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With Imperfect Play, GT Volleyball Beats UNC & NC ST

The grind to NCAA’s continues

Danny Karnik - GT Athletics

As the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket volleyball squad marches closer to their biggest games of the season against #4 Louisville and #7 Pitt, the team took care of business in Chapel Hill and Raleigh defeating UNC and NC State to move to 17-4 this season and 10-2 in ACC play.

Julia Bergmann crossed a new threshold against North Carolina, becoming only the 5th Yellow Jacket to join the 1,500 kill/1,000 dig club. After the NC State match, she sits at 1,575 kills and 1,019 digs.

The start of the UNC game was normal with both teams getting their rhythms down until Tech finally broke the game open midway through the set. Up 16-11, UNC brought back the continuing trend that Tech shook off for a few games, climbing back into a set they were not supposed to win to start the match with a 9-1 run. UNC found themselves at set point 24-23, where a Bergmann kill saved Tech only for a short time, who lost the set 26-24. That entire first set was Bergmann bailing the team out kill after kill as she’s done all season, scoring seven points in the set.

Whatever Michelle Collier said in between sets worked, as Tech overran the Tar Heels 25-8 en route to sweep the next three sets for the 3-1 win (24-26, 25-8, 25-16, 25-20). Surprisingly, both Otene and Bergmann had 41 attack attempts with Julia sitting only behind Breland Morrissette in hit % (min. 5 attacks). Bergmann barely beat out Otene in points 22 to 20. Breland Morrissette continued her run of high efficiency, hitting .818 with nine kills.

A day and a short drive to Raleigh later, Tech again had a testy game to get through against the NC State Wolfpack, winning 3-1 (25-22, 25-16, 23-25, 25-22) in a match that by no means should’ve been as close as it ended up being. Tech again had trouble closing out a set, having a lead in the third set up 2-0, losing four of the last five to give NC State a set before finishing them off in the fourth.

Every set except the second came down to the wire. The Jackets were down 20-19 and went on a 6-2 run to close out the first set with some key kills by Bergmann. Tech had a 23-22 lead in the third set before three very shaky points gave NC State the set victory 25-23. In both the first and third sets, Tech came back from 8-3 deficits to have late leads.

The fourth set again saw Tech with a five point lead (16-11) that again collapsed via the Wolfpack scoring four straight, winning the race to 20 up 20-19. Erin Moss and Bergmann came in clutch to take four of the next five points between kills and blocks before Bergmann’s 25th kill of the afternoon sealed Tech’s 17th win of the season.

Saying Tech beat either of these North Carolina teams in convincing fashion likely doesn’t hit the mark because we know this team is good enough to sweep just about anyone in the country save maybe the top six or seven teams. But saying there wasn’t positives to take out of the weekend isn’t true either. The Moss/Morrissette combo in the middle continued to be lethal. The UNC game showed that Tech can win three straight sets and have another outside hitter get as many looks as Bergmann. NC State gave Tech a chance to climb out of multiple deficits and stay competitve each time regardless of the stat line.

As this is a whole weekend recap, let’s shift the Three Thoughts to a more general viewpoint before the November portion of the schedule...

  1. It’s not supposed to be easy now: Teams do get better at their own pace later in the season, and travelling will always present disadvantages. Tech has only succumbed on the road twice all season, both to ranked opponents. Winning is the best thing to do in order to keep a high ranking. While Tech didn’t make the updated NCAA Top 10, they most certainly are still knocking on the door. Getting to the top 8 though is the goal. That way, a foreseeable matchup against Nebraska or Texas won’t happen until the Elite 8, and not sooner.

2. NCAA Tournament: During the game, the broadcast showed the key selection criteria for the NCAA Tournament. In no particular order, they were:

  • Win/Loss Record
  • Strength of Schedule
  • Wins vs RPI Top 10/25/50
  • Head-to-Head
  • RPI
  • Common Opponents
  • Record in Last 10 Matches

Everything on this list gets better with each win the team has. Despite knowing Tech could’ve swept NC State and UNC, the only thing dropping sets truly hurts is the eye test and the amount of extra sets the team has to play. The Jackets are now in that last 10 match stretch, and currently 3-0. If those games go chalk, Tech will be 8-2 in the last 10.

3. Appreciate Bergmann while we can: We are witnessing history nearly every match with Julia Bergmann. She’s eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark, the 1,500 kill mark, puts up a double-double just about every match, and isn’t slowing down. Her efficiency may not be perfect, but she’s about to pass Mariana Brambilla for 8th all time in Tech history for kills. When she’s angry, there may never have been a player that hits the ball harder in O’Keefe. Tech has two guaranteed home games remaining before the NCAA Tournament. The games are deservedly sold out, but if you have a way to get in the Gymnasium, take advantage of it.

Trick Shot Corner

In an unexpected segment of Three Thoughts, Michelle Collier better be on Dude Perfect’s radar after she took over GT social media with her trick shots, one of which made Sports Center’s Top 10. Also thrown in the mix is the Paolo Pimentel/Breland Morrissette impossible shots from the Boston College game.

Tech heads to Florida to face Miami on Friday at 7pm and Florida State on Sunday at 1pm. Both games are on ACCNX.