Tag Archive for BUCS Volleyball

Wrapping up the league season – mostly

Stage 1 of the BUCS season is over for 3 out of the 4 university teams I coach after the men’s 1st team played last night. The men’s 2nd team will still play 3 more matches at some point yet to be scheduled, but in the mean time the post-season will get underway (Division 2 teams – which includes both men’s and women’s 2nd teams – play in a cup competition which is not linked to league performance rather than a proper post-season).

The regular season for the two 1st teams sees both of them ending 2nd in their respective leagues, in both cases behind the same other university squad (same one who won both leagues last year as well). The guys ended 4-4 overall, which would have been 6-4 had a team not dropped from the league just last week. The teams that are finishing 2nd-4th all split with each other and lost both matches to the top team. One of them had an administrative point deduction, however, leaving us in a 2-way tie with the other and our set differential gives us the higher spot. This is exactly where the team ended last season, but that side went 8-2 with their only losses coming to the league champs. We lost most of that squad at the end of last year, so we knew it was going to be more of a struggle this season. To be honest, I thought we’d struggle to just qualify for Championships. We’ve been helped by the fact that the league has been a bit weaker this year.

As for the women, they went 8-2 overall. They split their matches with the other two top teams in the league and were unfortunate to lose out on 1st place through a tiebreak. This represents a significant improvement over the team’s 4-6 performance last year, and in a league that at least at the top end I would rate as stronger.

Both men and women now await their Championship first round playoff match-ups. Those should come out early next week. By coming 2nd rather than 3rd we should miss out on having to play the very top teams, but aside from that we don’t have a good idea of who we’ll play. There is also the question of elevation to the new BUCS Premier Leagues for next season. Those spots are based on final finish in the playoffs, but could require one or more playoff matches to be decided in the case of ties.

The women’s 2nd team looks to be taking 2nd in their Division 2 league. The guys 2nds are currently 3rd in the table, but with the potential to move up. Nominally, the 1st place teams in Division 2 are promoted to Division 1 next year, but the introduction of the premier leagues next season muddles that picture at this point. That means it’s possible that our 2nds end up promoted to Division 1 even without winning Division 2.

Both men and women continue to also compete in the South West regional club league. The women currently sit 3rd with their only losses coming to the top two teams. The guys have had some issues along the way and are stuck in a lower mid-table position.

In other words, a lot of volleyball yet to be played!

Coaching Log – Jan 30, 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Sometimes the hardest part of playing volleyball is staying focused against lesser opposition. That was certainly the case in our final two league matches last night. They were played against the same team because of some scheduling issues and after the first set it was pretty clear how things were going to turn out.

Our opposition on the night had a bit of a block and a couple of players who could hit a bit given the opportunity. They didn’t have much else. After a bit of a shaky period early on when there were some nerves, we settled down and effectively dismantled them. The second set of the first match ended 25-8 and things didn’t get a lot more competitive after that.

My main coaching focus after midway through the first set was keeping the focus and intensity up. Talking dropped off, especially in the second match. It cost us points in a couple of places, but not to the point of ever making things tight. In such a lopsided match those sorts of things aren’t punished, but obviously we can’t afford that in what’s to come. The team captain was saying as much after the match while talking with one of her teammates.

The two match wins sees us finish our BUCS league season 8-2 overall. That puts us atop the league table at present. Our two title rivals play each other on Saturday. One of them also plays the team we hosted last night. The likely scenario is that we end up in a 2-way tie for 1st (though there is a way for the other two to end up with 3 losses apiece). From there it comes down to the tiebreak as to who officially gets top spot.

I huddled the team together after we shook hands and told them how proud I was of them. I’ve been pushing them hard (and will continue to do so) and they’ve willingly accepted it. They ripped apart lesser competition this week, which is what top teams do. We need to get better in the blocking department and I want to see us hitting harder, but the foundation is there.

My biggest challenge over the next few weeks is nailing down our strongest line-up. We’ve got an OH who is pushing very hard to get into the starting 6 and some other considerations on positions and personnel that I’m going to have to evaluate. That’s why I get paid the big bucks, though, right? 🙂

We don’t have anything on the schedule now until February 23rd, which is our next regional league date. Then it will be our round of 16 play-off match the week following.

Coaching Log – Jan 29, 2014

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Although it was meant to be a home match for us, we were on the road for our 8th match of the BUCS league campaign. Fortunately, it was to our nearest rival, so not a particularly hard trip. Nor was it a hard match – at all. Our opposition looks very likely to finish in last when all is said and done. We could have, and probably should have, held them to single digit scores in both sets, but didn’t quite accomplish that (it was 24-9 in the second when we inexplicably gave up several points in a row before finally closing it out). The match lasted about 45 minutes, though we played a third set to get the bench a bit of playing time (they won fairly comfortably as well).

