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.
Geneva falling 3-1 to Hiram – while a repeat scoreline from their first meeting – was an interesting result given Hiram’s recent form. No surprise outcomes otherwise.
I had serve and pass as a big focus for Monday. That involved both some target serving and a bunch of game type exercises that featured initiation via serve. I was happy with our serving quality in those situations creating a challenge for our passers. A secondary focus was on hitting-block-defending in terms of shots and going up against stronger blocks. We did this by playing 4v4 on a narrowed court.
Tuesday the focus was more on offensive execution. We played 5v5 and 6v6 games to that end. One of them was 25-or-reset to concentrate on closing things out.
Wednesday – Hilbert
The first match of our 4-match home stand was against Hilbert. Since we met them about a month prior they picked up a 3-2 win over Mount Aloysius, but had a bunch of 0-3 losses otherwise. We definitely didn’t want a repeat of the weak performance that resulted in a scraped by 3-2 win last time out.
Fortunately, this time out it was a 3-0 win. Not an easy one, though. Despite us hitting .333 with 17 kills, the first set went 27-25. We started off relatively poorly in that set (7-2 down), then did even worse in the 2nd (11-3 down)! Fortunately, a 9 point run brought us back to level. We ended up taking it 25-21.
The third set we jumped out to a 10-2 lead for a change of pace, and extended it to 15-5. Then we got a bit loose, as can be seen in our hitting only .051 on the set. As a result, they clawed back such that it ended up 25-21 once more.
There were two things I talked with the guys about after the match. The first was how we’re making hitting errors because we’re trying for the great kill rather than just getting the point, or making the smart play and extending the rally. The second was how we started off too focused on having to win. Call it a kind of an excessive arousal. We could see the impact in the early parts of the first two sets, but then how well they did when they were more relaxed in the first part of the third.
We were meant to have training this day, but 1/3 of the team was going to have to miss out, so I changed it to just a video review session (only 1 guy had to miss). We watched the first set from the previous night’s match, then watched Mount Aloysius ahead of Saturday’s match. Not that from a talent perspective we had anything to fear from them. They did, though, have at least one player in the line-up we didn’t see last time. I wanted them to see him play. Also, it was against Saint Vincent, who we will likely need to beat on the last day of the season to make the conference tournament.
We were missing one of the MBs for the session, so after doing some serving and playing triples with a focus on deep swings, we did a 5 v 5 with 2 up/3 back (assistants filling in). Each of those things incorporated elements of what I wanted to see on Saturday. Serving certain target zones. Hitting deep knowing we’ll face a big block. Defense around a single block.
A big feature heading into Saturday’s matches, though, was going in with the right mentality.
Saturday – Mount Aloysius
Mount Aloysius came into the day 0-11 in conference after losing to Saint Vincent on Wednesday, with only 3 set victories to their credit. We won easily – 6, 14, 16. There was a bit of a slip in the team energy and mentality in the third. We were sloppy in the first half of that set.
A major plus for the match was our serving, though. We only made 7 total errors, and 4 of them came in a cluster toward the end of the second set. It was also our best offensive match of conference play to-date, with a .359 hitting percentage.
Saturday – Geneva
Geneva entered the weekend at 10-2 after a midweek win over Thiel. You may recall we had some good elements against them the first time we played, but an excess of errors made the difference in a 3-1 loss.
This match stared the same way the first one did with us taking Set 1 27-25. As was the case previously, we lost the second, but this time by a much more narrow margin, 25-23, despite Geneva hitting negative. We lost another close one in the 3rd, 25-22, in a complete reversal set where both teams had their offenses clicking pretty well. In the 4th we grabbed a 25-23 win, then used and 11-kill performance in the 5th to finish the come-from-behind win.
We hit .226 on that match, well ahead of any prior offensive performance against a team likely headed for the conference tournament. Meanwhile, we kept Geneva about 60 points below their season average in conference. Our middles didn’t have the same success they did last time we played them, but our pins were markedly better – especially about keeping the errors down.
In fact, throughout the day we did a much better job of keeping balls in play when kills weren’t on.
Last week of the season is ahead. We host our last match of the year on Wednesday against the #1 team, then finish with a 4+ hour road trip on Saturday for another tri-match. A win in any of the three looks us into the final conference tournament spot.
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