facebook_pixel

Tag Archive for university volleyball

Coaching Log – April 3, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

Spring Break has come and gone. We’re now into the “non-traditional season” where we are back to 20 hours per week.

Recruiting

I mentioned in my last update that we are looking to bring in one more transfer player for next season in MB/OPP role. That remains an on-going process, but we may have found someone for the position. Hopefully, more will follow on that shortly.

Looking at the 2018 class, we had another setter in to practice with the team on Friday. With only three more weeks left in our Spring season, we are trying to get in as many good prospects (in all positions) as we can so we can see then in the context of our team.

Team Training

We did not practice on Monday because of the 2-days-off rule given that we were playing on Saturday. Tuesday and Thursday we continued with the sand training – smaller groups doing drills one day, then doubles competition the other. Friday we had a recruit in practice with us, so we dedicated much of the session to working through line-ups and rotations ahead of the next day’s competition.

Wednesday I actually ran the session. The head coach is due to have her baby in the next week or so, and wanted to use the lack of having a recruit working in with us to get the team used to me directing things for when it’s likely to happen later.

My practice plan

I developed the primary structure of the practice plan for that session as well. The focus was to continue the work we’re doing in the beach training in terms of defensive tenacity, reading, and ball-handling.

We started with 3-person over-the-net pepper as a ball-control warm-up. In this version each group has to get 7 consecutive pass-set-X sequences, with only one “wash” allowed. A wash was a rep where they either just kept the ball in play or didn’t execute well enough on their X. They had to do down ball, push-tip, roll shot, and back row attack as their X. So, basically they had four sets of 7 sequences to complete. There was an 8 minute time limit.

After pepper we gave them five minutes of target serving, which we haven’t done in a while. The targets were deep 1 and deep 5. I told them their goal was 7 serves to their favored zone and 4 to the other.

We then played a Servers vs. Passers game. This is one we started using in the Fall. The servers earned points by hitting seams (between players or sideline), but lost them for serves in the net. The passers earn points by good passes. Each round the servers served 5 balls (misses did not count). When a round was complete, passers and servers changed places. They combined their serving and passing scores for an aggregate. We went through twice.

Next up was Player Winners. We did this half court, so had two games going on side-by-side. After each round, the players with the most points on Court B moved up to Court A, and those with the fewest on A moved down to B. Rounds were five minutes long. We played a total of four rounds. The last one ended when one person reached five points.

The last part of practice was 5-on-5 play. We played 5-point games, alternating between 3-up, 2-back and 2-up, 3-back. This was to give our middles a break and to let them play a bit of defense.

Tournament

We hosted a 6-team tournament on Saturday. It featured a trio of area junior colleges along with two other Division II teams along with ourselves. One of the latter was fellow Lone Star Conference member West Texas. We did not end up playing them, though. Instead, we played two of the JUCOs and the other Division II team. It was a schedule that saw us play progressively tougher matches, which was a good challenge. The format was 50-minute rounds. That generally worked out to two full 25-point games and part of a third.

As you do in Spring tournaments, we used multiple line-ups in our matches. There were three of them we rotated among. One was a straight up 5-1. Another was a modified 5-1 where our taller setter played front row and our shorter one played back row. The other was a 6-2 in which our taller setter played OPP when she was front row. This allowed us to mix things up with our three pin hitters, one of whom also played as libero. And of course our one MB had to play full time. We set up an on-off-on-off-on schedule to help keep from running her down.

Overall, it was a pretty good day. Naturally, there’s a list of stuff that we could have done better – some bigger, some smaller. Given our current active roster, there were always going to be some soft spots in our play. We were much better in defense than was the case back during season, though, and generally scrapier in all aspects. Those have been big focus points this term, so it was good to see that playing out against other teams.

It’s worth noting that one of the common themes in the player’s comments after the tournament was communication. They said it was really good on the court. I think this comes from all the non-structured situations we put them in over these last however many weeks. They haven’t had a lot of defined roles and positions. As a result, they were forced to work things out amongst themselves.

