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Georgia Tech Volleyball: Clean, Old Fashioned Hate Preview

A potential record crowd for the most anticipated COFH volleyball game in recent memory.

The record setting 3,418 person crowd last season against Pitt.
Danny Karnik - GTAA

Hello world, this is Jake speaking narratively at the top of the post. When I first got to the Flats, I was an out-of-state kid melting in the still-hot summer heat, trying to find my way on campus. In the way that all somewhat-sociable first years are, I had met plenty of people I was friendly with, but was still learning who to call a friend. The one piece of advice that I was given was to be nice to people on my floor and to get involved.

As luck would have it, the perfect opportunity existed to do just that the first Friday night on campus when live sports started. That evening, Tech hosted the school in Athens for a volleyball game. I heard through the grapevine that the venue was lively and the team was pretty good, though I had never been anything but the most incidental fan of the sport prior to that weekend.

I wound up dragging about a dozen kids from West Campus on sheer “what else are you going to do,” and we were treated to a heck of a three set win. Tech swept the Athenians, 25-22, 26-24, 29-27, and the rest — volleyball or otherwise — is history.

All that to say, this may not be the first home sporting event of the year, but it is a heck of an opening weekend for volleyball. For all of you that might be tuning into volleyball, or Tech Olympic sports in general, for the very first time, welcome.

Tech plays in a small gym, but the passionate following of the team is a big tent, and all are welcome. The action in the sport plays quickly, but there is plenty to watch and take in. In this preview, we intend to give you an overview of Tech and their opponent, as well as some key storylines. Whether you watch from near or far this evening, you picked the perfect time to tune in to one of Tech’s most dynamic and fun teams in a phenomenal setting.

The Season So Far:

Tech is undefeated at 7-0, and it is no accident.

Tech’s defense is of the best in the country, and ranks 5th according to HuskerGeek’s ViPR, who also has Paola Pimentel as the best defensive player in the country. Pimentel received an ACC Defensive Player of the Week nod two weeks ago and is 14th nationally in digs per set. Even though their block percentage is 206th nationally, the rest of the Jackets’ game is so good that the lack of blocking hasn’t mattered. The rest of the defensive numbers are outstanding. According to HuskerGeek’s metrics, Tech is 1st in dig percentage at 63.26%, 2nd in opponent kill percentage at 23.73%, and 5th in adjusted opponent hitting percentage 0.06%. They won’t need to have a perfect game against Georgia’s offense, 73rd rated according to HuskerGeek, to keep them at bay.

Offensively, while Tech’s hit percentage is only 46th nationally at .261, one spot ahead of Georgia, they’re 4th in kills per set with 14.75. Tech may not be the most efficient hitting team, but they take a ton of swings. They’re 5th nationally with 38.04 attacks per set, by far the most of any Power 5 team — the next highest is Texas Tech at 35th. Freshman Larissa Mendes is leading the charge with 91 kills and hitting .325, far more efficient than Tamara Otene and Bianca Bertolino, who are at .202 and .191 respectively.

From the service line, Tech takes care of business, ranking third in the nation with a 61.94% service point percentage, meaning they neither hit the ball into the net nor out of bounds, and they do not allow a fully set receiving team to take advantage on offense.

A quick look at Georgia’s season: the ladies from Athens are 7-2 over nine games, with Florida State and TCU being their toughest opponents and only Power 5 opponents so far. UGA was swept in both matches. Last weekend, the Athenians hosted the Bulldog Classic, where they did not drop a set across three matches against Jacksonville, Army, and Samford.

Keys to Victory:

It’s more straightforward than it seems — all Tech needs to do is what they’ve done over the first seven games. They are 7-0 for multiple reasons, plus they have fantastic cohesion for a team with a new primary outside hitter and two new middle blockers.

Offensively, as long as Bella D’Amico continues to mix up her passes evenly between Otene, Mendes, and Bertolino, Georgia will have no choice but to guess where the ball is going. Oh, and Liv Morgridge is there in the middle with 59 kills and hitting .448. Tech’s offense currently ranks 18th in offense-adjusted ViPR, while the Athenian defense is ranked 31st.

Defensively, Tech rarely has looked sluggish. The aggression and cohesion shown in the past seven games should be more than enough to hold off UGA’s attack led by Sophie Fischer, who has notched 118 kills, hitting .363 over nine games. Tech’s defense-adjusted ViPR currently ranks 5th in the country, matched up against the Athenians’ 73rd ranked offense.

One more major factor: the crowd. This will almost certainly be Georgia Tech Volleyball’s largest home crowd ever. The atmosphere will absolutely play a role in setting the tone for this match, one that could see Tech win their third consecutive game against UGA. Outside of their trip to Gainesville, this will likely be the toughest crowd Georgia will face all season.

How to Watch:

Location: McCamish Pavilion
Game Time: 7:00 PM
Streaming: ACC Network Extra / WatchESPN
Radio: WREK 91.1 FM
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast

The Rest of the Weekend:

Tech hosts two more games this weekend, a pair of matinees on Saturday and Sunday, both back in O’Keefe Gymnasium.

Howard comes to the old gym at 4:00 PM on Saturday having played Tech 12 times across four sports, though not since 1999 and never in volleyball. The Lady Bison currently rank 250th in ViPR and have a 3-6 record, and all of their wins came in five set matches. Amongst Power 5 and Big East competition, Howard is 0-5, falling in four sets to NC State and Georgetown, while being swept by Maryland, Virginia, and Rutgers. The match can be streamed here.

San Diego faces Tech Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM. The Toreros were a Final Four team last year, though have regressed so far in 2023. Tech has played San Diego seven times across five sports, falling on the road in volleyball to an excellent Torero squad during the 2017 season. San Diego is 45th in ViPR this year, sitting at 3-5 after four straight losses to open the season, one win below their Pythagorean estimated record. The match can be streamed here.

Tune in tonight to watch Tech take on the ladies from Athens, and feel free to comment along with the action below! If you’re coming to the game, do say hi if you find either of us. Jack will be in a blue Newport Folk Festival hat and Jake will be in a white Tech hat with a navy block T with yellow Tech writing overlaid on the letter.