This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.
Last night we had a match against the team I view as our major rival school. Last year we split our league matches and they beat us on a tiebreak for first place, but we beat them at Final 8s in the match that earned us a spot in the BUCS semifinals (for new readers, BUCS is the rough UK equivalent of the NCAA). They are a program with scholarships (which we don’t have), but not one which has been particularly strong at the level of the current premier league teams. Their coach told me earlier they were a bit undersized, but I figured they would make up for that enough to be solid and their current position in the standings tends to back that up. In other words, we probably going to have to put in a really good performance to beat them. This was not helped by a couple of players being unavailable creating yet more line-up challenges. I had no one to play libero, so I ended up playing a relatively inexperienced MB, but one with better back row credentials than the others.
The opposition was about what I expected. We actually jumped out to a good sized lead in the first set, I think something like 16-12. Then the wheels came off. We made a number of errors and let them blow right by to win. In the second set it was sort of the reverse. They got out to the early lead. We clawed back to the point where we had a chance to take the set in the run-in, but then missed three straight serves, including set point (4th time in the last 9 sets!). The third set started off with 2 more missed serves, which pretty much set the tone for what wasn’t really ever a close game.
I told the players during the match they need to learn to win at this point. I think if they had managed to take that first set it would have done them a world of good. The performance was improved in many facets. Blocking was better. Defense was pretty solid. There were fewer miscommunication instances (though still a couple). Setting remains the weak point of the team, but that is going to be the reality of the situation all year.
As an aside, I was talking with the opposing coach before the match last night. This is our third year coaching against each other, and since we both coach the men and women we cross paths at least 4 times each season and have connected away from matches as well. He told me about the team he thinks is the favorite to win our league this year saying he thinks they have the players to compete with last year’s two finalists (nobody else was anywhere close to them). He said if I were coaching them and not the guy who’s doing it at present, he’d like their chances of winning the championship. Nice to get that kind of praise from a peer.