Coaching Log – March 27, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

Spring Break has come and gone. We’re now into the “non-traditional season” where we are back to 20 hours per week.

Roster

We had a returning player quit at the beginning of the week, dropping our current active roster to 10. That’s not counting our grad student going only part-time this semester so she will be eligible in the Fall. The departure was unusual in that you don’t often see 2-year starters leave in the middle of Spring, but in the grand scheme of things we were not totally surprised. She said she basically doesn’t love it anymore.

We did get the commitment from the 2017 middle prospect I mentioned in my last update.That gets us up to five incoming freshmen, plus a transfer for the Fall. Obviously, that also helps pick up the slack from our latest departure. The head coach was thinking to bring in one more pin hitting transfer. Now that might be more of a MB/RS type player.

In other news, our top OH from last season finally got a diagnosis on her knee problems. The result is surgery, though not the sort expected to keep her from being ready for the Fall if everything works out.

Schedule

The player who quit was one of our two Middles, which put us in a bind. Our original plan was to play tournaments on March 25, April 1st, and April 22nd. We couldn’t see how that was going to work with just one MB and thin ranks on the pins as well. There aren’t really any rules about line-ups and stuff in the Spring, so our remaining middle can just stay permanently in, but that’s a lot to ask – especially when you add in travel. As a result, we decided to pull out of the first and third tournaments. We’re keeping the one for April 1st, though, as that’s the one we’re hosting. We’ll find a way to make it work – probably by spacing out when we play to give our one MB a break.

Our base plan for the five weeks of our Spring season is to practice Monday through Friday. If we have something on Saturday (like our home tournament) we take one day off to abide by the 2-days-off rule. The team also does strength and conditioning work three days per week.

Team Training

This week we did indoor team practices on Monday and Friday, with beach sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday was off. Originally that was because we planned to play in a tournament on Saturday. When we had to cancel that, we scheduled some morning community service hours. So we still needed to give the team the midweek day off.

The beach sessions were of two different sorts. On Tuesday we broke the team into two groups of 5. They did a lot of ball-handling oriented work in the sand for about 90 minutes. On Thursday we just had them play beach doubles. We set up a schedule where most teams played three games to 21, with one team playing four. It was extremely windy, so the players faced real weather challenges aside from having to adapt to the difference surface, the smaller court, etc.

Because we are bringing in so many new players (6-7) in the Fall, we aren’t doing any real team play type work at this point. The focus instead is on ball-handling, improved reading and reacting on defense, and generally becoming more tenacious. The beach sessions are aimed at working in those areas, and we’re taking the same sort of attitude with what we do indoors. That means doing a lot of things like team pepper, serving and passing, and small-sided games.

Coaching Log – March 10, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

Spring Break is upon us! We just finished the first half of the semester and our period of 8 hours a week. When the players return from Break on the 20th we will begin our “non-traditional season”. That means like in the Fall we will be allowed 20 hours per week. In other words, more like the regular season. The one major difference is that we are required to give the players two days off per week. That will last five weeks.

Team Training

This week the players did their second round of testing, following the one from early in the term. They repeated the broad jump, standing jump, approach jump, and timed mile tests. There were good improvements on the run, but most of the jump measures were pretty similar to the prior results. That bothered the players some, but our strength coach told them it wasn’t a big deal. We did talk, though, about doing more work on jump technique. Some players are not as explosive as they can be.

As noted before, we had a weekly schedule that mixed small group and full team sessions. In the last two weeks, though, we tweaked that a bit. Last week we did a 90 minute team session and only 30 minute small group sessions. This week we only had a 2 hour team session, partly as a function of recruiting plans (see below).

Yes, cutting down on small group work limited the more individualized training. We felt, though, that big picture we need to work some team stuff out. The biggest part of that is playing mentality – in particular in defense.

