#13 Georgia Tech Volleyball hits first serve today in Marquette in what will be their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and their 12th in program history. The Jackets are coming off a 3-0 sweep over FSU on Saturday, where Julia Bergmann reached 515 kills for the regular season and 1,707 in her career.
Tech finished the season 20-7, 11th in HuskerGeek’s ViPR rankings with the 21st best strength of record in the country. Three of the seven losses game in the last seven games to Miami, Louisville, and Pitt, but went to five sets against the latter two. The latest AVCA Rankings had them at 13th, the same position they’ve had over the last month since losing to Miami in straight sets.
After being ranked within the top 16 all season in the AVCA Coaches Poll, the NCAA Committee left them out of the seeds that host 1st & 2nd round games, effectively getting ranked 17th as the #5 seed in the #1 Texas quadrant of the bracket. They face Horizon League champions Wright State, and would likely face #4 Marquette with a win if the Golden Eagles get past Ball State.
Wright State has won their last 23 matches going 28-3. Their only losses came at the Cardinal & Gold Challenge against Iowa, Drake, and Iowa State. They are 3-2 in neutral sites this season while Tech is 1-0, who beat #17 Illinois early in the season at Ole Miss.
Defense will likely be the means by which Wright State hangs around in this game. While their opponent hit % is 73rd in the nation, they rank 18th in dig %. Jenna Story in 116 sets this season has a 22.01 WPA, 20.13 points of that coming from defense and digging and averaging 5.36 digs per set. Compared to Tech, Bergmann is the only Jacket with a 20+ WPA all season.
For Tech to get past Wright State, they should be able to play their normal game and get into the 2nd round. Wright State has yet to play a ranked team all season, and might not have been included in the NCAA Tournament without the automatic bid even with outstanding defensive play.
In the hopeful situation that the Jackets get into the Round of 16, they all but certainly would have to face Texas, the consensus #1 team in the country all season and championship favorite, in their home gym.
Head Coach Michelle Collier, Julia Bergmann, Bella D’Amico, and Breland Morrissette all sat down with Georgia Tech media members yesterday. Here’s what they had to say going into the tournament.
Pre-Tournament Presser Q&A
Q: What is the demarcation point of success for y’all in the NCAA Tournament?
A: [Bergmann] Winning the NCAA Tournament, just playing good volleyball, [and] showing how much the program has evolved in these past years.
[Morrissette] I think one of our goals is just play really good volleyball and fight and play with heart and leave it on the court. And if we do that, I think we can be, I won’t say happy with whatever comes from that, [but] we’ll know that we left at all. We gave it our all.
[D’Amico] We’re just taking one game at a time. You know, like the tournament, it’s a long it’s a marathon really. So we got to focus on each game and do what we need to do.
Q: You all would rather be playing in the friendly confines of O’Keefe, but what is it like for you guys to go on the road and have to play in not necessarily a hostile environment, but on a court where [the opposing team] may have an advantage?
A: [Morrissette] I think it’s a good opportunity for us. Like, of course, we’d love to be at O’Keefe. But we’re here and we have an opportunity to play against a great team. So I think it’d be really exciting. And it’d be something different than our experience last year.
Q: Considering the last few games were against really tough teams with Pitt and Louisville was for any of y’all has there been any parts of your games that y’all have been trying to fine tune or get into better shape coming into that final stretch of games and then in the tournament as well?
A: [Bergmann] Definitely one important thing against those great teams is to have a good defense put up a good block and a good defense. So that’s always one thing that we tried to get better every time, just being able to touch balls, and not only touch them, but also transform them into point during the transition. And that’s one thing we’ve been working on all season long, I wouldn’t say only for those big games, but those are definitely the points of the game that you have to be good at if you’re playing good teams.
[D’Amico] One thing for me is trying to get our offense to be more spread out like Julia just said like a lot of these teams are kind of scouting her. They’re expecting the ball to go to her. So my job is to make sure that like they’re on their toes and everybody’s swinging everyone. We’re firing firing on all cylinders.
[Morrissette] I think something that we’re trying to work on, especially with these bigger teams who are going to have Julia’s number most of the time is how can I help take some of the offensive load and then play good defense?
[Collier] I would say we were probably really focusing on this last month one, just staying healthy, really not trying to drag our practices out too much, really be efficient with how we’re using our time and, you know, making sure that that our players were fresh and a good space physically and mentally to endure, you know, the pressures of that tournament as well.
Q: Have y’all gotten a chance to scout Wright State? Is there anything y’all are trying to neutralize?
A: [Bergmann] [They’re a] completely different team from what we’re used to. They have great ball control, they have great defensive side of the game. So I think we just have to be patient tomorrow, we just have to know that they’re going to be they’re going to put balls up and just don’t lose focus during the rallies and terminate when we need to.
[Collier] It’s a team used to winning. I think they haven’t lost since the middle of September. So just the team that that’s going to come really confident, good momentum, they do some really good things, they take care of the ball really well. You know, they’ll be a challenging team to get out of system and to really defend. And just, again, a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence and excited to, you know, to the challenge of playing us.
Q: [to Julia] Have you decided this will be your last season?
A; [Bergmann] Yes, because I want to go play pro next year. So this is going to be my final season at Tech.
Q: Do you feel either the Pitt or Miami loss played a role in where you ended up [in NCAA Tournament seeding]?
A: [Collier] It could have, I mean, it would put [us] a little higher in our RPI. But I really felt like the teams from from maybe, you know, 15 to 25 RPI, there was going to be a toss up with with the last final hosting spots. Because I feel like you could rationalize it in many other ways. And one of the things was one of the committee’s priority was strength of schedule. And we had the best strength of schedule, we had the hardest schedule in November, out of all the teams that were kind of on the bubble there to be a host but they you know, that wasn’t their main criteria to decide those those things. So it just really depends on which way you look at it.
#13 Georgia Tech plays TODAY in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Wright St. in Milwaukee at 5pm, streaming on ESPN+