentum and energy.”
The Yellow Jackets dropped their last contest to Clemson 3-1 (13-25, 15-25, 25-21, 22-25) on Oct. 12.
“We came out flat,” Collier said about the Clemson match. “We weren’t executing our defense at the level we did against North Carolina State. Clemson put pressure on our offense, played great defense and blocked us well. It was good to see the team refocus and put a good third set together.”
Georgia Tech welcomes in Pittsburgh who have won 10 of its last 11 matches. The Panthers own conference wins over Boston College, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
“We’re working on digging and executing transition plays,” Felinski said. “Even if we don’t have a perfect pass or dig, we can still put pressure on the other team.”