I am happy to report that we have seen some really good defense in recent team sessions. We make plays now that we did not make in the Fall. Part of that is a personnel thing. The transfer DS added this semester is extremely active and aggressive. That mentality seems to have helped raise everyone’s defensive intensity. This is a good thing. 🙂

Recruiting

I only made one recruiting trip since my last update. That was to Dallas for one of the regional qualifier tournaments. I had 28 prospects on my list, about half of whom we did not see previously. As before, these are mainly 2018 players. There were a couple of 2019s mixed in, though, playing up an age group. Our other assistant looked at some 2019s that day as well to build that list.

We brought a handful of prospective recruits to campus over the last few weeks. Some of them are 2018s, but we still need to fill out the 2017 team. With that in mind we also brought in a potential transfer OH and a MB in the 2017 class. All the visits went pretty well. The transfer OH committed to come. We’re waiting for a final decision from the MB, but the prospects are good.

We’ll do more 2018 visits after the Break and still want to get another transfer pin hitter for the Fall. I think my next recruiting event is the 3-day Lone Star tournament in April.

Argentina Trip

The fund raising efforts for the trip are underway. The team – including in the incoming freshman – reached out to friends and family. There wasn’t a ton of success, but at least the process is underway. On Wednesday afternoon we had a meeting to allow the players to talk through plans for events they can run to raise money. We also talked strategy for more direct donation seeking as that is very likely to be the major source of funds.

I connected with our contact in Argentina to get the planning ball rolling on that end. Someone also suggested the other day that we reach out to the university in Buenos Aires. Why we didn’t think of that before, I don’t know. In any case, I got the email address for the coach there and sent him a note. Our levels of play are likely quite different. That will make it hard to play or train together. Still, there is probably some way we can connect. Certainly that sort of thing looks good to the folks here on our campus.

Coaching Log – January 23, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

School is back in session, which means we are back in action!

Roster moves

As I mentioned in my last update, we had a player with major academic issues. We met with her last week. It wasn’t an easy meeting, but we decided that she needs to not be on the roster next season. She’s had two poor semesters on the grade front while in-season. That tells us she struggles to balance school and sports. We obviously want her to graduate. That means she needs to prioritize academics at this point. She can stay involved with the team, though.

On Wednesday we had a prospective transfer on campus for a visit and tryout. She’s a libero who played two seasons at an NAIA school, but wanted a different volleyball experience. She had some good qualities and we decided to bring her into the team straight away. Since she left her last school at the end of last semester, and it’s early enough in the new one here, she can join us for this term.

These moves put us at 11 players for the Spring. Two of them will be pure defensive players, with one other a DS/OH and another a DS/S. We have two straight up setters, three outside hitters, and two middles. There will be no OPPs, so one of the OHs will have to fill that spot when we play matches. We have one more setter on the squad, but in order to be eligible for Fall she cannot be full-time in the Spring.

Recruiting

Myself and our Grad Assistant were down in San Antonio for the Tour of Texas qualification tournament on the 15th and 16th. It was split between the Alamodome and San Antonio Convention Center. Our focus was on seniors in positions we might still want to fill with incoming freshmen, and on juniors for the 2018 recruiting class.

These big multi-day events are always a challenge. Basically, what you’re doing is spending all day on your feet walking and standing on concrete. One day is already enough for sore feet and a stiff lower back. When it comes to two or three days, it just all gets compounded. Plus, we spent about 12 hours on the road traveling to and from.

We looked at A LOT of players, which tends to be the case in these early events. The start of the club season is when players and families usually get going on recruiting efforts. As a result, we get a steady stream of emails from prospective players this time of year. To be honest, most of them simply are not at the level we need. That means a lot of what we do this time of year is culling the list.

Team Meeting

We had our first team meeting of the Spring on Thursday afternoon. We talked about the Argentina trip plan and fund raising. Our athletic trainer gave the team an update on personnel stuff among the training staff for this semester. We talked with them about what we took away from their end-of-season individual meetings, and went over some Spring planning stuff. A feature there was raising the level of expectations across the board. We also talked about some of what we’ll be doing to help further individual development and team cohesion.

Initial Testing

The players went through their initial Spring testing with our strength coach on Friday morning. They tested their verticals and broad jumps and ran a timed mile. They start strength and conditioning work on Monday.

