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The Georgia sidelines erupt when a point is scored. The University of Georgia volleyball team faced off against Tennessee to win by a score of 3-1 on Oct. 4, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The Georgia volleyball team has called Stegeman Coliseum its home since Oct. 11, 2017. Entering this year, the Bulldogs held a 9-9 record at Stegeman in the regular-season games, erasing any significant advantage to playing on their home court.

However, Georgia’s performance at home in 2019 has improved dramatically. Georgia currently sits at an unblemished 7-0 on its home court, one of only six teams ranked inside the top 30 that can say that.

The Bulldogs have played better this season compared to the previous one, but how have they managed to dominate at home when that hasn’t always been the case? What is so different?

“We just have so much pride in [Stegeman],” junior Rachel Ritchie said. “We try to make sure that the other team feels that … When we’re on our home court, we’re controlling everything.”

In the seven matches at home, the Bulldogs have lost fewer sets than matches played, outscoring opponents 21-6. The margins are a lot closer for Georgia away from Stegeman, only outscoring opponents 31-25.

Georgia is 6-3 on the road and 4-2 in neutral site games this season. Getting to play in a familiar arena is showing to be impactful.

“I think it’s the best venue in the country,” Georgia head coach Tom Black said. “We’re definitely more comfortable playing there.”

A new tradition that seems to be working for the Bulldogs takes place in their pregame routine.

Before the season started, the team met up and created 10 different “statements” to play by. Minutes before the match starts, the team will pick two of the 10 statements to focus on specifically chosen for that day.

“We start by coming together as a team around 10 minutes before we go out onto the court,” Ritchie said. “We just remind each other about all the team statements that we have … Doing that has changed our entire mentality.”

Arguably the toughest stretch of home matches this season will take place this weekend, as Georgia will go against No. 18 Kentucky on Friday and Missouri on Sunday, a team the Bulldogs have only defeated once in six meetings since 2015. So while the team is proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far, the season isn’t finished, and goals haven’t been met.

“There’s maybe a little more preparation [for this weekend’s matches],” Black said. “But I think it’s more about the point in the season that we’re in. Everyone is always thinking about the end of the season, but if you miss the matches leading up to that, then you’re in for a lot of disappointment and heartache.”

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