On Aug. 26, Georgia State’s volleyball team opened up its season at the JMU Invitational with a win versus Holy Cross. Now nearly three weeks later, the Panthers are already almost halfway to matching last season’s win total.
Georgia State dominated Holy Cross behind strong performances from Kristina Stinson, Sarah Renner, Katelyn Rawls, and Eliza Zachary. Rawls and Zachary led the way with 11 and ten kills respectively, and Stinson added to the cause with nine of her own. The next game would not go as smoothly versus the James Madison University Dukes. Georgia State pulled away to win the first set, but the Dukes took the next three to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. They would close out the JMU Invitational with a win versus North Carolina Central.
Since Georgia State’s first two wins, the season has not exactly gone in their favor. At the Bruiser Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee, the Panthers once again claimed victory in the first match of the day with a sweep against William and Mary, but the wins stop there. They played Mercer a couple of hours later to finish up the doubleheader and lost in a 3-0 sweep, only the tenth loss to Mercer in school history. The Bruiser Invitational would end on a low note for the Panthers as they dropped their final match against the Belmont Bruins, bringing their record to 3-3 on the season.
With already three wins to their name, the volleyball team had expectations of entering their first home tournament of the season only one win shy of last year’s total, all they had to do was take care of business at the Georgia Challenge. It turned out to be easier said than done as they would drop both games on day one. The Panthers would first fall victim to the home team, Yellow Jackets, in a 3-0 sweep that was closer than the final score indicates. The final match scores would be 25-19, 25-21 and 25-15, and each game would be tight with ties throughout, especially in the first two sets. The Panthers would face the University Of Georgia next who would also handle them to the tune of another 3-0 sweep.
The finale of the Georgia Challenge was a must win for the Panthers, and they came out like it. Looking to avoid a four-game skid, the Panthers played their hearts out and took the first set 29-27 against Kennesaw State, but the Owls refused to go away quietly. Riding their seven-game losing streak, the Owls wanted to win as badly if not more than the Panthers and proved it by taking the next three sets to seal the match win.
The Georgia Challenge did not go as expected, but that didn’t dampen the Panthers’ spirits with the home opener up next. The Panthers entered the GSU Invitational riding a five-game losing streak, but a win would not elude them for long. In the first home match of the season, the Panthers played like their season was on the line, and the final scores indicated that. The Panthers dominated the South Carolina State Bulldogs in a 3-0 sweep with match scores of 25-9, 25-13, and 25-18. Now with their five-game skid halted and their fourth win in the books, the Panthers wanted to end the tournament with one more.
Georgia State played the undefeated East Carolina Pirates in the tournament finale in a tight contest. The Pirates took the first set 25-21, but behind stellar play from the All-Tournament seniors, Eliza Zachary and Katelyn Rawls, the Panthers took the second set 25-22. The last two sets were very close throughout, but the Pirates were able to seal the deal and come away with the victory.
The Panthers were able to come away with a respectable four wins in non-conference play. Coincidentally, this was the same mark Georgia State had last season in non-conference games. Sun Belt Conference play begins Friday for Georgia State where they will travel to take on UL Lafayette. Not even halfway through this season and the Panthers are more than halfway to matching last season’s win total, an improvement from last year definitely seems on the horizon.