Coaching Log – January 13, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

My last post in this long was more than a month ago now. I’ll be honest. There wasn’t a lot done after that in December. The whole coaching staff attended the AVCA Convention. Mainly we were all enjoying the break and doing our own things. Things got a lot more intense once 2017 hit, though! The last two weeks have been very busy, and next week school starts back up.

Roster Changes

We had another player let us know that she won’t be playing for us next year. It’s one of the red shirt juniors I mentioned in my last update. She’s facing ankle surgery and the timing of when she would have it down (May) is such that she would still be rehabbing by the team the season rolls around. She graduates in May and is looking at grad school elsewhere as we don’t have her desired program here. That combination really makes her decision fairly straightforward, if unfortunate.

The other red shirt Junior I mentioned in my last update will be carrying on with us. She will be a graduate student.

I mentioned one other player previously who was an injury question. It turns out her grades for last semester were very poor (the team generally did quite well). She is now behind the NCAA requirements in terms of credits earned. That means she is not eligible for the Spring. That does not make much of a difference given her injury recovery needs. It definitely is an issue moving forward, though.

Recruiting

There wasn’t much opportunity to ease into the recruiting. I had to go down to the Dallas area last weekend to spend a day splitting time between watching Juniors for the 2018 class and a few Seniors for 2017. That continues this weekend with two days evaluating a long list of prospects. The emails have been streaming in. Mostly it’s the 2018s, but a number of 2019s have emailed as well.

At this point we have two objectives. There are a couple of spots for the 2017-18 team we still need to fill. We are looking at potential transfers for one or two of those positions, but are looking at 2017 graduates for one or two. We want to bring in another middle to replace the freshman who left the team after the season. The lack of an outside hitter in our current sophomore class already had us thinking to bring in a transfer pin hitter for next season. The departing red shirt Junior mentioned above, pushes us further in that direction now. We are also looking for a good libero, either transfer or incoming freshman.

Spring planning

In my last update I mentioned the outcome of the player year-end meetings. The other day we met as a staff to discuss them and start planning. We already met with our strength coach to work out the schedule and plan there, so that’s in place. The tricky thing in the Spring is always player class schedules. We need to work around them to arrange team and small group training and activities.

Obviously, technical development is always a feature of Spring practices. We want to continue developing a winning team culture too, though. Arguably, that’s even more important for this program than the physical work the players do. Top of that list is establishing a higher standard of expectations for both practice and play. At the same time, though, we want to continue to develop the overarching chemistry. The group gets along really well off the court, which is great. They need more cohesion on the court, though.

As a staff we talked about the need for us to set the higher standard of expectations right from the outset and fostering an environment where the players pick up on that and perpetuate it of their own accord. We also talked about being more intentional in our feedback.

We will do our Spring (non-traditional) season after Spring Break (mid-March). That will include three days of competition. Between now and then, we can only do two ours of court time with each player per week (plus 6 hours in other activities). That will be split up between small groups and team work.

Foreign trip

The big development for our proposed team trip to Argentina in the Summer is that the interim Athletic Director has given us the thumbs up to move forward. We got group ticket price quotes and will not put down a deposit. Now the attention turns to fund raising. We estimate a total cost of about $62,500, which is no small amount of money. Thanks to our efforts in the Fall, we already have about $6000.

Naturally, a number of ideas for fundraising activities have been put forward. As you might expect, several are events of one kind or another. What it is going to come down to, though, is soliciting donations. I will keep you posted on what we do.

Coaching Log – December 9, 2016

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

Overall progress from 2015 to 2016

With the season over and done, it’s time to have a look at how we at Midwestern State did this year compared to last year. In 2015 the team was 6-26 overall, and 0-16 in the Lone Star Conference. They finished 9th out of 9 and did not make the conference tournament. One player was selected to the All-Conference team as Honorable Mention, and one made the Academic All-Conference list. Their region rank finished at 25, with an RPI of .458 and a .553 strength of schedule.

