ATLANTA (March 12) - The sun shone brightly. The fans cheered loudly. The Panthers sand volleyball players responded accordingly with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mercer in the inaugural home match in GSU history.
On a sun-splashed near 60-degree Atlanta day, 913 fans came out to cheer on the Panthers in the home opener on the new courts behind the GSU Sports Arena.
GSU had opened its inaugural season over the weekend in Florida, winning two of its first three matches. Second-year program Mercer appeared ready to spoil GSU's opener by taking the No. 5 match (21-11 and 21-19) and then the No. 4 match (24-22 and 21-17). That meant GSU would have to win the remaining three pairs to win.
That left all eyes focused on court two. GSU's duo of Sara Olivova and Jansen Button came through with a 21-16 win and then a match-winning 21-14 decision. Mercer drops to 0-3 on the season with the loss.
In a sixth exhibition match that doesn't count in the team score, GSU also won that decision. The GSU pair of Molly Smestad and Alexis Towsend won, 21-11 and 21-19.
"The crowd was outstanding tonight," head coach Tami Audia said after the match. "Even with the pep rally earlier in the day that drew almost 500, hosted by Spotlight and GSU Marketing, we had an amazing return of people later on for the match.
"Facilities did a great job setting up and maintaining the courts all night, and the marketing people did a wonderful job of getting the word out and getting people to come."
"It was very cool to play on our home court in front of an enthusiastic crowd that stayed to the very end. I want to thank everyone on the GSU staff for their hard work, and thank the fans for coming out and supporting us. The atmosphere was second to none."
The Panthers return to action on March 23-24 at the College of Charleston in a tournament with UAB, Mercer and the College of Charleston.
Georgia State 3, Mercer 2