The 2004 edition of the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years and the eighth time in program history. Georgia fell in three games to host Georgia Tech in the first round but ended the season with an 18-12 overall record and a 9-7 mark in Southeastern Conference play.
Georgia was a part of a record-tying four teams from the SEC that advanced to the NCAA's field of 64. The only other years that happened was 1992 and '93.
Without a doubt the team highlight of the year came in a twoday stretch at the SEC Tournament on Nov. 19-20 where the Bulldogs played nearly a season's worth of volleyball in just two matches.
In the opening round in Gainesville, Fla., Georgia outlasted Alabama 3-2 including a 16-14 decision in the fifth game. The next day the Bulldogs followed that with a five-game loss to Florida in the semifinals. That match also ended at 16-14 in the fifth and included a total of four match points by the Bulldogs.
Those two combined matches lasted a total of four hours and 55 minutes and featured a combined 56 tied scores and 45 lead changes. Georgia's 183 total digs were just five less than the team's four previous matches combined and the 161 kills were more than the previous three.
Dating back to 2003, Georgia has played three straight SEC Tournament matches that ended at 16-14 in the fifth game.
It was a solid regular season that propelled the Bulldogs into an exciting SEC Tournament and NCAA tourney berth. At the start of the year, Georgia traveled to the west coast and pushed No. 1- ranked USC to the limit in a four-game loss.
A six-match winning streak between Sep. 10 and Sept. 18 was highlighted by a win over rival Clemson on the road and a victory in the Bulldogs' own home tournament.
Individually, junior Alexandra Oquendo became Georgia's first All-American since 1994 and the fourth in the history of the program. She joins a list that includes Shelly Gross (1986), Nikki Nicholson (1993-94) and Priscilla Pacheco (1993-94). She was also an All-SEC First-Team selection, with one of the most dominating seasons in recent Georgia memory. She closed the year with a Bulldog-record and SEC-high .410 attack percentage while leading the team with 515 kills. Her 4.72 kills per game were third in the league and she was top 10 in the SEC with 1.06 blocks per game.
On the road at Kentucky on Oct. 8, Oquendo led the Bulldogs to a four-game victory as she finished the match with 35 kills and no errors in 45 attempts. Her .778 hitting percentage set an NCAA high for a match with 30 or more attempts, and her 35 kills were the most by a Georgia player since Pacheco had 35 against Florida State in 1994. Following the match, Oquendo was honored as the AVCA National Player of the Week - only the third for a Bulldog.
Again junior Julia Petruschke was Georgia's workhorse in 2004 as she was the only player to see action in all 110 games of the season. She's missed just two of a possible 361 during her career, and both came as a freshman. For the third time in her career Petrushcke finished with over four kills per game at 4.02, ranking fifth in the SEC. She will enter her final season in fifth place on Georgia's all-time list with 1,603 career kills. At the SEC Tournament she passed the 1,000 mark for career digs and now stands at 1,011.
Senior Margot Wallace ended her career second on Georgia's all-time assists ledger at 5,166. That total is seventh in SEC history, and Wallace was named to the All-SEC Second Team for the first time in her career following the season.
Several freshmen made an immediate impact for the Bulldogs during the 2004 campaign, with Brooke Burlingame and Martina Wagner getting the most playing time among the newcomers. Burlingame played in all but one match during the year, and at the SEC Tournament Wagner finished with a total of 55 digs, including 34 in one match against the Gators.
Buzcek Retires; Legall Takes Over
Fifth-year head coach Mary Buczek announced her retirement on March 22 and on April 26 Director of Athletics Damon Evans promoted associate head coach Steffi Legall to the head job.
Buczek's Georgia career ended with an overall record of 82-69.
Legall has served on Buczek's staff the last three years as both an assistant and associate head coach.
Prior to her arrival in Athens, Legall was the head coach at Marshall for five years. She led the Thundering Herd to only its third 20-win season and guided the team to one of its biggest singleseason turnarounds in school history when it posted an eight-game improvement in the win column in 1998. During her time at Marshall, she became only the third coach in school history to record 50 or more wins.