Tag Archive for university volleyball

Coaching Log – March 12, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

It’s Spring Break as this post goes up. A little bit of a pause to refresh before things get serious during the last phase of the academic year. Nothing new on the the head coach position. At this point we’re still waiting for the official post to go up.


I mentioned in the last update that we had some pressure come up to make a move on offering a 2018 recruit. Shortly after, the same happening with regards to another. As a result, we had to move forward more quickly on things than desired. Nothing we could do about that, though. We had to make the decisions and line the commitments up.

The middle we offered accepted over the first weekend of the month.


One of the more fun aspects of Spring for college coaches is trying to figure out a schedule for team and small group practices. Player schedules are all over the place. It’s like a puzzle. In this case it was about looking at the post-Spring Break calendar and working out team practice times. We could have scheduled things for early mornings (I’m talking like 6am starts), but we decided not to go that route.

Monday is completely unworkable from a team perspective, so we made that a small group day. The rest of the week we shoehorned practices between class times. In some cases players will have to arrive late or leave early. Looks like Fridays we’ll get out on the sand.

We also had to plan out our Spring tournament the first Saturday of April. That was mainly about trying to line up the various requests of the five other teams that will play.

In terms of the 2018 season, we got the schedule for our second weekend tournament. We’re going to Nebraska-Kearney, who we played in 2017 (#9 in the final poll). I reached out to a couple of non-conference schools about filling our two unfilled dates, but they were already booked up. I’m not too worried about it. We’re going to play 4 out of 5 Tuesdays in October just for conference matches. Even trying to fit them in during September isn’t straightforward as we have to think about our weekend schedules and travel considerations.


The final week of February/first week of March we had gym restrictions. As a result, we did one day of team practice and one day of overlapping group work. The latter was mainly about working on technical elements. Attack was the main focus as neither of our liberos was available.

During the full team session the main focus was a series of games with a certain scoring system. One of the things I’m trying to do when having the team all together playing is to create different types of challenges. This time I wanted the hitters attacking from non-traditional locations. For example, the middles might hit on the pin while the outside hit in the middle. The base scoring of the game was oriented toward first ball side out (FBSO). A team could only score on a kill from the first ball in serve reception. They received a bonus point if that kill came from a hitter hitting “out of position”. If there was no FBSO, then whoever won the rally earned the right to receive the next serve.

The first full week of the month we did hour-long full-team sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. On for Tuesday, expecting eight healthy bodies, I planned a doubles version of Speedball, then the high ball game we’ve played before. In the latter case with bonus points for kills from hand sets as well as for blocks. We ended up with nine, though, so I had to change things up a bit. Basically, I just had one more player on on side and used a rotation. There was a bit of time left over after the high ball games, so I filled in with Winners 3s where the off team came in from the side rather than serving in.

On Thursday I started them off with a competitive serving and passing drill for about the first 10 minutes. They were in teams by position – 2 middles, 2 outsides, 2 right sides, then our setter and a libero. From there we moved on to Winners 2s with a twist. The winners side had a setter, but the challenge side did not. So it was 3 v 2. And to further the twist, we rotated who that fixed setter was. Each player took a turn.

The last part of the session was a narrow court (about 2/3rds) 4 v 4 game. There were a couple of bonus point opportunities. A team got a point for any decent double block, regardless of the outcome (so in theory you could get multiple points in a rally). A team got two bonus points for a block-out kill, meaning 3 overall. Rallies were begun via alternating down balls from coaches, so the tempo was high. We got two games to 25 completed in I think about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, our strength coach had the players going strong in the weight room, along with a mixture of speed/agility and conditioning work in the gym.

Office clean-up

The Volleyball assistant coaches’ office was in desperate need of a clean-up. Over the course of a week or two we got everything organized (the office doubles as storage for things like uniforms and player gear). We also got rid of some junk and other stuff that wasn’t serving any purpose. All that was left was to have facilities come in and haul away some worthless old furniture type stuff. When they did so it really opened up the space!



Coaching Log – February 26, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

Nothing new on the the head coach subject. As of this writing, the position has not yet officially been opened for applications.


