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Yellow Jacket Roundup: Bittersweet Sixteen

Surely no one has ever made that play on words before.

Kierra Fletcher and Nell Fortner at Senior Night
Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — So, this is what the postseason life is like? I’m not sure how to feel about it. We’ll dive into the women’s basketball results a little more later on, but the Jackets have really given us a taste of the postseason in quite a few sports this year. I don’t know how the Director’s Cup score is tallied - I went looking for the most recent update today and, well, found nothing since before the pandemic - but we are quite a long way from the bottom of the barrel we were scraping on that a few years ago. Of programs that have completed competition for the academic year, only football and men’s cross country did not appear in NCAA competition, or send at least one individual to NCAAs in their sport. I’d say that it pretty darn solid. For the last time this year for a few of our sports (women’s basketball, men’s swimming), let’s dive in.

Last Week on the Flats

Last Week on the Flats
Data via RamblinWreck.com, Compiled by Jake Grant

Volleyball

Overall: 12-3 / Last Week: 1-1
Polls - AVCA Coaches: #22
Nerd Stuff - RPI: #34

Well, it was a mixed bag for the volleyball team this week as they headed up to Louisville for a two game pod. In it, they faced the Cardinals, as well as the NC State Wolfpack, a team they became quite familiar with last season, as they played twice, including a fantastic comeback on the road, trailing by nine points at match point. This year, Tech had no such issues with the Wolfpack, the team they faced on Saturday. Tech dispatched the Pack in a three set sweep. However, this came hot on the heels of a disappointing loss to a rather good Louisville team. There’s not too much to say about that, but it is worth noting that reigning setter of the year Matti McKissock was back in action this weekend, which is quite heartening to see. It’s definitely good to be playing at full strength as the season draws to a close.

The Jackets had the misfortune of drawing both Louisville and Pittsburgh on the road this year, which is tough, considering these two teams are quite good. Getting wins like these are important for postseason consideration, and Tech has one opportunity left to get a Quality Win™ when Notre Dame comes to town this weekend. Louisville, Notre Dame, and Tech are all tangled at the top of the table, and with no conference tournament (the ACC curiously got rid of that one years ago by coaches vote), the automatic bid and the trophy go to the team at the top of the table. Tech is not necessarily in the drivers’ seat for that at the moment, which is a tough place to be. A win against Notre Dame would help that cause doubly, as it would push the Fighting Irish down the standings while propelling Tech upwards.

Women’s Basketball

Overall: 17-9 / Last Week: 1-1

An exceptionally solid season for the Yellow Jackets on the hardwood sadly drew to a close yesterday afternoon, as Tech fell to the #1 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Tech fought hard, three times clawing out of a double-digit deficit, but it wasn’t enough to do it a fourth time, as South Carolina, quite simply, was too effective. With the Gamecocks hot from behind the three point line as well as ruthlessly efficient in the paint, Tech just couldn’t keep up. 65 points was a good scoring performance for Tech, especially considering the quality of the opponent, but, alas, a COVID-shortened year finally drew to a close when that final buzzer sounded.

Earlier in the week, Tech had thumped West Virginia after clawing back from another large deficit, thanks to effective defense and continued perseverance at the rim from Lorela Cubaj, and wound up cruising to a victory. The same formula couldn’t be applied, though, on Sunday.

Akshay and I went into more detail on this on the podcast (see the links below to listen), but there’s not a lot bad to say about this. Tech went into the year with an already short roster due to opt-outs and injuries, and was playing without a great sharpshooter to space the floor once Sarah Bates went down with an injury midway through the conference schedule. Still, though, a Sweet Sixteen run blew away all preseason predictions (most centered around just making the tournament), and, in year two of the Nell Fortner tenure, I think the only important question is to ask what comes next?

Tech will have a lot of these same players, except now with another year of development and experience. It might be too much to ask for them to take a run at the top of the table in the ACC, but a double bye and tournament appearance is certainly possible next year.

Oh, and they’ll have two banners to hang at the home opener, too. McCamish is sure going to be looking fresh come next fall with all the new decor.

Softball

Overall: 10-18 / Last Week: 1-0
Polls - NFCA Coaches: NR / D1 Softball: NR / ESPN USAS: NR
Nerd Stuff - RPI: #114

Well, we were supposed to play North Carolina this weekend, but, suffice it to say, that didn’t happen. The Jackets, facing a last minute cancellation, worked on the fly to put together a series at Middle Tennessee State, and, well, uh, they got in one game, at least. Weather was a definite factor in the abbreviated series in Murfreesboro, though, as only one game got played. It was a shame they only got one, in though, because Tech looked as good as we’ve seen them play in the last few weeks in their one outing. In it, the pitching was effective, holding MTSU to just one run, and the bats feasted on the Blue Raider pitching, scoring 10 runs on the day. Perhaps getting in the full slate would have helped Tech shore up the ol’ win-loss record. But, at the very least, it seems like a confidence boosting win, without taxing the arms and legs too much.

Tech heads out for a four game set in Syracuse next weekend.

