CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA - The good? Real fall. Also, a volleyball win yesterday. Everything else, well, I’ll leave that to the football boys.
Tech (16-8) falls late to no. 2 Pittsburgh (24-1) 3-2 (25-17, 18-25, 20-25, 25-23, 13-15)
Tech (17-8) sweeps Virginia (11-16) 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-23)
Allow me to set the scene. The year is 2018. Georgia Tech plays Pittsburgh, head and shoulders the best team in the ACC, two times. Both are sweeps. Neither is particularly close. This is the nagging thought that has tailed this non-revenue sports writer all season. Tech looks good. But what will they look like in front of the class of college volleyball? With their only matchup coming in November, we sure had a while to wait.
Right out of the gate, the two teams seemed pretty evenly matched. Something was afoot at Peterson Field House, or maybe they were all just excited, because a prevailing theme of the first set was the plentiful service errors for both teams. Tech, though, came out fairly strong. It’s somewhat characteristic for them to come out of the gates slow against stronger competition, but they’ve gotten better about that as the season has worn on. The new Tech - winning road games, stronger starts - is who showed up. But, down the stretch, it was pretty clear Pittsburgh was the better team. Fewer miscues, better accuracy. Pitt took the first set comfortably.
I don’t have a great reason for the change in the second set. Honestly, it seemed like a major win just to have an early lead, even just a couple points into the match. But Tech didn’t let up. Thing is, Tech has a pretty accurate attack themselves, and, especially when they’re aggressive on the ball, an effective one, too. Tech was able to put pretty significant distance between themselves and the hosts. Suddenly, the match was tied at one set apiece.
By the middle of the third set, things had played out largely the same for the Jackets. Their lead at 18-13 was by no means decisive, but it wasn’t nothing. But, Pittsburgh, probably as befits an experienced, well-regarded team, more than closed the gap to take a 2-1 lead. This would have been a great place for a physically and mentally weaker team to throw in the towel. Having battled for three long sets, especially the last two, including only Pittsburgh’s second conference set loss of the season, Tech had proved a point. They had improved. Pittsburgh was better. Alright, on to Charlottesville.
But not so fast. The fourth set was a tense, back and forth affair. Tech would take a minuscule lead. Pittsburgh would take a tiny edge. At 21-19, the Jackets had a bit of work cut out for themselves if they wanted to make some national noise. Taking three of the next four points to tie - and pushing it to five of six after - Tech did not yield. At 24-22, Pittsburgh took a time out. Their band played ‘The Horse.’ Silly Panthers, that’s our thing. Tech let up a point, but closed it out, 25-23. The game was tied at two sets apiece.
Pittsburgh hadn’t faced a legitimate challenge, or the grueling grind-it-out battle of a five set match, in quite a while. While the fifth set is almost always essentially a toss-up, this was was even more so. Tech and Pittsburgh once again were in a grinding, narrow set. Pittsburgh kept edging away, but Tech wouldn’t quite let them slip away. It came down to a 13-13 game. The smallest margin in volleyball, five sets, played to the last point before set point. And, in the end, it was again Pittsburgh that was able to take a slight lead. The only thing that differed was the fifth set is only played to 15. Game over. Panthers survive.
We tweeted this Friday night, but if someone had said that Tech would take no. 2 Pittsburgh to 13-13 in the fifth set of the match earlier Friday afternoon, the response would be euphoric. It’s tremendous to have come that far. And yet, there’s still a bit of letdown from coming so far and winding up short. But I choose the positive view. That would have been Tech’s first win over a top-25 team since they defeated a borderline ranked Michigan State team in 2017. And they’ve come a very long way from that relatively flukey win at home over the Spartans. Their 8 game conference winning streak and 6 straight sweeps bely that. And yet, they’re an incredibly young team. This team is officially firmly on the bubble conversation for the NCAA Tournament. They’re playing their best volleyball perhaps in a decade. That’s fantastic. It just takes a little bit of taking-care-of-business to make sure they get there. A rising tide is lifting all ships.
Tech did head to Charlottesville on Sunday. They won in a sweep. Again.
This week: Tech only plays one this week, the home end of the home-and-home with North Carolina State on Sunday afternoon.
Tech stomps Houston 69-38
Tech handles Grambing State 89-42
Tech avenged their season-opening loss to Houston last year with a decisive victory on their home court to open their season early last week. Francesca Pan led the way, and, judging by the results of the Grambling State game on Sunday, this will likely prove to be a theme for this year’s Jackets. Having been unable to watch any of the game unfold live either time, I’ll refrain from talking scheme under new coach Nell Fortner, but the results seem there, at least so far. Going into conference season, it’ll have been importasnt to have already taken care of business on the winnable games on the schedule. The ACC is a gauntlet. It’s time to put in the work to be ready for some of the best women’s basketball competition in the country now. So far, it seems like they’re off to a good start.
This week: Tech’s contest will be in Athens against a school that is there. Something something arches with too many columns. Tune in on SEC Network Plus.
Men’s Swimming and Diving
Not a lot of great things to talk about coming from a solid defeat from a top 10 Tennessee team this weekend. Not a lot of bad, either, but they were up against a stout showing from their excellent hosts. Caio Pumputis and Christian Ferraro, the two standouts from the Jackets, represented the few events wins on the day - the former won the 200 IM and the latter won the 200 fly and 100 fly. Pumputis added runner-up spots in two events, as well. The best showing from the meet has to be freshman diver Ruben Lechuga, rocketing himself onto the Tech top-10 all time event score lists on the 1 and 3 meters. And that’s all she wrote.
This week: Tech is at rest this week.
By their final day in Las Vegas, Tech had played themselves into the consolation bracket in every entry. But, not all was lost, because they were highly active on the consolation entries of the draw until late on Sunday, going 7 for 10 on the final day. Ultimately, that’s good play against good competition, even if it wasn’t perfect play. And now it’s time to grind until the spring season starts with indoor competition in January.
This week: Tech is done with their fall competition schedule.
In the Club House:
Tech Hockey drops two to Florida Atlantic.
For football coverage:
For basketball coverage:
This Week on the Flats:
BOLD for home, REGULAR for away, ITALIC for time and location
Men’s Basketball vs. Elon
7:30 PM, McCamish Pavilion, ACC Network Extra and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM in Atlanta)
Cross Country is at the NCAA South Regional
10:00 AM, Tallahassee, FL
Football vs. VPISU
3:30 PM, Bobby Dodd Stadium, ACC Network Extra and Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports Southeast in Atlanta) and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM)
Volleyball vs. North Carolina State
1:00 PM, Charlottesville, VA, ACC Network Extra
Women’s Basketball visit the School in Athens
2:00 PM, Athens, GA, SEC Network Plus