We had a pair of 2018 prospects on campus on the 13th to work out with the team – one middle and one setter. On the 20th we also had 2018 setters visit. The setter is the bigger priority given the decommit we had. We’d like to add another middle for cover, though. It’s a bit risky to only carry the three we have at present.

Because we don’t currently have a head coach, we’ve been holding off of making offers. It’s something we’ve talked with each recruit about so they know the situation. Basically, we’ve told them to let us know if they start feeling pressure to make a decision. This came up in one case. As a result, I spoke with the Athletic Director. He said he’ll back us on the decision we make.

Looking ahead to 2019, it was back on the road to attend a North Texas regional event on the 24th.


Because of the recruits coming in, our schedule was a bit inconsistent. Strength and conditioning work continued three mornings a week. The players did standing and approach jump testing on the 12th and 14th respectively. Some of the results were surprisingly. The real test, though, will come when they are re-evaluated later in the term to check their progress.

When the two came on the 13th we used our whole week’s allocation of court time in a 2-hour session. Evaluation of the recruits was our biggest priority, so we did a combination of activities. We got the moving and talking and competing by starting with some Brazilian volley tennis. From there we did 3s back row only Winners, then some target serving. That rolled into some serve receive-to-attack so the two recruits could get a sense of our offensive tempo. Then we basically played for the final hour. That was mainly a couple different versions of 5-a-side 22 v 22, but they played a short normal game of 5 v 5 at the end. We got the session on video for later analysis.

In a funny quirk, we actually had to push our practice on the 20th back to the 21st, then roll that whole thing into the 22nd. It started with a bunch of rain on the 20th causing outdoor sports to come indoors. We were also down a couple players to injuries. Then, the university was shut down on the 21st due to freezing rain conditions, so we couldn’t go that day. Poor road conditions kept campus closed on the 22nd as well. Thus, what was supposed to be a Tuesday/Thursday week became just a Friday week.

In the end, we decided to split into two groups and go about an hour for each. That was because they had a heavy morning workout, so going two hours wasn’t going to make a lot of sense. The pin hitters and liberos were in one group. They worked mainly on serving and passing. The middles and setters were in the other, working on set timing.

Community service

Saturday we did our second round of tutoring with the local area kids. A couple players weren’t available because of club coaching duties. One other had to go to Kansas for a family thing. A pair of our seniors filled in. It was funny talking to them after. In some cases, the stuff they worked with the kids on challenged the players. πŸ™‚


Coaching Log – February 12, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

As I noted in my last update, the head coach here at MSU resigned her position. While the process to decide on a new head coach is on-going, I am basically in charge of the program, with help from our graduate assistant.


We have continued to work on recruiting on two fronts. One is completing the 2018 class. Adding a setter to replace the one who decommitted is the top priority there, but we continue to look for a middle to add as well. We definitely need a setter as we currently only have one. We have three middle blockers (MB), so we could potentially get away with not adding there, but we’d very much like to have a fourth for depth and competition.

Of course, the second front is the 2019 class. We don’t actually anticipate a big need there. A right side hitter, who also has experience at MB, has already verbally committed. We will graduate an outside hitter (OH) and a libero next year. We’ll have three other defensive specialists remaining, so adding another isn’t a priority. We’ll definitely want to add another OH, though. We may want to add a setter, but if we have four MBs then we won’t look to add another in that position.

The first weekend of the month we attended a pair of large tournaments to evaluate prospects in both the 2018 and 2019 classes. The teams of three of our incoming freshmen where on-hand, though only one of those athletes was playing. One was out sick and another was being rested for injury reasons. The following Monday we had a 2018 MB on campus for a visit.


While we have 11 players on the roster this semester, not all of them are active. The OH who injured her knee during season will remain in rehab mode throughout. Another OH has a back injury that has her inactive for a while. We’ve also had players out due to illness. Between those considerations and player class schedules, it’s been interesting to manage the two hours per week of court time we have available to us with each of them.

