Minnesota too much for Georgia Tech in NCAA volleyball tournament

Georgia Tech fell to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Tournament April 15, 2021 in Omaha, Neb. (Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos)
Georgia Tech fell to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Tournament April 15, 2021 in Omaha, Neb. (Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos)

Credit: Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos

Credit: Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos

Georgia Tech’s breakthrough season reached its final stop Thursday night in Omaha, Neb. In the second round of the NCAA volleyball tournament, the Yellow Jackets met their match in third-seeded Minnesota. One of the sport’s juggernauts took care of Tech in three sets, 25-19, 25-21, 25-18.

Tech held leads early to midway of all three sets before being overtaken by the Golden Gophers each time.

“I’m really proud of the way we approached this match,” Tech coach Michelle Collier said. “It’s one of the best teams in the country on the other side playing great defense, but I felt like we hung in there a lot of times. We were able to play head to head with them for the majority of the sets. Just super proud of the way we competed (Thursday) and the things that we’re building.”

Tech (14-5) was playing in its first NCAA Tournament since 2009 and earned its first tournament victory since 2004 on Wednesday night against Lipscomb. Minnesota (16-2) was the best team that the Jackets have faced since Collier’s hire in 2014, the coach said. The Golden Gophers have reached the Final Four three out of the past five seasons.

“Georgia Tech is a heck of a team, and they absolutely made us earn it,” Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon said in a quote posted on the Minnesota website. “At the beginning of the match and even beginning of the sets, just some really good volleyball. It was a good match and they can play.”

Minnesota’s defensive might was evidenced in Tech’s hitting percentage (.169), well below its season average of .285, which leads the ACC. Minnesota’s percentage was .359.

“I think seeing that kind of team on the other side of the court is really different from what we see in the ACC, so we just learned that we can’t back down and be scared of a team that’s higher ranked than us,” middle blocker Kayla Kaiser said.

“So, like learning with ourselves, just keeping our head high, our chests forward, and swinging hard, going hard after the ball – learning that we can compete with that level and we can be at that level one day.”

In terms of matches and sets played this season, Tech’s top nine players have at least two more seasons of eligibility, including five who have earned All-ACC honors.

“I’m proud of the way we showed up and really excited about the future,” Collier said.

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