ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Much as the title belies, and in the theme of last week, it’s another short column this week, even more so than last week, given the lack of swimming and diving this week. However, unlike last week, there are at least the return of some charts and graphs.
Off the top, the trend that first became apparent a month ago has not abated. Though there was a brief, slight rise in the trend of the department as a whole, the last six weeks have been marked in particular by a steady erosion of the high water mark seen in the middle of October. Since then, there has been little action in golf - indeed, they’ve slipped a little more from a lack of play than anything else - and precious little else that volleyball could do to help the situation, given their presence in the top 15 of all major selectors.At the same time, women’s basketball has held mostly steady, seeing just a slight blip downwards after their unexpected loss to Auburn. Similarly, men’s swimming has held steady, while women’s swimming has made up considerable ground in the past month. Some of this growth can be attributed to the addition of both SwimCloud power rankings, as they rank both the dual meet and championship prospects of teams, and they like Tech a lot in the championship meet format, which is worth reflecting in the rankings and also a good sign for the end of the year.
The obvious flip side to this positive, or at least consistent, chatter is that there are several notable reasons why that there’s still been a steady decline in the rating. This, first and foremost, would be the six straight losses on the football gridiron, turning what was a promising high water mark at the end of September into a steady descent to the bottom of the table. In addition, men’s basketball, though 5-1, is largely panned by several advanced metrics for playing a schedule that is widely perceived as one of the weakest in the country, to date. However, this week, we will be able to see Tech tested against two top 50 teams at home, in the form of Wisconsin and North Carolina. Finally, it is worth noting that the jump in uncertainty at the end of October is certainly due to the women’s cross country team falling out of their poll, which is the one comparative metric that exists for the sport, to my knowledge, and the reason that men’s cross country doesn’t appear at all in the following chart displaying the team averages thus far.
With all that out of the way, though, it is time to discuss the results of the particular games this week, of which there were three, two in volleyball and one in women’s basketball.
Overall: 23-5 / Last Week: 2-0
Polls - AVCA Coaches: 14
Nerd Stuff - RPI: 6 | Massey: 13
Tech sandwiched the Thanksgiving holiday this week with two final matches in the regular season. Both contests were rematches, with the second leg of the Clemson series coming at home, while Tech closed the season with Florida State in Tallahassee, which sat at #14 in RPI as of the time of writing this piece.
In the home finale, Tech, for lack of a better term, pulverized Clemson in front of a sellout crowd that has been treated this year not only to a remarkable few months of volleyball on the court, but also has capped off a significant improvement to the spectator experience over the last few years, as well.
For those with long memories, you may be more than a little surprised that I call this refresh of O’Keefe finished. For one, a renovation of the space, more extensive than anything done recently, was announced two years ago with a rebuilt entrance, premium seating, and other changes. Sparing any speculation as to the whereabouts of any details on the matter in the time since, none of the recent changes to O’Keefe involve putting a shovel in the ground, but all add up to an improved experience, and I believe are emblematic of the incremental improvements seen elsewhere in campus, as well.
In particular, this wave of changes was started a few years back, when the updated branding and wordmark was brought to the gym. Associated with the changes came a new floor and padding, as well as a fresh coat of paint for the gym and retouched seating. An new videoboard, improving the audio-visual product as well as access to statistics, updates, and promotions, was another notable improvement. Since the spring of 2020, concessions options have also grown, and the beginning of this year saw an improved pregame display, complete with lights and effects. The crowning part of these improvements, in this writer’s humble opinion, is the return of postseason banners to O’Keefe. Although excellent looking banners were produced honoring Tech’s All-Americans at the beginning of the process, the absence of postseason banners, as Tech previous featured several noting their ACC and NCAA achievements, was striking. As a fan both new to the school and the sport the first time I saw Tech play, seeing such success conveyed was impressionable. These are a simple way to convey that the team playing in that gym is, well, good.
All of this rambling is to say that Tech debuted a brand new set of banners that arrived just in time for the postseason, and they match the aesthetic of the gym and its existing theming and banners perfectly, while also duplicating the style seen in the basketball banners in McCamish Pavilion. Tremendous attention to detail, absolutely worth the wait, and great to see a gigantic, bold NIVC Championship banner, because flags fly forever.
Tech did all of this without putting a shovel in the ground, just as they similarly improved Bobby Dodd Stadium before the 2020 football season. Of course, improvements at Russ Chandler during its metamorphosis into Mac Nease were more substantial, but the progress that can be made even without seismic amounts of money being spent are worth praising.
But, anyways, a volleyball game was played, too, and Tech absolutely dominated the first set. The Jackets hit nearly .600 on the set, and capitalized on all 7 of the balls they were served for a perfect 100% sideout percentage. Tech won the set 25-7, and, though they didn’t win the second and third sets by nearly as much, winning 25-19 and 25-16, they were ruthlessly efficient on the day, and unlocked a heretofore minimized portion of the offense by setting up the middles much more in the offensive game plan. Tech played a longer rotation as well, which is a good thing to see as the grind of the postseason push becomes more relevant. Tech played ten players, with Isabella D’Amico, Mikaila Dowd, and Kayla Kaiser rotating into the mix with the starting seven of Mariana Brambilla, Julia Bergmann, Paola Pimentel, Matti McKissock, Breland Morrissette, Erin Moss, and Bianca Bertolino. As for Maddie Tippett, it was revealed on the broadcast that she has been handling an injury, which is notable given that she would certainly be the name most surprising not to be seen on the box score, without being given that context.
