ATLANTA, GEORGIA - “Oh my God, the most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending...exciting thrilling finish in the history of college -” oh wait, wrong sport. Wrong blue and gold team obsessed with quirky traditions that hates farm people in red. Did you see Cal won the Big Game? First time in ten years. That was exciting. Anyways, though, let’s get back to the Flats, because Volleyball sure came through with the excitement on Sunday.
Tech (19-8) polishes off Clemson (11-17) 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-10, 25-14)
Tech (20-8) upsets Notre Dame (18-9) 3-2 (25-20, 18-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-8)
Where can I even begin to unpack this weekend at O’Keefe? I mean, sure, I should talk about Clemson, but that’s not the compelling story here. We should have beaten Clemson, and we did. I can talk until kingdom come about how we started slow - some traditions are slow to die out - but all that really matters is that, once Tech was on, well, they were not about to be stopped. Tech can attack at all angles and really utilized every facet of the game to win. The signature play of the game was absolutely Matti McKissock’s perfect drop just over the net to tie the match at one set apiece, and, from there, it was all Georgia Tech.
When I thought about my lede, I thought about starting at 1-0 in the fourth set with Kayla Kaiser back to serve. To describe what happened next, all I can say is to go to 1:33:00 in the ACCNX stream of the game. Tech had, after rushing out to a solid first set win, really been playing middling volleyball the next two sets. The only thing that really kept them hanging around the second was service errors by Notre Dame, and as the Fighting Irish tightened up their game, the Jackets were looking unraveled. The blinking fire alarm in the middle of the third perhaps best exemplified this. Calls didn’t go their way, balls were just out of reach, and blocks deflecting just left or right of the intended target. But then, one of the most incredible rallies I’ve ever seen live. Upon rewatching, Kele Eveland, a former Tech great herself, said it best on the broadcast, “Oh my goodness! This is a fourth set! Both teams are coming to play!” From the stands, it was clear. If Tech was to win this game, the usually-unassuming second point of the fourth set, down two sets to one, would be the reason why. Tech had heart and hustle, and made the difficult plays that had been just out of grasp the past hour. After about a full minute of back and forth rallying, Mariana Brambilla off the right side drilled one through crosscourt to the back left corner. 2-0 Tech. The old gym went absolutely ballistic.
If you follow @FTRSBlog on Twitter, you probably saw this, but Notre Dame’s crucial mistake was letting the near-sellout crowd of 1,065 get back into the game. The second and third sets were incredibly quiet considering the great turnout from the Tech faithful, but what makes O’Keefe such a hard place to play in is the energy that the team exudes and the noise the fans make. From the very back row, though, the place was certainly loud after that point. Tech tightened up their defense, making digs and blocks they just hadn’t in the previous two sets. Putting the second blocker up really changed the entire game, ratcheting up the effectiveness. If you read the title, Brambilla from the back row, or either side, really, along with Julia Bergmann, Kodie Comby, and Mikaila Dowd, proved extremely effective in bringing the strong attack back. Notre Dame’s coach was quick to challenge on Sunday afternoon, and challenge he did on the ridiculous 2-0 point. But, unlike the majority of calls, which went his way, this one did not. Says Eveland again, “I don’t know what you’re getting in chemistry class, McKissock, but, gosh, you’re got an A in volleyball on that pancake,” in regards to the play under particular scrutiny. The slight edginess of aggressive challenging and timeout-calling, along with a rather subtle feud between the Tech team and the referees, who were oddly reticent to let them wipe the floor between points - something I’ve never really seen any officials have issues with - lent a nice static to the gym, especially in regards to the fourth and fifth sets.
But what really defined the game was the fourth set’s set point.
Feel free to skip ahead to 2:04:30 if you’re following along via ACCNX. In another extensive rally, Georgia Tech made all the right plays and then some. A lesser team would not have done that. Even the early season Georgia Tech, with Brambilla injured and Kaiser on the bench, wouldn’t have been able to do that. Instead, Brambilla off the left side, after another McKissock pancake, was able to seal the deal, in probably the point that broke Notre Dame. McKissock, who had been serving, would go on to net ten straight points between the fourth and the fifth. Not to say the last set was a formality by any means, but Tech had firmly seized control of the game.
Geoff Collins would be proud - Eveland plugged the volleyball team’s relentless effort. Also, grit. But, on this day, it was absolutely true. But, in terms of other programs that actually were there in attendance, it is always great to see other teams - most notably baseball, softball, and women’s basketball - supporting each other. A rising tide lifts all ships, and, well, right now volleyball is riding the crest of that wave, with women’s basketball hot on their heels - more on them in a second. It seems only fitting that it was McKissock at the service line and Bergmann with the kill to end it in five sets for the Jackets over the Fighting Irish. The upset was secure. Tech remains in the hunt. On to Miami on Friday.
This week: Tech, sitting in control of second place in the ACC, heads to the University of Coral Gables to face a team they defeated in O’Keefe a few weeks back to close the regular season.
