It took three hours, but #11 Georgia Tech Volleyball won their first five set match of the season, defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-12). Bianca Bertolino played a fantastic game, earning a double-double with a career-high 22 kills at .352 hit % and 14 digs, in addition to four aces and blocks each. Her 29.5 points were the most by far for any Tech player, and seven more than Wake Forest’s leader, Ava Carvey.
Tech now is 13-1 and remains undefeated in ACC play at 4-0.
For Tech, a top-five defensive team nationally with multiple offensive weapons, it was a rare day where the Jackets got out hit. Wake Forest hit .248 to Tech’s .212, and had ten more kills than Tech with 66. On the flip side, Tech had one of their best serving days on record with 11 aces, which included two by DeAndra Pierce and Paola Pimentel to pair with Bertolino’s four.
Tech was without starting middle blocker Liv Mogridge today, who left the game late on Friday after her right foot landed on Larissa Mendes’ foot. It’s the first notable injury to anyone on Collier’s usual rotation in multiple seasons. Anna Boezi started in her place.
The first set started incorrectly, literally, as a Bertolino ace that was well in was called out, but Collier opted to not challenge. The lack of a challenge permitted Wake to maintain early momentum, going up 4-1. Tech quickly got back in it, tying the game at 6. Over the next eight points, D’Amico had three poor sets that minimized Tech’s hitters chances at getting a good swing, allowing Wake to keep the game close. Collier switched to the 6-2 formation down 11-9 with Smiley Manyang and Heloise Soares. Tech remained down 12-11 when D’Amico came back in, and she quickly was called for a double-touch, prompting Collier to switch her out for freshman Deren Cukur down 14-11. D’Amico would not come in for the rest of the game.
With the change, Tech found another gear, going on a three point run, putting the 6-2 back in, and eventually taking the lead 19-18 on a Bertolino block. Tied at 21, Tech went back to their normal 5-1, again with Cukur. Her serving run started with an ace and brought Tech up 24-21. A Bertolino kill assisted by Cukur closed out the set 25-22.
Set 2 (1-0 Tech)
Soares started at setter in place of Cukur to begin the second set. Wake went up 3-1 after Boezi lost a 50/50 joust at the net. Tech rallied quickly to make it 3-3, and it stayed close with six ties until Wake pulled away again up 13-11 from a couple near misses by Mendes and Otene. After Collier switched in Manyang and Cukur, Wake continued to stretch the lead to as much as four up 18-14, at which Tech went back to a 5-1 with Soares.
The switch proved to work, as Tech went on a three point run before getting absolutely robbed on a net touch call after a challenge that seemed to happen after a Wake attack landed well wide. That changed the score from 19-19 to 20-18 and deflating what was a highly energetic momentum swing for Tech. The two point gap was enough for the Demon Deacons to trade points and eventually win 25-22.
Set 3 (1-1)
Leia Harper got the start in Tamara Otene’s place to start the set, and she was efficient going 2-2 attacking to put Tech up 3-2 before Otene came back in. Again, it was tight in the front half of the set with multiple ties up to 8-8. Harper came back in and landed another kill to make it 11-9 Tech. After a couple more points, Wake found their first bit of momentum of the set, scoring three in a row to tie it at 13 and prompting a Tech timeout. After a tie at 15 and going down 16-15, Tech went on a critical four point run, the fourth coming from a Bertolino’s fourth block of the game.
The lead held for a few points before Wake went on a three point run to pull to down one, 22-21, but two costly service errors gave away the set to Tech, winning 25-22. This was the most offensive of any set, with Tech hitting .345 and Wake hitting .343.
Set 4 (2-1 Tech)
The fourth set started bad and stayed bad. Wake took a 5-2 lead via Soares tripping over herself and committing a double touch. A few points later, Wake blocked Tech on three consecutive points, putting the Deacons up 13-8 for their largest lead of any set. They expanded the lead to 16-9, which even with some real momentum shifts by Tech via aces from Pierce and Elizabeth Patterson, Wake continued to get points to hold off Tech long enough, winning 25-21.
Set 5 (2-2)
Tech got the early jump in the fifth powered by a massive Bertolino kill and an Otene block to go up 4-1, prompting a Wake Forest timeout. Bertolino landed back-to-back aces out of the timeout, forcing Wake’s final timeout of the game at 6-1 Tech. Bertolino hit one more ace out of the timeout to make it three in a row. Up 7-1, the game slowed down considerably with multiple replay reviews, but Tech still maintained a six point lead up 11-5. Wake just wouldn’t go away though, going on a three point run that for a moment was four, but a successful Collier challenge changed the score from 11-9 to 12-8. Wake would save two set points down 14-10 before a Mendes kill finished the Deacons off 15-12, winning the match 3-2.
The setting position: This has now been three straight games we’ve mentioned that Bella D’Amico was not playing up to the standard necessary at setter, and it seems like this was the day Collier had seen enough. To go into further detail, the few setting opportunities she had today all looked bad. Otene and Bertolino both had sets that should’ve been right on top of the net, but landed where they started their run up instead, essentially forcing them to hit soft floaters that allowed Wake to get in system. Thankfully, Tech has depth with Heloise Soares and Deren Cukur, and they both played well today. Soares had the majority of the workload, earning 34 assists.
Heavy Rotation: Fourteen people played for Tech today. That is as much as you’ll ever see, but Wake Forest was pushing Tech to their limits in every facet of their game. If there’s one thing I could point to that made the difference, it’s that Tech served better, landing 11 aces to Wake’s three, a crucial difference in a match that Tech only scored two more points than Wake.
Perseverance: This was Tech’s first five-set match of the season, and boy was it a long one, clocking in at 3:01. Only during the fourth set did Tech seem to lose any gas, but this is where I think the amount of rotation we saw was helpful. The energy levels were always getting refreshed, and they didn’t skip a beat as people came on and off the court. Thankfully Friday’s game was quick so they had fuel still in the tank for today, but considering Pitt is right around the corner, who they played to five-sets last time Tech went there, I’m a little glad they won one of these games before they play the titans of the sport.
Georgia Tech Volleyball next plays Friday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m. at Pitt.
Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From the Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus