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Georgia volleyball head coach Tom Black watches as his team is introduced at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 3-1 for their final game of the regular season. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

The beginning of the collegiate volleyball season is almost here. Georgia hopes to improve on its previous season that included a 15-14 record with a 6-12 record in the SEC, which put the Bulldogs ninth in the conference.

Last year had some highs — like winning eight of the first nine matches — and some lows, like when the team endured an 11-match stretch in the SEC where it came away with just one win. Georgia then won the final two matches of the season against Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Georgia's 15-14 record from a season ago doesn’t tell the entire story. The Bulldogs experienced 10 matches from last season that were decided in the fifth set, going a disappointing 3-7 in those matches and 2-5 in such matches throughout SEC play.

This year's team is faced with the challenge of losing the leadership and production from five seniors a season ago, replacing that with four freshmen and Kaylah House, a transfer from Coastal Carolina. One of the new freshmen on the team who has already stood out is outside hitter Kacie Evans, a Wadsworth, Ohio, native who earned a third-team Under Armour All-American selection in high school.

When asked about Evans, head coach Tom Black hinted at her work ethic by calling her a “gym rat,” and she should be someone to keep an eye on throughout the course of the season.

Georgia will bring back junior Rachel Ritchie, the team leader in kills and aces, and the lone senior for this year, Meghan Donovan, the team-leader in assists. Their experience is going to be needed with such a young group around them.

“They’re working super hard,” Black said. “We’ve had a great summer and now we’re just getting ready to go.”

Georgia will play an exhibition match against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday, Aug. 24, before having the first official match of the season in the Big Orange Bash on the road Aug. 30 against Clemson.

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