Until a new head coach is chosen, I feel like it’s probably best to leave any system-related training for later. In any case, we’ll have a whole bunch of new players joining the team in August. As a result, we’d have to redo that work then anyway. Instead, my focus is on individual technical improvements.

One big area of need for the group is setting with their hands. To work on that I had them play some out-of-system games where points could only be scored on kills from hand sets. Mainly, it was about developing the confidence to take balls overhand. Was it ugly? You bet! But it’s all about climbing mistake mountain.

Last Thursday we played a game I called 3-2-1. I think Mark Lebedew gave me the idea. It’s a normal game but with bonus point scoring. A team gets 3 points for winning a rally on a first contact, 2 if they use two touches, and one if they use all three allowed contacts. We decided blocks and aces were worth 2 points. The idea is to get them thinking outside the box and having more situational awareness, while also encouraging better defensive readiness and awareness.

Other stuff

We are likely changing equipment suppliers after being with Asics. This is a department level decision, not our own. We’ll need to replace one set of jerseys, for sure, and will have some other stuff to get for 2018. So we brought the team together and let them loose on the equipment catalog. πŸ™‚

Recruits don’t worry too much about coaches, apparently

Here’s something that might deflate the egos of some college coaches. πŸ™‚

We recently had a 2018 recruit on campus for a visit. This is actually a girl who we brought to campus in Spring 2017. We made her an offer then, but she was at the beginning of her process. As a result, she wasn’t ready to make a commitment then. We then kind of fell out of touch with her over the Summer. Approaching the first Juniors tournament of the year we were going to for recruiting, we looked to see if she had committed somewhere else, but didn’t see any indication she had. That being the case, I stopped by her court to watch her play. She did well. Better than what I remembered.

We were all set to reach out to her again, but she beat us to it. She texted the head coach to express her interest, and that led to her coming back to campus again. This was mainly about giving her mom a chance to have a look as she wasn’t on the trip the first time. It also, though, gave her a chance to meet all our new players. We only have three left from when she visited the first time.

Now, in the middle of all this the head coach was getting ready to leave following her resignation. She made her announcement to the team two days before the visit and spoke this this recruit that same night to let her know as well in case it mattered.

Nope! Didn’t matter at all.

We got the girl’s commitment the night after her visit.

Further, of the four girls who committed to us earlier, only one decided to rethink things. She did ask to be let out of her commitment, making it sound like she wanted to stay closer to home. At the same time, though, we continued to talk with 2018 prospects and getting them on campus.

Guess the head coach doesn’t matter. πŸ˜€

Honestly, I think this is the way it should be for at least the majority of recruits. It should be mainly about the school.

Coaching Log – February 1, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

The new semester is underway. Time to get back to work!


They don’t wait too long to get Juniors tournaments going, so we were off and running with recruiting before school even started. This is the time of year when we get seriously focused on the next recruiting class. In this case, that means 2019. We did, however, still have to look at 2018 middles to finish that class.

Our first event of the year was the Tour of Texas qualifier in San Antonio. Annoyingly, it was spread over I think four different sites for just the 17s age group alone. Saturday was all about looking at 17s. We had a number of 2019 prospects who have reached out to us to look through. While doing that, though, we also tagged a number of other potential recruit prospects we saw along the way. On Sunday I continued looking at 17s, but the 18s began playing that day, so I watched some uncommitted 2018 middles as well.

Following the Tour, a middle we actually brought to campus last Spring, and offered, reached out to us. We hadn’t heard from her since I believe July. I made it a point to watch her play in the Tour qualifier, as she still came up as uncommitted. She saw me, and ended up texting the head coach a couple days later. That turned into plans for a second visit (unofficial this time, as she’d already done her official) so she could meet new members of the team (8 since her visit) and show her mom around campus. She ended up committing to us that evening.


The Lone Star Conference does a Commissioner’s Honor Roll for each academic term. A student-athlete must have a semester total GPA of 3.3 or better to earn selection. For Fall 2017 we put 8 players on that list.

