ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia volleyball team finished the 2009 season with a 17-14 record, marking the third-straight season the Bulldogs have won 17 matches. In Southeastern Conference action, UGA went 8-12 tying for fifth in the overall league standings, which is the program's highest finish since 2004.
The 2009 squad was the youngest team that third-year Georgia head coach Joel McCartney has ever directed as it featured only three upperclassmen, all juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen. However, the 2009 team found leadership early on as sophomore setter Kathleen Gates was elected team captain while libero and fellow sophomore Carla Tietz was voted assistant team captain.
In tournament play, Georgia posted winning records in each event it played including going 2-1 at the Georgia Tech Regency Suites Invitational and 2-1 in the Georgia Dawgs Invitational. Then, UGA earned the Courtyard LaGuardia Volleyball Classic title with a 3-0 mark that capped a season-best six-match winning streak heading into conference play.
In league action, Georgia captured its eight victories by sweeping the two-match, season-series with Auburn and Mississippi State while splitting series with Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina. The four teams that swept Georgia and finished ahead of the Bulldogs in the SEC standings - LSU, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee - all advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Five Bulldogs -junior middle hitter Valentina Gonzalez, junior outside hitter Erika Clark, Gates, Tietz and sophomore middle hitter Ann Dylla - provided a steady court presence for the Bulldogs in 2009 by starting all 31 matches. Gonzalez earned All-SEC Second Team recognition after leading the team in hitting percentage (.351), service aces (37), total blocks (130) and points (399.0) and finishing second in kills (291). Gonzalez's hitting percentage of .351 was the highest mark by a Bulldog since 2004 and tied for sixth-best in a single-season in school history, and she finished with the ninth-best block assist total for a season with 118. Clark recorded her second-career Double-300 season with a team-leading 346 kills and 320 digs. For her career, Clark became just the 16th player in school history to eclipse 1,000 career digs as her total now stands at 1,038. Gates, who was named to the SEC Community Service Team, set the tempo for the office to the tune of 1,122, and in the process became only the seventh player in school history to pass 2,000 career assists as she now has 2,250 after two seasons. Tietz led the team in digs with 459, which was the most by a Bulldog in a single season since Shelly Gross tallied 655 in 1986. For her career, Tietz now sits atop the Georgia career digs per set charts at 3.62. Dylla, the only Bulldog to earn an SEC Player of the Week honor in 2009, finished the year with 211 kill and 126 blocks including 119 solo stops, which ranks eighth for a single-season at UGA.
Completing the usual starting lineup for the Bulldogs in 2009 were freshmen Briana Bahr and Nicole Choi with 29 and 28 starts, respectively. Bahr started 29 matches was named the SEC All-Freshman Team after putting up 240 kills at a 2.40 per set rate and finishing third on the team in blocks with 92. Choi started 28 matches and provided the Dogs with 202 digs and 28 service aces.
Also supplementing the offensive output were junior outside hitter Simone May and freshman middle hitter Michele Simmons while freshman defensive specialist Adria Fecteau provided depth in the back court and on serve. May played in 98 sets providing 183 kills and 43 blocks, Simmons played in 46 sets and had 49 kills and 12 blocks and Fecteau appeared in all 114 sets recording 167 digs and 19 service aces.
In addition to another year of growth on the court, the Georgia volleyball program took a step forward off the court as well with the newly constructed UGA Volleyball Center. The new additions that were added to the volleyball area of the Ramsey Student Center including new coaches' offices adjacent to the three-court arena, a theatre-style team video and scouting room, a new training room, a new visitor's locker room and a player's lounge that features a sitting area, a wi-fi bar and a nutrition station.
"It is such a special place to be able to call home," McCartney said of the UGA Volleyball Center. "It certainly is going to enable and help us in the recruiting process. The team has enjoyed it so much already, and it is nice have a place to connect, where we can see our athletes on and off the court, and be able to grow more of a family with our program."