Tech (4-0) easily dispatches *checks notes* the School just South of Here (0-3) 69-28
It is unfortunate, really, that women’s basketball gets my attention only after having already written 1,000 words about one of the most exhilarating games on the Flats in recent memory. I spent a decent chunk of time while I was at the swim meet ruminating about sports. The “you’ll always remember where you were/what you were feeling when [blank] happened” kind of stuff. Like, I’ll always remember where I was when the ball nestled in the back of Anthony Rizzo’s mitt at the end of game seven of the 2016 World Series, or the feeling seeing the Thunderbirds flyover the Stamps Fields right as Tech scored in club rugby on the opening drive, or jumping higher than I ever have before when swim club simultaneously won the men’s and women’s 800 Freestyle Relay at CCS Nationals 2018 and I knew right then that we were going to go all the way. Where you were when Qua Searcy leaped into the Sanford Stadium endzone, who you were with when Josh Okogie beat the buzzer against Notre Dame, or what you felt when Kyle McCann blasted one into the Chophouse against the school in Athens or into the gloom of a March night to walk off UCLA. Or how you stormed the field after the Miracle on Techwood. Or, if you saw it, that fourth set yesterday afternoon. Point is, women’s basketball hasn’t really had those moments yet this year. But that’s not a problem. I think I speak for the majority when I say I was skeptical of the Nell Fortner hire. It felt too, well, safe.
I was wrong, at least four games into the season. By all measures, her team is firing on all cylinders. Coming off losing the future of the program in the wake of the scandalous departure of the winningest coach in program history, my expectations were low. But Tech has blown away anyone in their path. 31, 47, 33, and 41. Those are the margins of victory in Tech’s games this season. They’re not just winning games, they giving the other teams an unholy throttling each and every time they step out on the court. They are effective from deep - just as they always have been with senior Francesca Pan - and on the inside. They share the ball well, and they work to make offense click. They’re stifling on defense - see: holding Georgia State to just 28 points in four quarters. Women’s basketball hasn’t had a “where were you when” moment because they haven’t needed one. They’ve just been that dominant. That’s tremendous to see. Honestly, that’s the bigger takeaway from this week than the details of the State game. They crushed them. It’ll be more telling once Tech can step on the court with, say, an ACC team. We might be telling a slightly different story. But we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, though, they’re playing electric basketball. It’s just a shame that the Junkanoo Jam makes viewers pay for a subscription to watch it this weekend. Tune back in next week for updates.
This week: Tech heads to the Bahamas for a Thanksgiving tournament.
Swimming and Diving
Let’s see what there is left to say about swimming. They hosted their annual Georgia Tech Invite this weekend, and, amongst a fairly large, strong field, the two teams placed fourth on the men’s side and fifth on the women’s side. Notably, Tech finished in front of no. 6 Florida on the men’s side, though everything else lined up about as the rankings would indicate. There were plenty of solid swims, which is the primary motivator behind having this giant meet full of some of the finest teams the Southeast has to offer, plus, for whatever reason, Utah, who are a strong Pac 12 program in their own right. That’s why this invite exists - to get athletes up and racing in literally the finest pool in the country. In the grand scheme, I’d say they did fine, considering their competition. Tech didn’t have the depth to win this meet - not on relays and not in individual events. But what they do have is some decent pieces to build around. Any team would covet a once-in-a-generation talent like Caio Pumputis. He shone this weekend, as did the star of the women’s team, Emily Ilgenfritz. But, the best part of the weekend was ultimately seeing the rest of the names of those who got B Cuts. Of course, they aren’t automatically going to NCAAs - that’s a whole other complicated process. But to be considered for it is an honor and it’s good to see a lot of names in the mix after the biggest meet of the season so far. Good weekend.
On the weekend:
Emily Ilgenfritz: school record and NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 500 Freestyle, B Cut in the 1650 Freestyle
Caio Pumputis: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 200 IM, 100 Breaststroke, 200 Breaststroke
Austin Daniel: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 50 Freestyle
Corbin Miles: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 50 Freestyle
Christian Ferraro: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 100 Butterfly, 200 Butterfly
Caroline Lee: school record and NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 200 backstroke, B Cut in the 100 Freestyle
Kristin Hepler: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 400 IM
Tim Slanschek: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 200 Butterfly
Joonas Koski: NCAA B Qualifying Cut in the 1650 Freestyle
This week: Tech is at rest through finals.
In the Club House:
3-5 Cocks.— Georgia Tech Ice Hockey (@GT_Hockey) November 24, 2019
Tech falls to the best team in the South (if Twitter is to be believed - there was a minor kerfuffle about that early in the week, so sorry to any offended Florida Atlantic club hockey fans that might read that) 5-3 at home to close the fall slate. They sit at 10-5-1 with plenty of season to play and room to make some noise in their division.
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. Arkansas
7:00 PM, McCamish Pavilion, ACC Network and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM in Atlanta)
Women’s Basketball vs. Seton Hall (Junkanoo Jam)
5:15 PM, Bimini, Bahamas, Some Subscription Service
Women’s Basketball vs. TBD (Junkanoo Jam)
TBD, Bimini, Bahamas, Some Subscription Service
Volleyball at Miami
3:00 PM, Coral Gables, FL, ACC Network Extra
Football vs. A School From Athens?
12:00 PM, Bobby Dodd Stadium, ABC and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM)
Men’s Basketball vs. Bethune-Cookman
6:00 PM, McCamish Pavilion, ACC Network and the IMG Georgia Tech Radio Network (680 AM / 93.7 FM in Atlanta)