Overall, the team did pretty well last semester. The team had a collective GPA of 3.0. Unfortunately, a few individuals dragged the average down with failing grades. For one of them it’s going to cost her eligibility in the Spring. She didn’t pass enough credits, so she won’t be able to compete for us this term. She can still train with the team, but she can’t play in any Spring competition.


Now is the time of year Fall schedules are made. This year it’s been a bit trickier than usual. You see 2018 is a Festival year for NCAA Division II. That means they have all the sports for a given season do their championships at the same time, in the same location. Unfortunately, the other Fall sports finish earlier than volleyball. That means they cut a week off our season. A proposal was made, however, to make up for that cut by adding a week back at the beginning of the season. That was voted on and passed in mid-January. As a result, we’ll start our season August 24th rather than August 31st.

We committed to tournaments for our first two weekends. We’ll go to Tarleton again the first week, as we did in 2017. It’s an easy trip with some good competition. We played two ranked teams there this year and look forward to something similar for 2018. One of the top teams in the country is on the list of attendees.

The second weekend we’ll be going to Nebraska-Kearney. We played them at West Texas early in the 2017 season. They are traditionally quite a strong team – as in top 10 in the poll. The other teams in the tournament, however, were ranked below us this year. Two of them, though, will be regional competition.

There is also scheduling Spring competition. Because we can’t play any of our MBs due to their academic eligibility, we are keeping things limited. We will host a tournament in April, but that’s it. We did the same thing last year when we had only one MB available. We’ve had five area teams commit for the date.

Team Meeting

We held our first team get together of the term the afternoon of the first day of classes (Jan 16). That basically involved going over the the training schedule for the first part of the semester (up to Spring Break). We also had to discuss our community service hours, study hall, and other stuff like that.


The team started strength and conditioning work with our Strength Coach the first week of school. The first day he started off by having them do some simple agility work in the gym, and then some foundational exercises in the weight room to start getting them back into the swing of things. That sort of work continued in the second week.

We held off on starting the volleyball until the second week to let them settle in with classes and such. At least some of them, though, did take part in an open gym session on Thursday of the first week. The combination of injuries and class schedules looks like it will force to into having two 2-hour full team sessions per week rather than the smaller group work we originally had in mind for this part of the year. Spring can be really tricky like that.

Volunteer work

All athletes at MSU are expected to do a certain amount of volunteer work each year. Even if there was no requirement, though, most of us likely would make it part of our program anyway. It’s a difficult thing to get in during the season in the Fall, for obvious reasons. The team did, though, work a fair one day for a couple hours.

This Spring we will once more be involved with the Cafe con Leche program. It’s one which aims to help mainly minority kids become the first in their family to go to college. We helped out with one of their tutoring sessions last year. We’re doing the same again this year on a monthly basis.

And the big news

When she returned from the semester break, the head coach announced her intention to resign. This was not a major surprise as it was totally based on family considerations. It was a question of when, not if it would happen. She informed the team in a meeting on the 23rd, with a press release going up on the website the next day. She also reached out to all the incoming players to let them know. Fortunately, there wasn’t any drama.

Well, at least we thought so. Then we heard on the 29th from the setter we signed that she’s decommitting. Ugh! Scramble time to find someone else after we’ve been telling kids we’re done in that position for 2018.

The outgoing head coach’s final thing with the team was on the 30th. She showed them a short video on the team concept and we played a series of team oriented non-volleyball games.

UK university volleyball options for Americans

I received a question from an NCAA Division I assistant coach asking about US players going to the UK to play volleyball as post-graduate students. In this post I will address that subject as best I can.

The 2017-18 figures released by USA Volleyball show at least 45 players receiving international transfer certificates to play in England. There could be more playing for UK universities who did not get an ITC because they don’t play in the top level of the National League (NVL) there. For example, I had a couple of Americans play for me at Exeter. Since we did not play in the NVL they didn’t need ITCs.

The point I’m trying to make is there are quite a few Americans playing in England each year. A number of them are even on scholarships. Mainly, those are post-graduates. Think players who finished their NCAA playing career, but weren’t quite ready to stop playing competitive volleyball.

