University of Georgia outside hitter Rachel Ritchie (7) prepares to serve the ball during a volleyball match between the University of Georgia and Furman University in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia on Saturday, August 25, 2018.

In volleyball, it helps when a hitter and setter are in unison on the court, and that seems to be the type of connection Rachel Ritchie and Meghan Donovan have.

Donovan has led the Bulldogs in assists the previous three years, and it seems as though she’ll reach that again this year. Ritchie, Georgia’s current leader in kills, also led last season in kills and in her freshman season was second on the team in the same category.  

The connection had to start somewhere, and according to Ritchie, it was an early match.  

“[Early on] I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Ritchie said. “I was coming across the country, I didn’t know if I was gonna play or where I was gonna be thrown in. She was always just right there beside me helping me and pushing me. She was the one having tough conversations if I wasn’t playing how I should be or patting my back when I did something well.”

Those “tough conversations” must have made an impact on Ritchie because she treats Donovan the same way. 

“We come together after each point, and if she wants something different from my set, she’ll tell me something right away,” Donovan said. “We’re just really open with each other about giving feedback … We take criticism easily with each other.”

Donovan saw potential in Ritchie early, being “in awe of what she could do” and was quick to help elevate Ritchie’s game. Ritchie also has the same impact on Donovan. 

“She brings a passion, energy, and intensity that is hard to bring,” Donovan said. “When she does that it hypes me up, hypes the team up, and having her on the court makes us better.”

The duo has fed off each other and used that to their advantage. Together, they’ve helped Georgia record the first back-to-back winning seasons since 2008 and 2009. 

In the first tournament of the season on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, both Ritchie and Donovan earned All-Tournament team honors for their performances in the Big Orange Bash. Ritchie recorded the fifth 20-kill match of her career and Donovan added 41 assists for the match against Kennesaw State.

This past weekend, Ritchie and Donovan helped the Bulldogs achieve three wins from three games. Against American University, Ritchie led the way in kills with 16 and Donovan had the most assists with 45.

Ritchie said the trust they have in each other contributes to their success.

“I know she’s going to do her best to give me the best set possible and she knows I’m going to do my best to do whatever I can with the ball,” Ritchie said. “We’re comfortable telling each other when we’re doing something wrong or doing something right.”

Together, Donovan and Ritchie have grown into two of the leaders on this year’s team. The success they have for the rest of the season will be attributed to the same thing it has been throughout their careers: each other. 

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