Seeking more room, Georgia Tech volleyball testing out McCamish Pavilion

In the steady climb of the Georgia Tech volleyball team, Sunday brings another peak. The Yellow Jackets will play in McCamish Pavilion for the first time ever, testing a much bigger arena against a top-10 rival.

For its match against No. 9 Pittsburgh, No. 10 Tech will stretch its legs in 8,600-seat McCamish, giving up one match in cozy O’Keefe Gymnasium (capacity: 1,200).

“We’ve been selling out O’Keefe pretty often, so we just wanted to get a chance to expose the team and what the girls are doing in this sport to a bigger audience, and McCamish gives us the opportunity to do that,” coach Michelle Collier said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Now in her ninth season, Collier has built the Jackets into a legitimate national power, reaching the Elite Eight for the second time in school history last season. With most of the team back this season, including first-team All-American Julia Bergmann, Tech is 10-3 against a highly competitive schedule. At the same time, home matches at O’Keefe are the toughest ticket on campus.

The Jackets sold out O’Keefe 11 times last season in 15 home dates and Friday’s home match against Virginia will be the team’s eighth sellout this season in as many home games. On Friday morning, tickets for the Virginia game were going on StubHub for no less than $45, almost seven times the price of the $7 general admission ticket, before supply was apparently tapped out. When Tech hosted first- and second-round NCAA Tournament matches at O’Keefe in December, tickets sold out in less than 45 minutes. Packed and boisterous, O’Keefe has afforded the Jackets an undeniable home-court advantage.

However, there’s a flipside to having created such demand.

“Even though O’Keefe is pretty unique, it’s also unique in a sense that not a lot of people can experience it,” Collier said.

Collier said that area high school and club volleyball teams often reach out because they want to attend matches, but are unable to because tickets are so limited. In terms of seating options, O’Keefe is not dissimilar than most high school gyms, and it has also been on Collier’s mind to be able to treat high-level donors to a deluxe experience that is not available at Tech’s home gym.

Another motivator in exploring the possibility of McCamish as an alternate home site is that O’Keefe does not meet the NCAA’s capacity requirements for hosting third- and fourth-round matches. McCamish would be a viable opportunity.

All of those factors led the athletic department to schedule a home game there this season as a test run. The fates allowed for Tech to be at home against the powerhouse Panthers on homecoming weekend, providing an ideal opportunity.

“Football is on campus that week as well, so hopefully we’ll get some of their fans and supporters to have an opportunity to see volleyball that maybe haven’t been exposed,” Collier said.

For Sunday, Collier was hoping for attendance in the 2,500 range, more than double O’Keefe’s capacity. She is considering the possibility of holding higher-profile matches at McCamish in the future.

On Sunday, the Jackets will get a glimpse into what may lie ahead of them.

“Everybody is pretty excited about a little bit of change and just an opportunity to do some great things,” Collier said.

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