If you’re looking for a scholarship you need to find a university where volleyball is a performance sport. Most universities have volleyball clubs that compete in BUCS, which is the rough UK equivalent to the NCAA (the NAIA might be a better comparison). The performance programs, however, are a different situation. They are much more akin to what we would call varsity sports in the US. There aren’t that many of them, though.

Universities with performance volleyball programs

Here are at least some of the universities that have volleyball as a performance sport. I’ve included links to their information web page.

On the women’s side, Durham and Northumbria have been the top teams for several years. For the men, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria have consistently been at the top, but Bournemouth is a regular championship contender as well. Essex and East London in recent years have also pushed themselves into the conversation.

Bournemouth was in the same BUCS league as Exeter when I coached there. I also got to coach against Durham (men) and Northumbria (women) in Final 8s.


If you go to a university without a performance program – or you just want a less intense volleyball experience – you’ll simply be part of the school’s club program. Generally speaking, that just means turning up for their tryouts or something along those lines when school starts. Easy enough.

If you want to go the performance route, however, you should think of it like the college recruitment process. You’ll want to reach out to the program(s) you’re interested in, provide them information about yourself, give them some video, etc.

Placement service

Several years back a service was developed by a woman who herself played in the UK as a post-graduate. It is called TeamGleas. Think of it as an athlete promotional service that universities subscribe to. They don’t just cover the UK. If you, or someone you know, is thinking about playing and going to school abroad, it might be worth having a look.

There may be other services out there as well. I just don’t know of them.

Keep in mind

A word of warning is required here. You should not expect the same level of support and facilities in the UK as you see at US colleges and universities (especially the higher level ones). Volleyball just isn’t that big a sport over there. This goes doubly when talking about the non-performance club programs. Training for them might only be once or twice a week, possibly with no coach.

And the competition in BUCS won’t be spectacular. Since most teams are club programs, they just aren’t that strong. The performance programs, though, are generally linked in with a club playing in one of the top divisions of the National League. That’s much more serious, and in some cases includes professional (or at least semi-pro) players.

I bring this up not to discourage anyone from going to the UK to study and play volleyball. I just want to make sure the expectations are realistic. If nothing else, it’s could be a great experience on many levels. Certainly, it provides opportunities to do some interesting travel.


I hope this post provides the information you need to at least start thinking about things and exploring your options. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can. If I can’t, I might be able to get them from my contacts among the coaches over there.

Coaching Log – January 3, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

It’s been nearly a month since my last update. Obviously, we haven’t been in the gym, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening.

Roster changes

Recall that we did a tryout last month for prospective transfer middles and liberos. As it turns out, one of the liberos was someone already committed to transfer to MSU – as a freshman. Literally that same day she met with a counselor about her schedule for the Spring semester. She’d played a fair amount as a defensive specialist for her prior school – a Division II program in our Region – but opted to transfer for non-volleyball reasons. She was club teammates with of one of our current freshmen, and did well at the tryout, so we felt she’d make a good addition to the team. Even better, she can be with us through second semester to get integrated with the team.


We’ve still been looking to add one or two additional players to our 2018 freshman class. A middle we offered, and thought we’d get, opted for another school. So it was back to work trying to find someone in that position. We plotted out the tournaments we’ll look to attend during this year’s juniors seasons to come and submitted the requisite travel authorization requests.

The first of those tournaments is actually this weekend. Nothing like jumping right into it in the new year!

Other stuff

There’s never a time when nothing’s going on, especially while school is still in session. The week after our tryout was the last week of classes – and the last time we were all going to be in the office at the same time for a while. We started putting together the Spring semester schedule, continued to do academic monitoring, and dealt with gear. Of course there was plenty of recruiting stuff to do, particularly with the juniors season starting to get rolling.

Looking back on the 2017 season

The NCAA women’s volleyball season is official over. Champions at all levels have been crowned. Seems like a good time to look back on the 2017 season with respect to MSU Volleyball to see how we did.

You can look back to my last in-season log entry to see how we ended the year in the Lone Star Conference (LSC). In this post I’ll take a look at things in more detailed fashion, and also look at the historical context of our performance.

