Georgia Tech chasing greatness in NCAA volleyball tournament

The Georgia Tech volleyball team celebrates during its home win over North Carolina Oct. 29, 2021 at O'Keefe Gymnasium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)
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The Georgia Tech volleyball team celebrates during its home win over North Carolina Oct. 29, 2021 at O'Keefe Gymnasium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

For Georgia Tech volleyball coach Michelle Collier, the successes have stacked one upon another in a season in which her team has become a legitimate national powerhouse. The Yellow Jackets, a team that once was an NCAA Tournament regular and stood atop the ACC, have the opportunity to reclaim that glory.

Tech will begin NCAA Tournament play Friday night as the No. 8 national seed, starting with a first-round match against The Citadel at sold-out O’Keefe Gymnasium, the Jackets’ raucous sanctum.

“We’re very, very excited,” said outside hitter Julia Bergmann, who this week was named ACC player of the year. “It’s just a reflection of our work this entire season. We’ve practiced so much, we’ve played so much. I think we’re ready to go now.”

Tech made the NCAA Tournament last year in Collier’s seventh season, the Jackets’ first trip since 2009, and reached the second round. With the team’s core back, Collier ramped up non-conference scheduling and set sights higher, and the Jackets have responded. Tech finished with a 23-5 regular-season record, including an 8-4 record against RPI top-30 teams.

The team has cultivated a loyal following at O’Keefe. The Jackets sold out nine matches at the 1,200-seat gym this season. Every ticket for the three-match session this weekend – Western Kentucky and South Carolina play Friday afternoon, with that winner facing the Tech-Citadel winner Saturday night – was sold in 42 minutes when they went on sale to the general public Monday. (Saturday’s winner advances to regional play next weekend at a site to be determined.)

“It’s just so great to see the gym full and packed every match,” Bergmann said “It’s just great to see that people are coming back to it, enjoying watching volleyball and that they’re supporting us every single game.”

Tech is in the tournament in consecutive years for the first time since making it five years in a row from 2000-04. That was the end of an 11-year stretch, from 1994-2004, when the Jackets made the tournament eight times under the direction of coach Shelton Collier (no relation to Michelle Collier) and then his successor Bond Shymansky.

It was as a record-setting star at South Florida that Collier played against Tech in that era, a match in the 2002 season won by the Bulls. The Jackets reached the Elite 8 a year later, their best NCAA result.

Upon taking the Tech job, “that was the team that I wanted to re-create here,” Collier said. “It’s really full circle, but it’s always the image that I had of this program and what we’re doing. So it’s just exciting to see that we’re here, and we’re going to keep getting better.”

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