ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia volleyball team started its 2006 season with a 3-1 win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham, but the Bulldogs struggled with growing pains for most of the program's 29th campaign.
Featuring five freshmen and four sophomores, the Bulldogs should have a bright future awaiting them after wrapping up their '06 campaign with a 6-25 overall record and 2-18 Southeastern Conference record.
Freshman Josefine Ehmke, who was voted as the SEC Freshman of the Week during Week 7, joined four other freshmen and four sophomores, including Brooke Peugh who was the team's leading blocker (106 total blocks), on the Bulldogs roster. In addition, Georgia featured only one senior Simona Speed in its lineup.
Although young, several Bulldogs ended up the season near the top of the list in SEC matches. Sophomore Maria Taylor, who now has 822 career kills, finished the year at the No. 2 spot in the conference in kills with an average of 4.82 per game. Junior Brooke Burlingame, who tied for the second-most digs in a match (36) in the SEC, finished sixth in the league with an average of 4.39 digs per game. In addition, junior setter Chelsea Young was No. 10 in assists (8.26 per game).
The Bulldogs experienced several highlights during 2006 season. After opening the year with a victory over the Blazers at the Georgia Invitational, the Bulldogs finished second at the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Coastal Carolina. Leading the way for Georgia was sophomore Maria Taylor, who racked up 10 double-doubles in '06, Peugh and freshman Nikki Hawkins, who were all named to the Georgia Invitational All-Tournament team.
Speed, who was a co-captain alongside Burlingame, picked up where her teammates left off during Georgia's second tourney of the year. Speed exploded for a career-high 15 kills and 11 digs and a hitting percentage of .406 against in-state rival Georgia Tech at the Georgia Tech Invitational on Sept. 1 and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Speed's finale with the Bulldogs came against Winthrop on Nov. 24 and the Aurora, Colo., native registered her third double-double of the season with 14 kills, 10 digs and four total blocks. After starting her career in 2003, Speed completed her career at Georgia with 483 kills, 443 digs and 111 total blocks.
Georgia won a pair of SEC matches in a conference that had a record-breaking seven teams advance to the 2006 NCAA Tournament. One of those wins came on the road against Auburn on Oct. 20. Led by Taylor's 25 kills and 16 digs, the Bulldogs knocked off the Tigers 3-1 (30-28, 24-30, 30-22, 30-17). Also during that match, Young finished one assist shy of her career high with 47and Ehmke supplied the Bulldogs with six total blocks.
After the final match of the season had been played on Nov. 24, Taylor topped Georgia with 484 kills and Burlingame, who has now notched 1,145 digs in her career and is only 90 short of breaking into the school's top-five list, had 448 digs for the Bulldogs. Also, Peugh led her teammates with 106 kills and Hawkins, who only played in 64 games during her first season, had the most assists (565) with Young in second (508).
Adding to the list of Georgia's 2006 accolades was Burlingame's second straight selection to the ESPN The Magazine's Third-Team Academic All-District III. Burlingame, who was on the 2004 SEC Freshman Academic honor roll, has a 3.84 GPA in accounting at UGA.
Georgia head coach Steffi Legall also wrapped up her career as a Bulldog at the end of the 2006 season. Legall, who joined Georgia's staff in 2002 as an assistant coach and then as an associate head coach under Mary Buzcek, finished the season with a 6-24* overall record and a 2-18 record in the SEC. In 2005, Legall completed her first season as head coach with a record of 10-18, 5-11 SEC.
* - Legall did not coach Georgia's final match of the 2006 season