Scenes from the University of Georgia volleyball game against North Carolina State at Stegeman Colisseum in Athens, Georgia, on Thursday, Sep. 19, 2019. The bulldawgs defeated the wolfpack in four hard-fought sets. (Photo/Caroline Barnes)

The Georgia volleyball team will take on its in-state rival, Georgia Tech, on Friday at 7 p.m. The two teams have consistently played each other close. 

The Bulldogs lost their last match against the Yellow Jackets in 2018 in a back-and-forth contest. 

“I think it was just so easy to get emotional about a game like that where your emotions can build up and run you over,” junior Rachel Ritchie said. “I think right now, the separation will be how well we can control our emotions. But of course, we have the home field advantage now which we didn’t have last year, which plays a big role on how we play.”

This wasn’t the first close match between the two teams, but since 2000, Georgia Tech has lost only three matches to Georgia.

Some players argued that Georgia Tech's home court advantage helped it win, but it won’t have that advantage this time around. 

“Having a presence at this game after being on the road the past two tournaments and seeing everyone wearing red and black and know that people are cheering for us after every point," Ritchie said. "People don’t think it makes a big difference, but it actually does.”

When it comes to technical skill, Georgia Tech is a defensive threat to the Bulldogs. It invests a lot of time into its defense, and the rivalry will only push the Yellow Jackets to work harder to get every ball up.

“Their biggest defensive strength is being scrappy. It’s not even necessarily if they put up a wall, but we know someone will be putting their body on the floor to get every ball up,” Ritchie said. “It’s a heartbreaker sometimes to thing you got a rip and then someone barely gets it up and fly it over. But on the other side, we have the stability that we just keep going and going until the end.” 

As for the offense, Georgia Tech will be hitting hard and taking smart shots in order to rattle Georgia. The Yellow Jackets are known for playing aggressive, which will put the Bulldogs' defensive skills to the test. 

Ritchie said Georgia has matured mentally since its last match against Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets won 3-2.

“I think it was our team maturity [that caused us to lose], since we had a young team my freshman and sophomore year,” she said. “But now a lot of us have grown up and we’ve been in those situations more so that will be the separation from before when all of those emotions were new. A lot of us had only played for one season so coming into Georgia Tech’s gym which was obviously so high up in energy and competition.”

Georgia Tech hosted the 2018 rivalry game at the Georgia Tech Classic. This year, Georgia hosts the Yellow Jackets in Athens at the Georgia Tournament. The Bulldogs will try to continue their success from Thursday night, when they defeated N.C. State in Stegeman Coliseum.

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