Our play could have been sharper. There was a bit of tentative hitting and I wasn’t happy with the way some off-speed shots were being played low to the net rather than getting up over the block. Covering our hitters could have been better and there were a few moments when players made some panic plays. I do have to account for a very slippery floor, however, when assessing the team’s play. It made it hard to play off a stable platform or get accelerated into a spike approach. And of course the level of play was poor. On the plus side, it did give the starters a chance to work out some of the bugs since they haven’t played all together in a match since the end of November.

The win assures us of finishing no worse than 3rd in the league and thus gives us a spot in Championships. Next up is a double-header against the one team we haven’t seen yet thus far. They have managed to take sets off our league championship rivals, but have only won thus far against the team we beat last night. On paper these are very winnable matches. If we take both we’ll at worst be in a tie for first in the league, though whether we end up top could come down to tiebreaks.

Sometimes the wheels just come off

Once, when I coached at Exeter, I witnessed one of those seemingly inexplicable events which sometimes happen in volleyball. The university men I coached took on the defending league champions (and odds-on favorites that season) in a home match. The opposition was depleted by injuries and were a bit ragged to start the match. We were able to jump on them and take a relatively comfortable first set win (best of three).

Then the wheels absolutely came off.

The second set saw us make just about every error imaginable. Free balls were sent out of bounds. Hitters tipped the ball straight out of the court. Lack of communication caused defensive errors. The setter dumped a ball wide. Hitters tried to power balls low through double blocks, with predictable results. At one point, during a timeout, I told the guys it was like there was a force field on the other side of the court the way the balls we were playing over were flying long or wide.

I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Once, as coach of a 16-and-under girls team in the Regional Championship Juniors tournament during the pre-rally days we were 4-0 in pool play (played 2 sets against each other team) and were facing the other top team. We proceeded to lose the first set 15-0. Then, we turned around and won the second set fairly comfortably. Why did this happen? The girls were totally stressed out in the first set. They were thinking about winning the pool and it got them all tight. After that I focused almost 100% on keeping them loose and having fun. That team progressed to the semifinals, losing to the eventual champions.

In fact, even in the prior season the Exeter guys had a similar scenario against this same competition. Neither team was at full strength and in an ugly match we went up 1-0, then had a horrible second set. That pretty much did them in, as they lost 1-2.

Now, before I get on to what happened in the third set of this particular match, I should talk a bit about the line-up. I actually goofed before the first set and put the line-up in 3 rotations off from what I’d intended. Simple mistake of writing the numbers in with the wrong net orientation. We’ve all made silly mistakes like that at one time or another. Going into the second set I corrected things to the originally intended line-up. The idea there was to put our bigger MB along the front when their best OH was at the net. Clearly, it didn’t accomplish anything, so for the deciding set I switched back.

We actually got off to a good start and were up 10-6 or 10-7. Then things got tough again. At one point we had consecutive tentative errors in a the form of a serve into the net and a ball hit long. They allowed the other team’s best server to get back on the line and rip off a string of hard jump servers that did us in. We battled and were at 14-14, but couldn’t finish it off.

So what happened?

Fear took over. Simple as that. A clear indication of that is the change in our serving. In the first set we were putting them under pressure but in the latter parts of the match the serves became less aggressive. I’m not saying this was the only thing. We needed to do a long list of things better. That underlying psychology was the biggest factor, though.

New BUCS volleyball premier league play for 2014-15

BUCS volleyball will be getting a premier league in 2014. Actually, it will be getting two of them on both the men’s and women’s side of things.

It’s been announced that there will be new 6-team premier leagues formed for the North and the South to begin next season based on how teams finish this year’s campaign. The Northern Premier League will be selected out of a group of teams from the Northern and Scottish leagues, along with the more northerly of the Midlands league. The Southern Premier League will be drawn from a group of teams from the South East and Western leagues, plus the more southerly of the Midlands league.

Promotion to the new premier leagues will be based on the finish in this year’s Championships. That works out to between 6 and 9 teams being eligible for each premier league, depending on which Midlands teams finish in the top 3 in that league. If more than 6 teams from one of the new premier league regions makes it to Final 8s then which teams get into the league for next year will be based on final standings. If fewer than 6 teams from a region advance, then those who lost during in the round of 16 will be subject to a play-off to decide who make the the cut (unless of course only 6 teams in total are eligible – such as in the case of all the Midlands teams being eligible for the other region).