The Rankings

We finished 16th in the NCAA Division II South Central Region’s RPI rankings, out of 33 teams. That’s up from 20th in 2016. On the Pablo ranking (available at Rick Kern), we ended the year at 115 out of 297 in Division II, a 12 spot improvement. In case you’re interested, we came in at 469 out of 1297 in the Pablo composite NCAA/NAIA all divisions ranking. We landed at 98 in the Massey Ratings, up from 143 in 2016.

2017 Team Statistical Performance

Let’s first look at how MSU compared to the rest of the LSC statistically. Here are the final team conference-only stats for 2017.

Our offensive performance lines up really well with where we finished in the league. We simply did not score enough in attack. We were a solid team on defense, and quite good when it came to serving and blocking. Unfortunately, that only gets you so far. At the end of the day, you have to put the ball away when you get the opportunity.

The biggest issue there was our low kill rate at just 31.5%. Could we have made fewer errors? Sure, but at 15.4% our error rate was not particularly high. It was within 1% of most of the teams above us, and better than some. By comparison, the Kill % for Tarleton was 39.4, Angelo and Kingsville were in the 37s, and everyone else other than Western NM was in the 34s. As you can see from our standing in terms of Opponent Digs and Opponent Blocks, we simply hit the ball at their defenders too often.

Year-over-Year Comparison

Offensively, we were basically at the same level in 2017 as we were in 2016 when our Hitting Efficiency was .163. Our 9th in that category this year is the same as it was last year, though we did move up one place in Kills/Set.

Looking at our offensive positions, it’s a mixed bag. We definitely got more production out of our middles – 3.7 k/s as compared to 2.9 k/s – and they hit for a little better efficiency. Our pins were less productive, however. The OHs might have had a slightly higher hitting percentage, but were a down a fraction in kills/set. The big drop was in the OPP position. We went from 2.35 kills and .174 efficiency to 1.03 and .069.

Our defense was where we really got better. We massively improved in Opponent Hitting Efficiency, going from .221 to .183. Our block was a huge factor there, as we increased our Blocks/Set by nearly 1 whole block. We jumped from 10th to 4th in that category. We also were better in digs, improving to 16.17 from 13.76 and moved up to 7th from 9th.

At the individual level, the first thing that really jumps out is the production at our libero position. In 2016 we didn’t have anyone above 2.63 digs/set. This season our libero finished at 4.81. Not surprisingly, there are also some dramatic improvements in blocking. In the OPP position we went from 0.48 to 1.02. Our MBs in 2016 were at 0.61 and 0.54. This year it was 1.21 and 0.86.

Historical perspective

While the program still has a way to go in becoming what we all think it could be, and this season didn’t meet expectations in some ways, it still had some good things happen with respect to the history of MSU Volleyball.

  • First ever foreign trip.
  • First time beating West Texas after more than 30 failed attempts.
  • Most overall and conference wins since 2013.
  • The 4-match win streak we had early in the season was the longest since 2013, and the longest away from home since 2011.
  • This was the first season since at least 2008, when national rankings started to be noted on the schedule, that our only non-conference losses were to ranked teams.
  • The set we took off of Central Oklahoma was the first we’d taken from a ranked team since 2014 and the first against a non-conference ranked team since 2011.
  • Season Blocks/Set were 6th highest on record, Total Blocks the 8th highest, and our 2.20 Blocks/Set in the LSC were the most since 2010.
  • Our 2nd place position in the LSC in Aces/Set was our best position since 2007
  • The 4th place our top OH held in the LSC Kills/Set ranking was highest for an MSU attacker on record (2004 the first available).
  • Our setter’s 3rd place in conference Assists/Set was the best ranking for an MSU player since 2008.
  • Our freshman MB’s 1.21 Blocks/Set in the LSC was the most for an MSU player since 2005.

We can add in the fact that our combined total of 27 wins over the last two seasons is the most since the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. We need 14 wins in 2018 for the best 3-year total since 2008 to 2010.

