This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.
Many of the Lone Star Conference teams played three matches last week, so lots of results to potentially impact the standings. The most interesting result was probably Angelo beating Commerce 3-0. Here’s how the standings were to start the new week.
Ninth place is just outside the conference tournament places, so we need to make a move. Given the congestion in the standings, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a team to make a big move in a short time. Obviously, making the tournament is most important, but we’d rather avoid a repeat of last season. We went in as the 8th seed, meaning a first round match up against then #1 Angelo, who hosted the tournament. Tarleton is looking favorite to host this year, and we’ve already played them at their place once.
After the busy weekend of play, we gave the players the day off from practice. They did lift in the morning, but otherwise we just reviewed video. That started with our normal weekly stats discussion. The interesting observation we made was that our transition hitting numbers were not very good. This was a surprise as we did well in that phase of the game earlier in the season.
In terms of the video review, we began with a review of our home match vs. Western NM. It was one of the real disappointments of the first round. We lost despite earning 15 more points than them by way of kills, aces, and blocks. Watching the match was a combination of refreshing our memory about an upcoming opponent and reinforcing how much better we have played in recent matches.
After watching that video all together, we split the team into groups to watch more recent footage. The middles and setters, pin hitters, and liberos/DSs each watched a set from a different match. They then all came back together to share their observations.
This was our last training Tuesday of the regular season as we have matches on the remaining ones. Back to the split groups. The focus remained on our attack, with a combination of in-system and out-of-system work. There was a lot of serve reception as well.
Practice started with a simple 4-person pepper to work on controlling 3rd ball contacts being sent over the net. We extended this by playing a 2-contact game. By that I mean a team only had two contacts on their side to return the ball rather than three. That forces a lot of “bad ball” situations. Each rally started with a coach hitting a down ball over the net. This was to avoid the players trying to pass serve in an attackable fashion.
Next was a narrow court (about 2/3rds width) 5 v 5 game. We set it up so it was MB/OH vs MB/RS. The side with the RS also had an OH as a third blocker, but not an eligible hitter. The side with the OH attacker had the setter up. Defensively, we then had a middle back and line defender. The intention of these games (we played three games to 10) was to put the attackers in a situation where they faced a lot of good blocks. Thus, it became a major problem solving exercise. How do I score? It also resulted in a lot of hitter coverage work.
We shifted back to 6 v 6 for the rest of the session. First we played 22 v 22. As we did last week, the 2nd ball was initiated at the setter to create an out-of-system play.
The last game was a normal one – sort of. We played a 20-point game where once a team reached 15 points they could only score if they served. In other words, they could not just side out to finish the game. They had to earn “real” points, or break points, or whatever you want to call them.
We did some target serving to finishing the session.
We had an early morning practice (6am) before hopping on the bus at 8am for our longest road trip of the season. The session was very much serving and passing oriented, with lots of pass-to-attack work. We only went for about an hour, though. All together, our trip too better than 13 hours.
The weekend’s first match was at Western New Mexico. We came in never having won their place and never having beaten them in conference play. This is also a team we played poorly against at home. In other words, lots of motivation to want to beat them. They had an away match at Eastern New Mexico during the week, which they lost 0-3.
Western play much better in this match. We definitely had our chance to take them down. After losing the first, then winning the second set, we were ahead in the later stages of the 3rd, but couldn’t close it out. It was a 3-1 loss in the end. Our middles did well, but could not get it done well enough on the pins. We hit only .136, despite a very good night in terms of serve reception. On top of that, our defense didn’t get the job done, allowing Western to hit .227.
It was Eastern NM for the second match of the weekend. After beating Western NM earlier in the week, they also beat Cameron on Friday. After losing our prior match, this was a big one for our chances to make the conference tournament.
We jumped on them well in the first two sets. Our offense – led by our middles – was strong, while our defense held them to sub-.100 hitting. Eastern looked listless, like they didn’t even want to be there. It was a strange thing to see in a home team. They definitely turned that around, though. Our offense wasn’t as potent and we struggled to stop them. The result was a tight loss.
Probably not surprisingly, that gave the opposition some momentum. They used that to jump all over us to start the 4th set, going up 5-0. We managed to rebound, and then to get well ahead. We had a breakdown mid-set, though. A 5-point lead melted away rather quickly, and we let Eastern get ahead going into the later stages. We eventually got back on track, though, and squeezed out the win. I would have been very worried about a 5th set had we lost.
In the end we hit .230, thanks to another strong night from our middles. Our OHs had good moments, but not consistently enough. In parts it was being too conservative and in others it was making bad errors. Once more, our passers did well. So did our servers. We probably missed too many, but we tallied 11 aces and consistently had them out of sorts. That helped us on defense. We blocked them 12 times and they hit only .125 – keeping them below .100 in three of the four sets.