Here’s the full details.

The question I have is how Championships will be run moving forward, and what the promotion/relegation mechanism will look like.

BUCS Volleyball showing 13%+ growth y/y

A little while back I posted about the growth in the number of Western League volleyball teams competing in BUCS for the 2013-14 campaign. As I noted then, we’re seeing net growth on both the men’s and women’s side such that in both cases there will A and B sub-divisions within Division 2 whereas in 2012-13 there was only Division 2A for both genders.

Being the curious sort, I decided to take a look to see if there’s growth in other parts of BUCS system. As it turns out, there is.

On the men’s side, excluding the Western League, there’s a net gain of 12 teams for the new campaign. The Midlands and Southeastern Leagues are both growing by 5 teams, leading to the addition of a Division 3 in both places where none existing last season. The Northern League added a pair of teams, while the Scottish League held steady.

On the women’s side the gain was six teams. The Midlands League gained 5 teams, resulting in a split in Division 2 in to A and B groups. The Northern League actually lost 4 teams, seeing Division 3 dropped. The Scottish League gained 2 teams, causing Division 2 to be split to create Division 3. The South Eastern League gained 3 teams on net, adding a Division 3B.

So here are the total 2013-14 net team gains by League:

Midlands +10
Northern -2
Scottish +2
Southeastern +8
Western +8

That gives us a total net gain of 26 teams in a single year, which is just over 13%. That puts BUCS volleyball up through the 200 team mark. Not bad for a place that supposedly doesn’t care about volleyball.

BUCS 2014 Volleyball Final 8s to be in Edinburgh

BUCS announced on Thursday that the 2014 edition of the volleyball Final 8s will be held at the University of Edinburgh. I’m not familiar with the gym and can’t find a photo of it online, but the press release says it’s been “…used several times for BUCS Home Nations events and again, an Olympic training venue.” That at least makes it sound better than the gym at Leeds Met where the 2013 Finals 8s were held. That place was widely reviled by the participants for having insufficient service area or overhead space, lacking in air circulation, having a dance studio as a warm-up area, and generally being a tight squeeze for the 16 teams playing on the two available courts.

That said, Edinburgh is by no means centrally located. That likely will mean added travel costs for everyone involved. Last year, for example, the Western league sent 4 teams to Finals 8s – Bournemouth men & women, Bristol women, Exeter men. Leeds was already a lengthy trip from down in the South West. Edinburgh would require just about all day travel via ground transport.

It will be interesting to see the scheduling on this. At Leeds the last time around they did alternating men’s and women’s waves of play on the two available courts. Literally, the Pool A men would play two matches, then the net would be lowered and the Pool A women would play two matches. Each team plays 4 matches – 3 pool + 1 cross-over. If Edinburgh has 4 courts then at least the pool play can be done on Saturday. That would leave just the cross-over matches to be played on Sunday, allowing teams an early departure time.

2013-14 BUCS Men’s and Women’s Western League Teams

The BUCS website has been updated with the the teams for the upcoming season. The Western league is the one in which teams from the South West compete. Here are teams for Division 1.

Men’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth 1st
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Gloucestershire
Southampton


Men’s Division 2A
Bristol
Bournemouth 2nd
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth
UWE Winchester


Men’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
Swansea
UW Newport

Women’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth
Bristol
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Swansea


Women’s Division 2A
Gloucestershire 1st
Southampton
Marjons
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth


Women’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
Gloucestershire 2nd
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
UW Newport

Bournemouth won both the men’s and women’s Division 1 last season. Aberystwyth was relegated out of both men’s and women’s Division 1, with Gloucestershire moving up on the men’s side and Swansea earning promotion on the women’s side.

It’s worth noting that last year there was no Division 2B for either men or women. There were 8 women’s sides last year in Division 2A, so we’ve seen a net addition of 2 teams there – Southampton Solent out; Exeter 2nd, UW Newport, and UC Falmouth in. On the men’s side there were only 6 teams in Division 2A, so it’s a net pick up of four teams – Southampton Solent out; Bournemouth 2nd, Exeter 2nd, UC Falmouth, UW Newport, and UWE Winchester in.

Adding 6 teams in one year strikes me as a pretty good indication of the direction of volleyball in the South West. That’s nearly a 25% jump in the amount of playing opportunities on offer in the region for a group of young people ideally situated to become future coaches. And of course the growth also means more coaching opportunities for those of us already in the field.

By the way, don’t go by the fixture list BUCS has posted on the site. They feel the need to fill that in and basically make stuff up. The recent history of the Western league is to due tournament style competitions as much as possible.