This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2021-22 season for the Medaille College men.

Here’s how things stood in the conference after the previous week’s matches.

All the top 5 entered the week confirmed as having a spot in the conference tournament. In our case, while it was mathematically possible to catch Thiel ahead of us, it wasn’t very realistic. Two of their three remaining matches were against the bottom two. On top of that, we would have to finish with more wins than them as their two victories over us gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker.

On the flip side, St. Vincent could still potentially catch us for the 6th and final spot. To do so they would have to beat us and Hiram. If they managed that, it would come down to who had the best win in conference play. In other words, which of us beat the highest ranked team in the final standings. With our win over Geneva last week, that’s currently us. But who knows where things will be at the end.

To give you a sense of the possibilities, here’s what’s on this week’s schedule.

Wednesday singles: Medaille vs. Penn St.-Behrend, Thiel vs. Hiram, and Mount Aloysius vs. Penn St.-Altoona

Saturday tri-matches: Medaille & Hiram at St. Vincent, Thiel & Hilbert at Mount Aloysius, Penn St.-Behrend & Penn St.-Altoona at Geneva.

That last tri-match in particular could really influence the final standings.

Monday/Tuesday training

We were down a couple of guys on Monday, and a couple of guys had niggles from the weekend, so it was a fairly light session. The biggest focus was on serve and serve receive. We still weren’t at full squad on Tuesday, but we had enough to work on offensive elements ahead of Wednesday’s match.

Wednesday – Penn State Behrend

Behrend came in on an 8-match conference win streak. Their only loss on the year was a 3-2 one to Geneva. We had the misfortune of playing them when our Setter was still sidelined. As I noted, they handled us pretty easily. Statistically, they lead the league in most offensive and defensive categories.

We had a good first two sets, playing Behrend pretty tough. We lost them 22 and 20. While we did a good job slowing down their OH who is probably the favorite for Player of the Year this season – at least based on the stats – the same can’t be said for the middle and right side. Then we fell back into some old patterns of getting individually absorbed and got whipped in the 3rd, 25-15.

Winning the match would have for sure locked us in to the post-season mathematically. We couldn’t get above 6th barring some massively unlikely scenario, however, so losing didn’t change where we were likely to finish.

Thursday/Friday training

Unfortunately, a nasty head cold hit me basically right after the match on Wednesday. I’d had some sniffles prior, but that really ramped up on my drive up. The gym had been quite warm, which might have been a factor. Regardless, I felt terrible all day Thursday, so had to leave my assistant to run practice. It sounds like the session went well.

Friday was a disappointment. Two of my assistants who normally play in with the guys on Friday couldn’t make it, plus one of our MBs was missing again due to family issues. That severely limited what we could do. Not that it was going to be a long or high intensity session given our early start (6am), long trip (took nearly 5 hours to get their), and back-to-back matches the next day. We did some work on hitting against a big double block, though.

Saturday – Saint Vincent

Saint Vincent didn’t have a midweek match, so they came in to this match 2 behind us and needing a tiebreaker to go in their favor to grab 6th. We played a bit sloppy in the first set, resulting in the hosts taking it 25-23, despite us out-hitting them .286 to .182. After that, though, it was all Medaille. We hit for an increasingly better percentage each match (ending up at .385 in the 4th), while keeping SVC’s offense well contained (they hit negative in the 3rd and 4th). The result was wins of 20, 17, and 14.

Saturday – Hiram

Hiram swept Thiel on Wednesday to go to 10-4. That kept them in the running to potentially finish as high as 2nd. Having locked up 6th place after winning the prior match, with no chance of getting any higher, we really didn’t have anything to play for in this one. Since we might end up playing Hiram in the quarterfinals (if they finished 3rd), I didn’t really want to show them much. On the flip side, Hiram did have something to play for, so we were likely to see them at or near their best. They beat us pretty easily – 14, 15, 18. We went through a period where it was like the last set against Behrend on Wednesday, but the guys recovered from that and played much better.

Coming up

As it turns out, Hiram did indeed finish 3rd. That means we’ll be playing at their place on Tuesday.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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