So, that wasn’t the greatest of nights. In front of a program-record crowd 5,303 attendees at McCamish Pavilion, Georgia Tech Volleyball suffered their first loss of the year, losing 3-1 (20-25, 28-26, 25-21, 25-21) to Georgia. It was easily Tech’s weakest showing of the year, hitting only .122 as a team, their worst mark of the season. Tech now is 0-2 in games played at McCamish Pavilion after losing to Pitt last season.
Tech had serious problems avoiding UGA’s Laura Fischer at middle blocker, who recorded eight blocks and a team leading 13 kills. She was a dominant presence at the net that event when she didn’t record a block, put Tech in many awkward situations where they couldn’t put a full swing on the ball without getting stuffed. Tamara Otene recorded another double-double with 13 kills and 15 digs, but 10 errors as well.
Looking at the scoreline, the game looked very even, and while it did for the majority of the match, Tech never truly found their rhythm after the first set. Their run came in the second set after Georgia’s own seven point run, but with multiple set points, they couldn’t put the set away.
Things got started with Bianca Bertolino at the service line, whose power serve put Tech up 4-0 early. UGA responded quickly winning five of the next six points to tie it at 5-5. The game stayed within two points through a stretch where D’Amico was favoring her distribution to Otene more than the other hitters. Georgia’s double block adapted to it well and made life tough for the offense. Bertolino’s next round of serving resulted in two thunderous aces to give a 14-12 lead and force a Bulldog timeout. Georgia tied it again at 16, where then Tech went on a five point run to go up 21-16. A Larissa Mendes kill off UGA’s block gave Tech the 25-20 set win.
Tech started well again, going up 3-0 to start and stretching the lead to 8-4. UGA then took advantage of a suddenly very unconfident Yellow Jacket squad that could not hold off the aforementioned seven point Bulldog run to go up 11-8. Tech’s defense remained in a rough patch that allowed UGA to stretch their lead to 19-13. Tech found something after Collier subbed in Smiley Manyang and Heloise Soares, rallying with six straight points to tie it at 19. Tech’s momentum stayed to go up 24-21, but for the first time this year Tech could not close out a set wtih set points to spare. At 24-22, UGA had an attack going off the net that Pimentel accidentally kicked to give away the point. UGA tied it at 24 and the rivals alternated points all the way to 26, where Georgia ended up pulling away on a Sophie Fischer kill and Otene error to win 28-26.
Tech spent nearly the entirety of the third set battling from behind after going down 6-1 early. Tech scored three in a row to go down 7-4, and the lead for the Bulldogs stayed at three for the bulk of the set until Tech finally tied it at 16. Tech couldn’t get out of their own way though, allowing serves to drop in for aces and ultimately not being able to get around Georgia’s middle blockers. UGA would go on to win the set 25-21.
In the fourth set UGA again got an early run, this time going up 7-3 before Collier really shook up things from the bench, sending in Lauren Sanden, Soares, and Manyang. Manyang proved to be the best part of the fourth set, landing multiple blocks and kills to keep Tech relevant. After tying the set at 11, Fischer got away with a carry to go up 12-11, and a couple points later landed a kill to go up 14-12. Tech would pull within one point multiple times, but never could string more than two points together to take a lead for the rest of the set. UGA won the set 25-21 on a Bertolino attack error.
- Smiley Manyang did not play enough: In the fourth set when Tech had very little going for them, Manyang was the only weapon working for Michelle Collier. She was critical in the second set too, hitting the tying point at 19-19. Larissa Mendes and Bertolino it seemed were less and less willing to put a full swing on the ball, plus Tech needed better mobility at the net with Mogridge geettin beat multiple times. So in came the fearless Manyang, hitting six kills at an .857 clip.
- Bianca Bertolino’s serve: This is the weapon that should win Tech points. In the first two sets, it did, including two aces. In the last two sets, Tech only won two points on Bertolino’s serve, which was getting better to the eye as the night went on. UGA neutralized the single best weapon Tech had, and that definitely played a part in keeping Tech at bay.
- One loss isn’t a disaster: There’s a ton of games still to come. Before the season, I would’ve told you Tech likely would be sitting at 3-4 losses by now. Instead, they’re 7-1 with a very winnable game against Howard coming up next, and surprisingly winnable game against San Diego on Sunday. Of the top 10 teams in the country, Tech becomes the fifth team to suffer a loss, and all the other undefeateds are in the top 4.
Georgia Tech next plays today at 4 p.m. on ACCNX against Howard back in O’Keefe Gymnasium as part of the Georgia Tech Classic.
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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