Comeback Pack Volleyball Tops Georgia Tech, 3-2
Sept. 28, 2012
Clemson (10-5, 1-3) vs. NC State (14-1, 4-0)
RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State’s surging volleyball team solidified its hold on first place in the ACC standings with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Georgia Tech on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum.
After winning the first set, thanks to 14 Yellow Jacket errors and seven unanswered points, the Wolfpack dropped the next two sets, as Tech rallied with its deadly jump serves that produced 13 aces in the first two sets.
The final two sets, however, belonged to the Wolfpack (14-1 overall, 4-0 ACC), which won its ninth straight match, all at Reynolds. Tech (11-3, 3-1) entered the contest as the ACC’s only other unbeaten team, having won six of its last seven matches, including a trio of 3-0 sweeps against ACC teams.
The Wolfpack – which played nine five-set matches last year, including an ACC record six in a row – felt no pressure going into the shortened (first to 15 points) fifth set.
“Last year, we played so many five-set matches that we feel confident when we do it this year,” said junior middle blocker Brie Merriwether. “We feel like that is our time to shine.”
The Pack is 2-1 this season in five-set matches, losing only to Virginia Commonwealth in its only setback of the year.
“There is no greater teacher than experience,” said third-year head coach Bryan Bunn. “We got that experience last year and now our team knows not to panic and to be ready to play when we get to that fifth set.”
In the opening set, a Wolfpack squad that entered the contest as the ACC’s top team in hitting percentage defense played well against the Jackets. Tech hit negative-.031 to the Pack’s .154. Sophomore Nikki Glass had four kills – including the game-winner – to lead her team in the opener, as State hit .154 as a team.
“They made a lot of mistakes in that set, and we took it from them,” Bunn said. “But we couldn’t do anything in the next two sets.”
In the next two games, Tech hit .381 and .429, respectively, to take a 2-1 overall lead, thanks primarily to nearly two dozen points off the serve. At one point, late in the second set, Tech senior Monique Mead had four consecutive aces for the ACC’s top serving team. She had all nine of her aces in the first two sets.
Pack won six straight points at one point in the fourth set to take an 11-4 lead, never trailing in the 25-15 victory that tied the match 2-2. Tech hit just .032 in the set.
In the third and fourth sets, Mead was limited to just one serve, first when sophomore Rachel Buckley won the point for the Pack with the kill and second when Mead committed a service error.
The Jackets won the first two points of the decisive fifth set, until junior middle blocker Brie Merriwether got the Pack rolling with a big kill, thanks to a perfect set by senior Megan Cyr. Merriwether followed with her first service ace of the match to tie it up.
The two teams exchanged points until it was tied 8-8, with the Pack successfully stopping Mead’s serve again. But the Jackets scored two straight behind the service of Susan Carlson to take a 10-8 lead.
State answered with three in a row, capped by a directed soft kill by Glass to the empty far corner. The Jackets, who had scored so many points off the serve all night long, committed a service error and Wolfpack freshman Mo Cormier’s kill at the net gave the Pack a 13-11 advantage.
Merriwether’s kill scored the final point of the contest, as the Wolfpack continued its successful 13-match homestand. Merriwether had 13 kills to lead State, while hitting a red-hot .478. No other Wolfpack hit double figures in kills, but Cormier had 11 points on eight kills and four total blocks and Alesha Wilson had 10 points on nine kills and two total blocks.
Cyr, with her 36 assists, passed Erin Vesey’s total of 2,956 assists for third on the school’s career assist list. Next up is second-place Melinda Dudley’s total of 4,750 and all-time leader Nicole Peterson’s total of 4,938.
NC State will return to action on Saturday, facing Clemson (10-5, 1-3) at 5 p.m. at Reynolds Coliseum in the final contest of a 13-match homestand.
“Clemson is very athletic and it will be a tough match,” Bunn said. “They last played on Wednesday [a 3-0 loss to North Carolina] and have had some time to rest. We’ll have to bounce back quickly for our second match in less than 24 hours.”
Admission is free for all spectators. A live streak is available for free on GoPack.com’s All-Access here.
Next weekend, the Wolfpack will take to the road for the first time since August, when it travels to face Miami on Friday at 5 p.m. and Florida State on Sunday at 1 p.m.