For 2016 we went 12-21 overall, 6-14 in conference play. We finished 8th of 11 teams in the league (two newcomers added this year) and qualified for the conference tournament. Three players earned All-Conference selection (one 2nd team, two Honorable Mention), and one made Academic All-Conference. Our region rank moved up to 20, our RPI ended up at .484, while our strength of schedule was .528.

At least some of the dip in strength of schedule was a function of the conference not being quite as strong this year. In 2015 the LSC had the top three ranked teams in the South Central region, plus the #7. This year we had two of the top three, then #8 and #9.

A major factor in our improvement was getting a couple of players into the team who were medical red shirts as Juniors in 2015. Both were significant contributors throughout the season, though they both also had persistent health issues slowing them down. Even with those two in the side, though, we were inexperienced. In terms of eligibility, we had no Seniors.

Drilling down

Statistically, we had both steps forward and steps backward.

Offense and serving are the two big improvement areas. We upped our hitting efficiency in-conference by 53 points (.163 vs. .110). That was driven almost entirely by a higher kill %. In terms of serving, we improved to 1.56 aces/game from 0.79. That took us from bottom of the league to third best.

Where we slipped was in block and defense, and in serve reception. Our opponent hitting efficiency slipped from .210 to .221. Blocks dropped to 1.27/game from 1.66, and digs declined to 13.76/game from 17.47. Service aces suffered rose to 1.61/game from 1.16.

Now, the block and digs numbers at least partly reflect the fact that in 2015 the team’s offense was poor. That resulted in more transition opportunities for the other team. The digs also, however, along with the passing issues, reflect a meaningful change in the libero position. The two players in that position in 2015 left the team last year. They each averaged about 4 digs/game. This year we had libero by committee. Four different players got meaningful time in the position. That was largely influenced by injuries. The player who got the most time was actually an in-season convert to the position (from setter).

Areas for improvement

Blocking, defense, and serve reception are clearly areas we will look to improve for 2017. We made some good improvements in defense in the second half of conference play. In fact, our dig % in our last 10 LSC matches of 2016 was better than the overall conference dig % for the 2015 team. Still, it’s an area where we feel like we can be much better. We probably need to lower our opponent hitting efficiency by about 60 points to really be competitive with the top teams in the league.

As much as the team hitting efficiency was significantly improved this year over last, that was just the start. We probably need to be 50 points better in that area next year. That will require both a higher kill % and a lower error %. We were at 33% kills this season. The best team (Tarleton) was at 40%, but the other three of the top four teams were at 37%. In terms of errors, we were at 16%. Angelo was tops there at 11%, with the others in the 14-15% range.

The other thing I’d like to see improved is serving. Specifically, I’d like to see us cut the errors down a little bit, while keeping the aces at a comparable level.

Player year-end meetings – structure

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve run individual meetings with the players to wrap up the season. Before I get into some of what came out of it, let me share with you the questions we asked. We gave them to everyone so they could think about their answers beforehand. Some came to their meetings with stuff actually written down.

They were:

  • What does the team need to do to get to the next level?
  • How can the coaching staff help the team reach the next level?
  • What do you as a player need to do to help the team get to the next level?
  • What can the coaching staff do to help you make that/those improvement(s)?
  • How can the coaching staff help you get the most out of your experience as a student-athlete?

That last question was mainly aimed at off-the-court, non-team type of stuff. Think academic support, facilities, travel, and things like that.

For each player we also came up with some things we wanted to make sure got talked about. They were a mixture of what we saw of them this year and thoughts on development moving forward.

We had a sheet for each player where the head coach made notes during the meeting. The players reviewed and signed the sheets at the end. We then gave them a copy.

Player year-end meetings – outcomes

I won’t bother with individual level stuff here. Instead I’ll focus on the common themes that came up from a team perspective. Two of them were the related areas of expectations and accountability. These things came up in different ways, but the general idea was the same. The team needs to set and maintain higher standards and expectations for themselves – individually and collectively – if we’re to step up our competitive level. Players need to be held accountable when they don’t meet those expectations – by the team as well as the coaching staff.

