#5-seed Georgia Tech Volleyball moves on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, beating the South Alabama Jaguars 3-1 (25-19, 22-25, 25-15, 25-12) for the second time this season and will face #4-seed Florida. Tech is 23-8 on the season, the third most wins in a season in Michelle Collier’s tenure.
The first three sets were all unique. The first being a standard, clean set win for Tech. The second was an offensive onslaught by South Alabama, and the third a defensive shutdown of the Jaguars by the Jackets.
Tamara Otene, Larissa Mendes, and DeAndra Pierce all had fantastic offensive nights, hitting .235, .458, and .667 respectively, accounting for 68% of Tech’s kills. Otene finished with a 15 kill/13 dig double-double.
Hannah Maddux was a highlight for South Alabama, hitting 18 kills in the first two sets and finishing with 24 overall. Through the first two sets, she was hitting over .500 before Tech switched out Liv Mogridge for Anna Boezi in the third set. After the switch, South Alabama hit .024 in the third set and -.128 in the fourth.
Both Bella D’Amico and Heloise Soares saw time at setter, with Soares getting most of the points and finishing with 31 assists.
Tech was excellent defensively and in serve-receive, recording 56 digs and limiting the Jaguars to a 29.2% point scoring percentage.
Bianca Bertolino struggled mightly at the service line, hitting five service errors, four from the jump serve and one on a normal service motion. Heloise Soares’ three aces in the game are her single-game career high.
A fast 6-2 start for Tech with a couple DeAndra Pierce kills got things going, including a four point run to get there. Tech was able to hold the four point lead despite some service errors, winning the race to 15. Hannah Maddux made a very early statement for the Jaguars, hitting six kills and accounting for nearly the entire South Alabama offense in that stretch. After Bertolino hit a jump serve very long, South Alabama went on a three point run to pull within a point down 16-15 before Otene hit two straight kills, forcing a Jaguar timeout down 18-15.
That was part of a four point Yellow Jacket run that put them up 20-15 before the Jaguars used their second timeout down 22-17. Hannah Maddux hit her 10th kill of the set down set point before Mendes won the set 25-19 for Tech.
2nd Set (1-0 GT)
Tech went on an early set run again to go up 3-1 before Maddux landed her 11th kill, a beautiful inside out swing to the right side. That was the theme of the second set; Tech would get a little lead and then Maddux would drive South Alabama right back in it, even taking a lead at 5-4 before there were ties at 5-5, 6-6, 8-8, 10-10, 11-11, and 13-13 before Tech went on a five point run to go up 18-13. The Jaguars immediately countered with a three point run to force Collier to call timeout up 19-17. The run stretched to five, tying the game at 19 with two maddux kills. Bertolino stemmed the bleeding before Maddux again tied it at 20, and the Jaguars took the lead 21-20 before losing it and calling timeout down 22-21.
Tech did not look good out of the timeout, with Bertolino hitting her third service error and Otene getting blocked before she hit a ball two inches wide on the next point. South Alabama easily won the set on the next point 25-22 from a Lillie Simons kill. The Jaguars hit .469 in the set.
3rd Set (1-1)
Tech got off the mat quickly in the third, going on an early three point run and backing it up with another to go up 8-6, during which Mendes had four kills and Anna Boezi joined the rotation in Liv Mogridge’s place. At 10-9, Mendes landed a kill on a long point where South Alabama had momentum and D’Amico was stuck in the back row, part of the third three-point run of the set for Tech. Maddux hit her 20th kill of the match to stop the Jacket run, but then again Tech jumped ahead with a run to go up 15-11, providing plenty of room as Tech won ten of the next 14 points to win 25-15, limiting South Alabama to a .024 hit percentage.
4th Set (GT 2-1)
Again Tech took a quick lead, this time going up 9-3 with some great defense, an ace by Soares, two Manyang blocks, and a Pierce kill to force a Jaguar timeout early. Elizabeth Patterson came in to spot serve up 10-4, and hit an ace as Tech maintained a doubling lead up 12-6. From there, South Alabama’s offense was nowhere to be seen, with Tech easily pulling away to a 17-9 lead when the Jaguars next called a timeout. Bianca Bertolino sent away from her jump serve in this set, but still hit her fourth service error of the match with a simplified motion.
Tech finished with an 8-3 run to win the set, beating the Jaguars 3-1.
Kills: Hannah Maddux (USA) - 24
Assists: Kailey Keeble (USA) - 34
Digs: Paola Pimentel (GT) - 15
Points: Hannah Maddux (USA) - 24
Hit % (min. 10 attempts): DeAndra Pierce (GT) - .667
Blocks: Lillie Simons (USA)/Tamara Otene (GT) - 4
- Great Mendes game: Larissa Mendes has had plenty of ups and plenty of downs, and it’s great to see her start the tournament on the right foot. She has played her way out of matches before, and Collier utilizing the 6-2 rotation frequently I think has been a great tool to limit Mendes’ exposure on the court, but also get the best out of her knowing she won’t play a full set usually. She finished with 12 kills and only 1 error, well above her season kill/error ratio of 2.81.
- ...but not a great Bertolino game: Bianca had her swings tonight, and with how well Pierce, Otene, and Mendes were hitting, she didn’t need to be the focus of the offense. But, five service errors is straight bad. Her serve is Tech’s most dangerous weapon, and giving away that many points to Florida (potentially) very well could lose Tech their next match. Hopefully this was just an off night, but tomorrow and in every match going forward, getting aces from her is going to be critical.
#5-seed Georgia Tech Volleyball next plays December 1 at 7 p.m. against #4-seed Florida on ESPN+.
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