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#20 GT Volleyball upsets #8 Penn State in four sets

Tech’s three headed attack proving to be a menace

Tyler Rover - GTAA

One day after sweeping South Florida, Georgia Tech Volleyball elevated their game and stomped on #8 Penn State in four sets (25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-16) to go 2-0 for the weekend in Tampa. Both senior Tamara Otene (17 kills, 15 digs, .243%) and junior Bianca Bertolino (10 kills, 14 digs, .051%) finished with double-doubles while freshman Larissa Mendes set her new career high in kills with 14. Otene’s 17 kills matched her Georgia Tech career high.

The first set was back and forth up until 18-18 when Tech went on a four point run that put the set too far out of reach for Penn State to catch up in time. The set played out much smoother for Tech than the first set the day before against South Florida with a 71% sideout and hit .237 with 16 kills, half of them coming from Mendes.

Tech went 4-0 to start the second set, but Penn State rallied quickly to tie it at 8-8 and launched forward again winning 10 of 12 points later in the set to go from being down 16-14 to up 24-18 and eventually taking the set 25-20. Freshman Deren Cukur saw her first points of the season at the tail end of this set, but her presence did not change much to prevent Penn State from taking the set. Tech’s offense was notably off in the set, hitting -.032 with only seven kills and a 48% sideout.

The Jackets found thier groove in the third set and broke away with three straight kills at 6-6 by Mendes, Bertolino, and Isabella D’Amico to go up 9-6. A five point run spread the lead further to 18-11, effectively putting the set away. While only hitting .150% in the set, Tech did land 12 kills, one fewer than Penn State, the Nittany Lions were not themselves, accumulating 12 errors en route to Tech taking the third set 25-19.

In the fourth, Tech similarly to the third used a five point run in the middle of the set to go up 16-9, during which Penn State used both of their timeouts. Tech’s offense was still clicking though between Otene, Bertolino, and Mendes to cruise to a 25-16 set win and clinch Tech’s third highest ranked win in program history.

Race plot via Akshay Easwaran

Three Thoughts

  1. Tech is better than #20 in the country: In a weekend full of upsets (#1 Texas, #5 Pitt, #8 Penn State, #10 Kentucky, #12 Marquette, #16 Purdue,#22 USC, #24 Western Kentucky all losing), Tech looked as strong as any team in the country. It would not be surprising to see them move up at least a few spots in the next AVCA poll after going 6-1 in total sets over the weekend on the road and against a top-10 team.
  2. Minimal rotation = winning so far: Head Coach Michelle Collier mentioned in her interview with us that she thinks her team has the depth to be able to play 9-10 people a game, but rarely against PSU did she stray from her starting seven. Playing Tech is so difficult to do when Otene, Mendes, and Bertolino are on the floor because truly any of them could be targeted at any moment, a different vibe than last year’s offense when everyone knew the ball was probably going to Julia Bergmann most points.
  3. A little history: Tech Volleyball now has 25 ranked wins in their regular season history (29 if you count the postseason), and is looking very strong going into back to back games at #14 Ohio State. Tech now is 2-3 all-time against Penn State, having never played them at O’Keefe or in State College. Tech’s trip to Columbus, OH next week will be the first time the Jackets will have played at Ohio State.

No recaps next weekend from me as I’ll be out of town with minimal time to write, but we’ll have some thoughts ready for y’all on Scions of the Southland going up SATURDAY after football.

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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