Leadership was the other major theme. Part of this had to do with the accountability element mentioned above. Leaders within the team are needed to make sure the group is at least meeting their level of expectations. There are other elements of leadership, though, and they came up as well.

Departures

We had two players tell us they needed to leave the team. One of them was a red shirt sophomore libero/ds with back injury issues. She was told by the doctors that it will take maybe three years for her to rehab her way back to even being able to get back into a regular workout level of health. The other was a freshman middle who felt like she needed to be able to focus more on the academic side of things.

There may yet be others added to this list. We have two players who graduate this year, but both who have eligibility remaining. They have some decisions to make about their respective futures. Both were all-conference this year, so they’d be big losses. There’s also another with an injury question.

Incoming players

We had four incoming freshmen sign letters of intent in November. One is a middle who was the best blocker in her Texas high school district. As noted above, that’s definitely an area of improvement need for us. One is an opposite who also earned district honors. Her high school and club background isn’t the strongest, so we feel like she’ll have a steeper developmental curve. The third is a lefty opposite who doesn’t have the same physical gifts as the second player, but who is much further along as a volleyball player. The problem there is she’s recovering from a Summer ACL injury, though it sounds like her rehab is progressing very well. The fourth is a local area OH who is very athletic and a multi-sport all-district competitor. She isn’t the tallest player in the world, though.

Recruiting

We had four players come to campus for an evening tryout last week. Three were liberos and one was a middle. Whether any of them come is yet to be decided. Between our losses and our need to strengthen certain positions, we are likely to bring in at least two more players. Obviously, that means we’re still looking and evaluating – both high school players and prospective transfers.

Looking back on my job search thinking

Volleyball Coach

I recently found myself reading the post I wrote at the start of my 2014-15 job search. It was interesting to revisit my thinking at that time.

This was December 2014. It was my third year at Exeter. I had in mind the completion of my PhD and likely the end of my time in England. There wasn’t much chance I’d be able to stay there in a primarily coaching capacity. The timing was such that my main focus was on US college coaching jobs. They were the ones opening up at the time, though I also had professional jobs in Europe in mind. I had to wait until later to go after them.

I definitely expected to end up back in college volleyball at that time. While I knew it would be a challenge given my long time away, I felt like I had a decent set of credentials. I could go back as an assistant coach, but I figured at that point I was better suited for a head coach position. When it came to looking at a professional job, I thought it would be the other way around. I figured I’d probably need to be an assistant somewhere first to learn the ropes in that structure.

It’s funny how things played out!

Expectations vs. Reality

Although I applied for a long list of both head and assistant positions, I barely got a sniff at any US coaching jobs at that time. There was one phone interview for a school in Texas (coincidentally). That’s as far as it went, though. It was such a poor response that I very seriously thought about non-coaching jobs.

As you probably know, I ended up getting a professional job as a head coach in Sweden. I didn’t really understand at the time I wrote that old post how few assistant coaching opportunities there were for non-locals (or at least non-EU). Outside of the very top leagues (and clubs) the only real opportunities were as head coach for foreigners, and I didn’t have the right passport. I also wasn’t very well connected to hear about potentials positions.

Of course things didn’t play out exactly as I planned in Sweden at Svedala. The team had one of the club’s best seasons, but I was cut loose early in the second half of the campaign. Fortunately, I already had some pokers in the fire, and was shortly thereafter hired at Midwestern State where I am now. I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d end up an assistant in Division II, but that’s where I am.

Interestingly, the Midwestern job wasn’t the only one for which I was offered an interview. I also got called about doing one for a Division III head coaching position. By that time, however, I had already started at MSU.

What did line up

In that old post I talked about the sort of position I wanted, given the opportunity. It was one where I could build something – or at least be part of doing so. That’s something which never changed. It remains true today. It’s a big reason why I am at MSU. The situation here is all about rebuilding a program. I may not be the head coach, but I still have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact.

You can follow my progress in that regard via my Coaching Log entries.

