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GT Volleyball opens season with sweep over USF

Bertolino’s 16 kills run all over the Bulls

Bianca Bertolino shined in her first game as Tech’s primary offensive weapon

Georgia Tech Volleyball swept the South Florida Bulls 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-12) to begin the 2023-24 season with a win. Playing in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida (the site of the Final Four this December), Tech threw off a shaky first-set start with dominant volleyball in the second and third sets. Junior Bianca Bertolino and freshman Larissa Mendes led with 16 and 11 kills respectively. Sophomore Liv Mogridge finished with seven blocks and eight kills in her Yellow Jacket debut.

Tech’s first point of the season came from Mendes’ first kill of her collegiate career to make the score 1-1. Both teams spent the first 15 points or so feeling out the match and working throughnerves. Midway through, Tech’s movement was notably slow, which USF was able to take advantage of and take a 14-9 lead. Georgia Tech Head Coach Michelle Collier employed a larger rotation than usual, playing freshman Heloise Soares, junior Laura Fischer, and sophomore DeAndre Pierce for about half the points in the set.

USF held a lead between three to five points up to 21-17. Tech then went on a four-point run that included two Isabella D’Amico aces to tie it up at 21. Momentum significantly shifted after Tech tied it up again at 22 via a Mendes kill. Senior Elizabeth Patterson came in on set point and placed a great serve that ended in a USF attack error for Tech to win 25-23.

Tech’s good momentum from the first set lasted all the way through the second set as the Jackets played much more composed volleyball. Collier stuck with her starters, who quickly put Tech ahead 8-3, and then went on a four-point run to make the score 12-6, forcing USF to call timeout.Tech still went on another four- and five-point run that ensued after USF’s timeout. Bertolino’s power from the pins was on full force, hitting seven kills in the set en route to a 25-13 win.

Up 2-0, Tech settled into a 4-2 lead in the third set before USF went on a seven-point run, with three kills by Maria Clara Andrande. Leading 9-4, the Bulls would only score three more points the entire set. Down 11-7, Tech went on a 14-point scoring run, highlighted by multiple Bertolino and Mendes kills that left USF looking lost on the floor. Tech would finish out the set winning 18 of the final 19 points to finish the sweep.

Three Thoughts

  1. First set jitters ended much better than last season: To begin last season at Ole Miss, Tech was listless, only to be saved by a 35-kill outing by Julia Bergmann. While the jitters were definitely hurting Tech more in the first set this go-round, the mental fortitude to get back in shape before it was too late was there. The four-point streak at 21-17 that began when the starters came back in was no accident. On that topic…
  2. The starters: I love our main six on the floor (Bertolino, D’Amico, Otene, Mendes, Mogridge, Pimentel). Granted, USF is not the opponent that will give Tech the hardest test this season, but once the six of them had a few points under their belts, they were firing on all cylinders. Between Bertolino, Mendes and Otene, Tech has three legit backline offensive threats that all hit with significant power, plus Mogridge up front can do the same. D’Amico with a full season behind her will arguably be the most important player this season, just because she’ll be able to keep middle blockers guessing with four offensive weapons at her disposal to set up.
  3. Larissa Mendes: Tonight was the first of many great games for Mendes. She finished with 11 kills, six digs and three blocks for 16 total points on the night. D’Amico made a point to get her the ball multiple times a point if USF managed to dig an attack on her. Her power is right up there with Bertolino, plus she can get way over the net blocking and attacking standing at 6’2’’. She may not be in the opposing scouting reports now, but after tonight she should be.

Next game: Saturday, August 26 vs. Penn State in Tampa. 6 p.m., 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

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