Men’s Swimming and Diving

Polls - CSCAA Coaches: #18

The Jackets improved on their finish from two years ago this past week at the men’s NCAA Championships in Greensboro, NC. In it, Caio Pumputis and Christian Ferraro amassed a nice little pile of All-American honors, and Batur Ünlü had a nice point-scoring showing for himself as well. If there was a downside on the week, it was that the relays did not hold their seed times too well, which would have amassed quite a few more points for the Jackets if they had. However, it was mostly good to see the team there in general, as this core is quite solid, and they were definitely capable of improving on their finish from 2019. In the meet, they finished 21st overall and were the sixth highest finisher from the ACC. This is one spot higher than their finish in the actual ACC championship. Notably, they were beaten by Miami, who only has a diving team, but it is quite an exceptional diving team. Also, they finished two spots above Florida State, who is perhaps the best data point for comparison for the team this year. They swam against FSU in a dual meet and lost close, handled them will in their midseason championship meet, and the two teams were right in the same ballpark in ACC competition. That Tech came out on top when it matters most is a reflection of the solid talent and execution they have on their squad this year.

Congrats, Jackets, and good luck in Olympic qualification for your respective national teams!

Golf

Polls - Golfweek Coaches: #33, Golfstat: #39

Golf finished in the middle of the pack this week out in Palo Alto. They’ve spent quite a bit of time on the West Coast this year, so a lot of the competition was was relatively familiar. Tech’s 9th place finish put them in front of one other ranked team, TCU, and a few teams they’ve been in the mix with already this season. The Jackets saw their +14 finish led evenly between their top four golfers, as Noah Norton and Christo Lamprecht both carded a +5 on the weekend, tying for 43rd, while Bartley Forrester and Connor Howe were just in front of them with +4s. It is Lamprecht who remains the story of the weekend, though, as he rattled off three eagles on the third afternoon to claw Tech up several places in the rankings. The team, as a whole, played their best golf on the final day, moving up 9 places and into the top ten.

Men’s Tennis

Overall: 10-7 / Last Week: 1-1
Polls - ITA/Oracle Coaches: #35

The Racquet Jackets did not lack for drama on Friday afternoon when #21 NC State rolled onto the Flats. Tech and the Wolfpack were neck-and-neck throughout the doubles point, and at one point had the three courts at 6-6, 6-6, and 6-5. It was tense. However, Tech proved slightly superior, and was able to rattle off points in the tiebreak and hold the advantage to win two courts 7-6 and 7-5. In singles, Marcus McDaniel, who was playing on court 1 again, was able to pounce on another tight set with the #13 player in the country, giving him a 7-6 first set and setting the tone for the rest of the courts. Tech saw early victories on courts 2 and 3, as well, which had them playing to their advantage. Andres Martin got down 4-1 in the second set, but was able to use the energy of the rather sizable student crowd and the momentum of having the umpire overturn his opponent’s suspect calls a few times to his advantage. Tech, with a 2-0 lead in hand, cleaned up on courts 1 and 3, sealing the upset victory. Points were played out on the lower courts, giving Tech a 6-1 margin overall.

As for the Wake Forest match, well, I couldn’t get into that one, so I was just scoreboard watching. The doubles point was tough, but Tech fought hard in the singles to make it a match. They had the potential on four courts to take points, but, ultimately, could only get it done on three. It was a tightly played match against an event better team (the Deacons are #12 in the country) and another example that, in this writer’s humble opinion, Tech is playing their best tennis of the season, and probably also of the last few seasons, as we speak. Hopefully, their performance on Friday helped play them onto the tournament bubble.

Track and Field

Track and Field may be in two different locations, and it may be outdoors now, instead of indoors, but the Jackets were led by the same familiar seniors this weekend. To add to their collections of team records, Nicole Fegans and Andrew Kent can now include the outdoor 5k record. In addition, the big news this week was Cameron O’Neal, freshman long jumper, being named the ACC Indoor Track and Field Freshman of the Year. As the season continues to roll along, it is heartening to see Jackets still putting several names this weekend onto national top-25 lists. Time will tell how these stack up against the best performers in the country, but, for the time being, we can at least hope, watch, and wait to see the results.


In the Club House

Men’s Lacrosse cancelled their game against Florida this weekend.

Best of the Week

  1. Tech WBB to the Sweet Sixteen
  2. Parham to Return to MBB
  3. The Potpourri That is the Mailbag

This Week on the Flats

This Week on the Flats
Data via RamblinWreck.com, Compiled by Jake Grant

Quick Hitters

I think it’s safe to call the Volleyball game against Notre Dame the biggest game of the week ahead, now that basketball has wrapped for the men and women. Sure, a quality Virginia team coming to town will be important to handle for baseball, but Volleyball needs a big win in order to bolster their postseason resume with not many games left on the calendar. A strong finish - which would put them at 14-3 and hopefully still in the driver’s seat for the conference title - needs to happen.

Poll of the Week

Poll

Basketball Result Preference:

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    ACC Title
    (6 votes)
  • 33%
    Sweet Sixteen
    (3 votes)
9 votes total Vote Now

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