 

Coaching Log – November 21, 2016

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

The regular season is done. Here’s the final Lone Star Conference standings.

lsc-2016final

It’s interesting to look back at how that compares to the preseason poll

lsc-prepoll

There were definitely some surprises in there. On the positive side, Eastern NM has to top that list. Can’t imagine anyone had them ending up as high as fourth. Commerce is in there as well. And of course MSU surprised some folks. Clearly, based on the vote tally, we were not expected to do much of anything.

The biggest negative surprise must be Woman’s, though an August coaching change and pre-season medical issues for a big part of the team always suggested some struggles. Cameron is the other one in that category. I’ll be honest that they surprised me. They were a much smaller team than I remember from when we played them in the Spring.

So here’s what the conference tournament bracket looked like.

lsc-tournbracketNotice that while Commerce was listed ahead of Eastern NM in the above standings, with both teams tied for 4th, it was Eastern who was given the #4 seed. The teams split their two matches, which is the first tiebreak. The second one looks at the best win for each team. Eastern just beat Angelo on the final Friday of the season, so they take the higher spot. Not that it really matters as they play each other either way.

Interestingly, if we were able to get by Angelo, our second round match would be against one of the two teams above us we beat this year.

Monday

We had a team talk before practice to go over some logistic stuff for the week ahead. We also talked mentality for the tournament – namely “It’s a new season.” We had all the players share their view on something each was proud of for the team this season.

Practice started with a ball-handling warm-up. That progressed to a serve and pass exercise that focused on seams for both servers and passers. We played back row and front row 4s before finishing with a 6 v 6 game. Because we wanted on defending an in-system offense out of serve receive we did a new exercise. The teams alternated receiving an easy serve (ball chipped in by a coach). To get a point a team had to win two rallies in a row. They could then earn a bonus point by serving and winning that rally as well.

Tuesday

Our probably final full practice of the season was a good one. We started with team pepper. After that, we did hitters vs defense to put on the court stuff we talked about before practice with respect to defending Thursday’s opponent.

Next up was a 6 v 6 game. Every rally started with a ball to the setter, creating a setter-out situation. A team had to win two of those in a row to earn a rotation. If they failed to win a rally, the other side started the sequence. The idea was that it would be a race to complete all six rotations, though we also kept a regular score (rallies won). If a player hit the ball into the net or was stuff blocked out-of-system, their team had to back up a rotation.

Basically, that was a near continuous play game. The only brief breaks were went a team rotated.

We finished with a regular game featuring bonus points. Teams got a bonus for aggressive serves into the seam, for perfect passes, and for getting kills on shoots (31s) when the ball was passed off the net. That made things go relatively quickly.

Wednesday

We traveled to San Angelo ahead of the start of the conference tournament on Thursday. In the afternoon we did a 55 minute practice. In the evening we attended the awards banquet. We had three players voted for all-conference – two honorable mention and one 2nd team. Last year’s team only had one honorable mention. We also had one selected for academic all-conference.

Thursday

As the 8th place team we faced 1st place Angelo in the final match of the first round – the 7:30pm start time. The result was basically as expected. We lost 3-0, with each set 25-16. Personally, I felt like we played them closer than that. Our commitment to defense was perhaps the highest of the season, which was great to see. We just lacked a bit in our execution in places. That’s not something you can afford when you’re the #8 playing the #1.

And thus did our season end.

Angelo went on to beat Tarleton in the tournament final, to no one’s surprise.

Moving forward

With regular practice and play over, I’ll shift away from the normal weekly updates. We will start back up with the players in limited hours (8 hours, only 2 on-court) next semester. In March we will begin our Spring (non-traditional) season when we get to practice regularly for a few weeks and play in some tournaments. Between now and then I’ll provide updates as I feel there are interesting things to report.

Coaching Log – November 14, 2016

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

It’s down to the last week of the regular season. Angelo clinched the title with their win over us last week. Every other place remained up for grabs, as you can see from the standings.

lsc-110716

Our participation in the conference tournament was in the balance as we were tied with Texas Woman’s. Although the standings show Midwestern above Woman’s, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head. We lost both times we played them, so they actually started the week in pole position. We, therefore, needed to win at least one more match than they did to qualify for the tournament.

