Coach Johnson and the team have high expectations for the season that opens August 20th as the Lady Jackets host the Marriott Classic featuring Alabama A&M, Alabama-Birmingham, and Indiana. "My expectations for us in this opening weekend are to come out and compete and play with high intensity and high energy. Coach Johnson also hopes the team will come out and improve on things that they've been working on in the last two weeks of practice.
The Lady Jackets enter the season with four players picked on the preseason All-ACC team. "We have two seniors in Mary Ashley Tippens and Jordan McCullers who are our captains and great leaders and players," said Coach Johnson. "They are local kids so everyone in the volleyball community loves them." Both Ashley and Jordan lead by example and work hard and Coach Johnson and the team are hoping to send them off with a great season. Sophomore right side hitter Monique Meade and junior outside hitter Bailey Hunter were also named to the team that features the most selections of any of the ACC schools.
Last year's team finished strong and advanced to the NCAA regional tournament. The team lost in the first round having to play their games on the road. They're hoping for a different result this season. "Home court advantage is huge in that setting and we'd like to play in a place like this where the crowd gets into it and the students get into it," said Coach Johnson." "It's one of the harder places to play in the country." The home court at O'Keefe Gym has received an upgrade in preparation for the upcoming season. This will be an advantage for the program in more ways than one. "I want to thank the administration for helping us out with this as I think this is a huge, huge piece for us in recruiting and it gives the place a whole other look." The upgrade has added a lot of color to O'Keefe and the fans should love what they see.
The fan support has been important to the program's success and it's something that Coach Johnson knew about before she arrived at Georgia Tech. "When I was an assistant at LSU we played here and I remembered how tough it was to play here and I heard people talk about it," said Coach Johnson. "Opening night against Georgia it was just incredible and I would love to draw a crowd like that night in and night out." Those that attend the games have come to see how dynamic and athletic the players are and this keeps them coming back to watch them play.
The squad adds a strong group of freshman players ready to contribute to the success of the team. "We have Jennifer Percy who's an outside hitter from Mobile, Alabama who has had a pretty good preseason and in the future should be a pretty special player, we have Quinn Evans a 6'3" middle from San Antonio, Texas who is a great blocker and we're trying to get her offensive game better and it should as she adjusts to the speed of the game, we have Kaleigh Colson a setter from Austin, Texas who is a competitor and has been around the game for a long time, we have Ivona Kolak from Croatia who is adapting well to American life, and then we have transfers Mariah Woodson who is a big physical player who transferred from Florida and we also added her sister Lexi in the spring from Indiana."
The ACC has added new coaches and with that we're seeing a change in recruiting philosophy. "In the past the conference was getting the 5'10" kid who could jump out of the gym and now the recruiting philosophy is to get big and bigger and that is my philosophy." Coach Johnson is looking for the player that has the combination of being big and athletic. That has been evident in the type of player she is bringing to the program.
In spite of being picked to finish third in the conference this season Coach Johnson is excited about her team and their chances for the upcoming season. Look for a strong and athletic group of players that will be working hard to improve on the results from last season.
Mary Ashley Tippins