Thoughts on the season – big picture

Generally speaking, I am satisfied with the season. Was it disappointing to miss out on the conference tournament? Of course.That fact that we did so is a good lesson in how things you have no control over can decide your fate. We had more wins this year than last, but finished one place lower in the standings.

At the same time, though, it’s also a lesson in how you need to perform every time out. Had we won a couple of those matches we lost early in the season due to really poor performances, our season could have ended very differently.

I think one of the issues we had early in the conference season is that we were too focused on outcome.In particular, I think there was too much pressure to win. That may sound a bit odd on the face of it, but stick with me.

The idea of reaching the NCAA tournament had taken hold in a lot of minds. It’s something the program hasn’t done since 2007, so obviously it’s a major goal. The problem, though, is only 3 or 4 teams from the conference make the NCAA tournament. We were a team that barely made it into the top 8 of the LSC in 2016. It’s not such an easy thing in a competitive conference to move up 4-5 spots from one year to the next.

So there was all this internal pressure to win at the start of the LSC season. This was in a group of players with no history of being in that kind of situation, and thus no real tools to handle it. It’s something we’re working on, but it takes time and experience. On top of that, the players are sick of losing – especially in conference. That can lead to playing not to lose rather than playing to win. I think we definitely had issues with that over the course of the season.

The combination of those two things made for some notable ups and downs in mentality. This wasn’t helped at all by the death of an MSU football player early in the season. That threw everyone for an emotional loop. These are young people who haven’t had to deal much with that sort of thing yet in their lives.

All in all, though, I think the season represented pretty good progress. We finished #16 in the NCAA South Central Region rankings, out of 33 teams. That’s up from #20 in 2016, and #25 in 2015. Importantly, we kept improving – and wanting to improve – right up to the end. That was definitely not the case in 2016 where we basically just survived the last couple of weeks of the season.

Thoughts on the season – the details

In any season there are areas which go well and those that don’t. The 2017 was no different in that regard.

From a playing perspective, the major objective we had coming out of the 2016 season was better defense. Our block was poor and we didn’t dig nearly as many balls as we felt we should. We made defense the top priority for our off-season development. We definitely were much better in that arena this year. The one area we persistently struggled in, though, was defending against the right side attack.

The offense for me was a disappointment. We just never could get that going the way we wanted. Part of it was a decided lack of any real right side threat. We might have been able to get more there with a personnel change, but it would have meant significantly reducing our blocking presence. In any case, that’s a change we really couldn’t have made until later in the season given who was available and the progression of player development.

The other trouble area was the second OH position. The two players who took turns there struggled with their consistency and made far too many errors in attack. We were not helped by losing our freshman OH early on to a knee injury. She would have at least challenged for playing time.

One thing I like a lot is that our senior players went out on their best season at MSU. I mean that both in terms of team and personal performance. Our attacking players had their most kills and their best hitting percentages this year. Our defensive players had their most digs this year. And our setter had her most assists (and digs) this season. You expect that to be the case, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Looking forward

It will be an interesting situation for the program moving forward. Next season we will only have two players with more than a single season’s experience at MSU. Everyone else will either be 2017 or 2018 freshmen or transfers. One the one hand that means little in the way of experience at our level of competition. On the other hand, though, it also means none of the baggage left over from the teams that finished last in the LSC in 2014 and 2015. In a way, now is when the real future for MSU Volleyball is shaped. That’s pretty exciting.

Coaching Log – December 4, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

The end of the regular season doesn’t mean the end of the work! Here’s what’s been going on since my last update. I’ll follow this up with more of a season recap post.

Lone Star Conference Post-Season

The conference tournament took place November 16-18 at Tarleton, the top seed as regular season champions. Here’s the final regular season standings.

Angelo held the tiebreaker over Kingsville to take the #3 seed in the tournament. Similarly, Western NM held the tiebreak over Eastern NM to get the #7 seed.

Here’s the bracket.