So what were the prospects? Not super. Our schedule featured a home match against the bottom team and an away match at the current #3 team. Woman’s was on the road at West Texas and UT Permian Basin. Their odds of winning at WT were small. UTPB maybe not as much. The lost to them in 5 the last time, but Woman’s was down one of their best hitters at the time.

Monday

Defense was a big focus for this session. We watched video of our play from the weekend. We highlighted some good stuff offensively, but also some shortcomings on defense. Positioning was part of that. We also talked about our blocking. That stuff was carried over into practice.

We started with a 6 v 6 team pepper with a specific focus on defensive movement for back row attacks. After that we played a target serving game. From there it was a progression to an out of system game. That allowed us to work on some positioning elements, while also continuing to develop that area of play. We finished with 6 v 6 play.

Tuesday

This was our last home match of the season, and Cameron was the visitor. This is a match we viewed ourselves as strongly favored for based both on Cameron’s record and our earlier performance against them.

That ended up playing out. The Cameron players really didn’t have a lot of fight in them, especially as the match went along. We weren’t as efficient on offense as we could have been, which ended up leading to several long rallies. That resulted in our digging 70 balls, which was second most for a 3-set match in the conference this year.

After our match we hosted a playoff match between two of the local area high schools. One of the teams actually featured one of our committed incoming freshmen. Her team won in five in front of a good, enthusiastic crowd. Part of the revenue match is supposed to go to our program.

Wednesday

This was a pretty low energy session. It picked up toward the end, but generally the focus level was below expectations. We once more began with a 6 v 6 team pepper, though slightly modified from the one we did on Monday. With a review of the stats from our last match against Friday’s opposition in mind (we served very poorly), we repeated Monday’s serving competition next.

After that, we move into hitters vs. blockers. Mainly that meant the OHs. This was all done off serve, and things went badly. The servers really took the passers apart. There were very few in-system balls for the setters to set as a result.

Our last planned exercise was 22 vs. 22. The bonus element was saying if a team got a first ball kill on a tip or shot they automatically won the big point. The play was somewhat sluggish, so after a couple of rounds we just finished with some 4s play.

Thursday

This was primarily a travel day, as we had an 8-hour trip ahead of Friday’s match. We did stop along the way to do a short practice at the high school of one of our players, however, to take a break from the bus. That was followed by dinner at her home before getting back on the road and finishing the trip.

Friday

The final match of the regular season saw us playing at Kingsville. They handled us relatively easily the first time around as we struggled considerably in serve receive and served poorly.

img_20161111_160635

Serving was much better this time around, though we still has some issues in serve receive. We got aced 9 times in the first two sets, which obvious puts a team under pressure. The funny thing is we hit .481 and .290 in those sets. Part of that was that we passed well when not getting aced. Another part was our hitters keeping their errors down. Unfortunately, we struggled to stop their offense as they hit .458 and .351 respectively. Both sets ended 25-19 against.

The third set was very evenly matched. Both teams struggled a bit on offense, hitting in the .100s. We just couldn’t take advantage of a few key opportunities to score, and ended up losing 25-22.

Saturday

On Friday evening, Texas Woman’s lost to West Texas. That left it to their match at UTPB on Saturday to determine the 8th spot for the conference tournament. If they won, we’d end up tied in the standings, but they would take the final place by way of the tiebreak.

I followed the match online via the live stats. Woman’s won the first two sets. I figured we were probably toast at that point. UTPB came back and won two tight sets to send it to a fifth, though. The final was a nail-biter. Woman’s had a couple of match points, but ended up going down 22-20.

Observations

Time to prepare the team to take on Angelo at their place for the second time in two weeks!

As an aside, the other MSU Fall sports have had pretty successful season. Cross Country and Women’s Soccer both won their conference championships. Men’s Soccer was regular season champion, but lost in the tournament final. Both soccer teams have made the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Nationally ranked Football lost their last game of the year to only managed a 2nd place finish in conference.