Tech saw success against Clemson not only by attacking with both power and finesse, but also by minimizing errors, never committing more than four in a set on the attack, and committing just three total in service. Brambilla, Morrissette, and Bertolino finished the day with double figure kills, while McKissock was errorless against 38 assists in setting.
As for the final match of the regular season in Tallahassee, it is absolutely true that Tech Was playing a very good opponent in their home gym, and one that has been certainly underrated by the greater perception of the national beat and coaches. Whereas Tech was in a largely similar position two seasons ago and had by this fall been consistently good for long enough that they could no longer be ignored, Florida State certainly deserves to be elevated out of the morass of teams receiving votes befitting of their very impressive results on the court this year. All of this to say, Tech made just even quicker work of the Seminoles than they did of the Tigers, wrapping their final contest of the year in under 80 minutes. Whereas Tech held Clemson to a paltry -.043 hit percentage in the first set of their match, Tech held a national top 15 program to -.103 in their own gym. This game was nothing short of impressive, and the combination of both contests represent a Tech team that was determined to bounce back from their unfortunate conference draw — a Miami team that they beat 3-1, and should have beaten 3-0 finished third, while the Jackets placed fourth — in taking back to back losses to top 3 programs in time to prepare for the postseason.
In the first set, things were close relatively late in the set, when compared to the later sets, and the set saw 5 of the 8 tie scores and 3 of the 5 lead changes in the match. The fact that both of those margins are in the single digits is impressive enough as it is, but Tech gave themselves enough of a cushion that even a late run at match point in the first did not cause them to falter. With three challenges made and lost, resulting in Florida State being unable to challenge the rest of the match, one might have thought that if Florida State was close at the end of a future set, they may be left wanting, however, the hosts were never in a position to be that close, even, the rest of the way. In the second, Tech hit at a .500 clip while FSU was at .000. It is very difficult to win matches when the error rate and kill rates are equal, and Florida State struggled accordingly. Tech won 25-14 in the second, and followed it up with the aforementioned opponent attack percentage above, resulting in a 25-11 runaway third set in which Tech neither tied nor trailed following the 0-0 start.
Suffice it to say, Georgia Tech is ready for the postseason. For more information on the tournament draw, check out the:
Tech has not faced The Citadel yet this year, but did defeat South Carolina in five sets in exhibition play. More details will be shared as they are known.
Overall: 5-1 / Last Week: 1-0
Polls - AP Poll: 26 (RV)
Nerd Stuff - Massey: 43
To put it simply, Georgia Tech needed to bounce back definitively from their loss to Auburn last week, and, well, they had that in spades in their one showing this week against Hofstra. Though the Jackets were without Loyal McQueen for yet another game (and remain without Kierra Fletcher through the end of the season), they didn’t miss a beat out of the gate, which has been a problem that has persisted the team for a while. In stark contrast to the Auburn start, Tech started on fire, and not only on the offensive side of the ball. Their stifling defense allowed just four points in the first quarter, and the pressure kept up in the second quarter, with Hofstra netting just eight in the second. Tech was slower in the second, but maintained pressure on the offensive side of the game.
Notably, Tech did lose Lotta-Maj Lahtinen midway through the second quarter shortly after she hit two very impressive three point baskets. Of course, the main concern here is her health and wellbeing coming into future contests, but it is worth noting that Tech’s rapid start was in no small part due to the Lahtinen having her best start of the season. In just 12 minutes on the court, she accounted for 15 points, going 5 of 6 from the field, 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, and 2 for 2 from the line. Just as Tech’s free throw inconsistency hurt them their previous game, that remained true against Hofstra, though by no means the fault of Lahtinen. However, unlike the previous game, Tech saw much greater success from three point range, going 9 for 20 on the day. As noted, Tech was also extremely effective on defense, holidn Hofstra to single digits in the fourth quarter as well, and accounting for 30 rebounds on defense, along with 12 more on offense.
All in all, it was a get-right game for Tech, who have since been in the midst of a needed extended break to get healthy, practice, and perhaps work the free throw line. In their next contest, they’ll get Purdue on the road, a solid Big Ten program that is currently 5-2. Should make for a good matchup and figure to be Tech’s biggest opponent so far in the young 2021-22 season. They’ll tip at 7:00 PM on Wednesday for their leg of the ACC-B1G Basketball Challenge, immediately preceding the men’s leg at home at 9:15 PM against Wisconsin.
TBD — SELECTION SHOW TONIGHT AT 8:30 PM
12/1 — Wisconsin
12/5 — North Carolina
12/1 — at Purdue
12/5 — in Athens