#1 Tarleton State vs. #8 Eastern New Mexico
#4 Texas A&M-Kingsville vs. #5 West Texas A&M
#3 Angelo State vs. #6 Texas Woman’s
#2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. #7 Western New Mexico

Woman’s beat Angelo and WT beat Kingsville in first round upsets. Tarleton and Commerce both advanced. In the semifinals, Tarleton beat West Texas, while Woman’s beat Commerce. Tarleton handled Woman’s easily in the final to secure the conference’s automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament.

In the other conferences in our NCAA region, top seeded Regis won the RMAC tournament. In an upset, however, St. Mary’s won the Heartland tournament, defeating top seed Arkansas-Fort Smith. Although AFS went into the tournament as the #7 team in the Region rankings, the NCAA selection committee decided their loss was sufficient to drop them out. St. Mary’s received the Heartland’s automatic bid as tournament champion, to go along with Tarleton and Regis from the other conferences. The five at-large bids were then split between Lonestar and RMAC, with the LSC getting three places. Angelo, West Texas, and Commerce filled those spots.

Here’s the bracket.

#1 Regis vs. #8 St. Mary’s
#4 Colorado School of Mines vs. #5 Angelo
#3 Metro State vs. #6 Commerce
#2 Tarleton State vs. #7 West Texas

The first three matches all went by the seedings, though Commerce did push Metro State to five sets. The big surprise was West Texas winning in four over Tarleton. In the second round WT beat Metro State. They then faced Regis in the region final. That’s where the run ended, in a 3-1 loss.


Two of our players were selected for conference recognition. Our senior libero was voted to 2nd team All-Conference. She finished 3rd in the conference in digs/set. You may recall that last season she was also selected to the 2nd team as an OH.

Our senior setter was Honorable Mention All-Conference. She received similar recognition in 2016. This year she finished 3rd in the LSC in assists per set. She was also selected to the Academic All-Conference team. We were actually surprised our senior OH did not get the academic award.

Player Meetings

We met with all the players the week after our season ended. That included the seniors, though in their case it was more about making sure they knew expectations of them moving forward (study hall, grade checks, volunteer hours). Mainly the idea was to do a look back. We plan to do more forward looking and planning at the start of second term.

Roster Changes

Two of the juniors in the team told us during their meetings that they will not return for 2018. Neither were a huge surprise.

One was a defensive specialist who had some ups and downs this year. It seemed like every time she was starting to perform well something happened (injury, illness) to set her back. More than that, though, she’s heading into a senior year where her class schedule looks like it will make it just about impossible to be on the team.

The other is a walk-on setter. She played a lot during her freshman year, but barely at all since. The Argentina trip gave her a chance to play in competitive matches, and she filled in when our senior setter went down with an ankle injury. She was third on the depth chart, with our sophomore setter ahead of her. Despite that, she was never a complainer. Given the playing situation, and increasing demands on the academic side of things, it is not too surprising she’s decided to change priorities.


November features the NCAA early signing period. We had four players sign their National Letters of Intent. One is a setter from Kansas, one was an OH from Texas, and the other two are defensive specialists/liberos, also from Texas.

Four additions may seem like a lot, but in our case it’s just getting started. We’re losing five players to graduation. Add to that the two I mentioned above who will not return next season and you’re up to needing seven to keep the ranks at the same number.

Even before figuring in the additional departures we were planning to probably bring in two more players. One is a transfer MB because we won’t have much experience in that position next season. We were also thinking to bring in a freshman MB to get our numbers in that position up to four. You can get away with three (many pro and international teams do), but we’d feel more comfortable with the additional body – especially if it was a more developmental player.

With the departure of a setter and a defensive specialist, we’re now also thinking about bringing in players to fill those positions. We’re looking transfer for the DS, as we’ll have a senior and two freshmen in that position. For the setter, though, a second freshman would work just fine in all likelihood.


We ran a tryout for potential transfers. It was tricky to fit in. We have to give the players time off after the season ends and cannot do anything inside the last 7 days before finals. Also, we had to use the secondary gym as basketball had the main one all tied up.

I think we had nine total. There were three prospective middle transfers and four potential liberos. A couple others came for next year’s consideration. All were from local junior colleges. We also had a current MSU student come to tryout, but had to put her off because of an issue with her physical.