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

It was a pretty short week last week. After playing Saturday and Sunday, we had Monday off for the holiday. Then, thanks to the somewhere around 20″ of snow Buffalo got Sunday/Monday we didn’t practice Tuesday either. That left us with just Wednesday and Thursday, as we played in a tournament at Misericordia on Friday and Saturday.

Sticking with our pattern of guys missing, we lost our libero for a week on Wednesday. Why? Because he failed to upload his booster info to the school system, then failed to show up for the testing mandatory for those with no booster on record. Automatic week away from the team.

We don’t have another experienced libero in the team (other than our setter), so I had to figure out a solution. I decided to DS for one of the Middles and let the other play all the way around. I opted for DS to allow the player taking on that roll to be able to use his hands without worrying about his position relative to the 3m line (plus, he’s one of our more effective servers and liberos can’t serve in the men’s game). Our two practices featured a lot of work letting him take 2nd ball, as well as the usual defense and reception.

On the plus side, I finally got an assistant in place who could travel with us. He actually played at Medaille.

Friday – Wilkes

Our first match of the tournament was against Wilkes. We were their second match of the year, with their first coming against Misericorida immediately prior to ours. We got to watch basically all of the last set of that match. That told us we were likely to see a lot of out-of-system play on their side of the net, and that we’d need to be ready to defend against off-speed balls, balls off the block, etc.

What ended up being our biggest challenge was putting the ball in play from the service line. We missed 28 in the four sets. Three guys had at least 6! We won 3-1 thanks to a strong offensive performance (we hit .364 to their .097). Better serving would have certainly seen us win in 3.

Honestly, I feel a lot of it was the guys getting too caught up in a “don’t miss” mentality. They knew they just needed to put the ball in play to have a good chance of getting the point. The more they missed the more they worried about missing. It became a feedback loop.

Saturday – Misericordia

We got the home team for our first match on Day 2. They didn’t look great against Wilkes the day before, but then took Lancaster Bible (LBC) – a team who got votes toward the preseason Top 15 – 5 sets at the same time we were playing Wilkes. Their coach reported that they had a strong serving performance and LBC was missing their top OH.

Things started out very competitively. Both teams hit a solid .304 in the first set. They just edged us out 25-23. At some point along the way, though, our setter hurt his hand. Then, later, he added to that by getting a finger jammed by an attacker when he went for a 1-handed save on a tight pass. One of our MBs was also struggling with a painful knee. As a result, things just kind of petered out, especially offensively. We hit .000 in the 2nd, then .100 in the third. Disappointing for what was looking like a nicely competitive match.

On the plus side, we cut our missed serves as we took on a more aggressive mentality.

Saturday – Lancaster Bible

Our hurting MB was able to do some stuff to reduce his discomfort, and our setter got a bit of Trainer attention for his fingers before we played LBC. Both definitely helped in our performance for the final match of the weekend. Not that it paid off right away. We had our struggles in reception in the first set, and then it seemed like when we did get a good pass we had a hitting error. We ended up hitting .000 in the first set, and losing 25-16.

Neither team played very well in the second set, with both of us hitting negative. LBC didn’t handle the float serve very well and right now that’s the majority of our servers, so we had them out of system a lot. They did enough to take the set 25-20, though.

Set 3 was the most competitive and best-played. We got on top of them early, though never by more than a few points. After we got up 24-22, they scored three straight to take a 25-24 lead. From there, however, we scored 4 of the next 5 to put it away 28-26.

We continued to have some really good stretches of play in the 4th set, but too often it failed to produce a point, and we lost that one 25-17.

As much as we didn’t get the offensive performance we needed (.060 on the match), we definitely did some good things in defense. We didn’t rack up a ton of stuff blocks, but we got our hands on quite a few attacks and forced their hitters to either hit right at our defenders or make bad swings. Our 40 digs was one short of the total we had in both the prior matches combined. The MB I had playing all the way around (though I used a serving sub for him) led the team with 12 digs!

Thoughts on the weekend

Overall, I was pleased with the weekend’s play. The only really disappointing period was in those two bad sets against Misericordia. The level of competition was good for us, and getting that first win under our belt – plus closing out LBC in that one set – was a plus. Would it have been better if we had a full team? Sure. But the guys competed and supported each other. Since we haven’t had everybody together for even one practice yet so far, these matches have been big learning opportunities. I think we used them pretty well.

Coming up

No matches this week. Our next week 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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