ATHENS, Ga. --- Under the guidance of first-year Georgia head coach Joel McCartney, the Georgia volleyball program underwent a season of change in 2007, posting its first winning season in three years with a 17-13 overall record. |
Following just a six-win season in the previous season, the 2007 Bulldogs wasted no time in turning to winning ways by starting the season 8-0, tying the 1993 Georgia squad for the third-best start in school history. What was even more impressive with the 8-0 start was that all eight victories were shutouts, which tied a school record for consecutive shutouts. The Bulldogs also tied a school record for consecutive games won at 25 by taking the first game against Georgia Tech on Sept. 7.
Georgia closed its non-conference schedule with a record of 9-1 record including a tournament title at the Georgia Southern Invitational. The 9-1 record was the best record for a UGA team heading into conference play since the 1992 squad went 12-1 before its first Southeastern Conference contest.
The Bulldogs then posted eight conference victories, the most league wins since 2004. Georgia's 17 total wins and eight SEC wins arguably signified the biggest change for the volleyball program as both totals surpassed the combined total number of overall and conference wins from the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The 2005 team managed 10 wins including five SEC victories, while the 2006 team won just six matches and two league contests.
One of the key performers for the Bulldogs in 2007 was junior outside hitter Maria Taylor, who led the SEC with 4.65 kills per game and was named to the All-SEC Second-Team. Against Arkansas on Oct. 5, Taylor posted 29 kills, 11 digs and 10 blocks to record Georgia's first triple-double since 2003 and just the school's second in the last 10 years. She also had a team-best 10 double-double matches and eclipsed the 30-kills mark twice with a career-high 33 at Georgia Tech on Sept. 7 and 31 vs. Tennessee on Sept. 23.
Taylor finished the season with 498 kills bringing her career total to 1,320. She will enter next season needing 316 kills to break onto Georgia's top-five all-time kills leaders list.
Helping pace Taylor and the rest of the Georgia offense in 2007 was junior transfer setter Mara Martin. Martin joined the Bulldogs from the University of Michigan, where she recorded 1,282 assists for the Wolverines. In 2007, she posted 1,186 assists for the Bulldogs including a season-best 66 in UGA's 3-2 win over Tennessee on Sept. 23.
Another change in 2007 came when senior Renee Johnson switched positions just prior to the start of the season moving from outside hitter to libero. In that role, she provided Georgia with a team-best 390 digs.
Johnson was one of four seniors who saw their Bulldog careers come to a close. Defensive specialist Brooke Burlingame, outside hitter Alexis Morgan and setter Chelsea Young joined Johnson in turning the program over to a stellar class of true freshmen in 2007.
The freshmen group was led by outside hitter Erika Clark, who was named to the SEC's All-Freshman Team after finishing second on the team with 300 kills. Clark was named an SEC Freshman of the Week after helping the Bulldogs to the Georgia Southern Invitational title.
Fellow freshman middle hitter/outside hitter Britta Buethe also earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors in 2007 after she totaling a career-high 14 kills against both Wofford and then sixth-ranked Florida.
The Bulldogs also had a pair of middle hitters who proved valuable in 2007. Lindsay Gehan led the team in blocks with 144, the 10th-most in a single season in UGA history. Valentina Gonzalez took over a middle blocker position from junior Brooke Peugh midway through the season after Peugh's season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. Peugh was leading the Bulldogs and was among the SEC's leaders with a hitting percentage of .365 at the time of her injury. Nonetheless, Gonzalez filled in by becoming the third-leading blocker on the team by the end of the season with 77 trailing on Gehan and Taylor, who was second on the team with 125 blocks.
The fifth freshman in the 2007 class, Kelsey Burkett, provided Georgia with 26 digs as a defensive specialist.
Adding to Georgia's 2007 accolades was junior Anjelica Partridge's selection to the SEC Community Service Team. Partridge found time among her academic and athletic schedules in 2007 to be involved throughout the Athens community at various schools, St. Mary's Hospital and the East Athens Community Center as well as serving as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Coach McCartney came to Georgia with a career head coaching record of 282-100 (.744), which ranked 15th among active NCAA Division I head coaches at the start of the year. He became the first Georgia head coach to open his Bulldog career on a winning streak. Then, by finishing the season with 17 overall wins, McCartney tied Sid Feldman, Georgia's first-ever head coach, for the second-most wins by a coach in his/her first year at the helm. The Bulldogs' eight SEC wins are the most league wins ever by a first-year Georgia head coach.
Georgia's first win in 2008 will mark a career milestone for McCartney in that it will be his 300th head coaching victory. His career record now stands at 299-113 (.726).
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