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

Every team in the conference has played at least one match now. No real surprises in the results. On Saturday Alfred State beat Pitt-Greensburg 3-0, Pitt-Bradford won 3-0 over La Roche, and as I noted in last week’s update, we lost to Penn State-Altoona 3-0. That’s after Penn State-Behrend easily beat Hilbert 3-0 midweek. Here’s how the table looked to start the week.

Although it wasn’t a conference match, there was an interesting one between Pitt-Greensburg and La Roche midweek last week that ended 3-2 to the latter. Theoretically at least, this suggests those two teams are pretty even this season.

Our schedule this week featured Hilbert on Wednesday and La Roche on Saturday, both at home.


I had a couple of main themes for this season. One was target serving. Another was seam coordination in reception and defense. I started the session with a short-court version of Speedball to warm-up. It was two teams on each side with combined scoring for a game to 25.

From there we moved into the first element of target serving. That was an exercise where they had the objective of getting to +7. Hitting a target got them +1. Serving into the net or to Zone 6 was -1. The second target serving activity also brought in the seam coordination element – in terms of reception specifically. That was Flip-Switch. I used a variation where I had the setter and alternating MBs work on their connections. I also had two servers in each position to allow for a second serve in the case of a miss.

From there we turned the focus to defense. Basically, I put three back row defenders in to dig attacks from the pins. No blockers, just open attacking. We wrapped up with Queen of the Court back row 3s where a team could hit front row if they received a free ball.


We’ve talked about learning to let things go and not turn inwards when you make mistakes. At the start of this session, I introduced a focus on being able to connect with you teammates in those circumstances. Then I told them we’re going to work on it right away with the cross-court digging drill, which can be quite frustrating – especially if you have high expectations about how well you should dig the ball. During the exercise I talked with them about trying to get as still as possible for ball contact, which was an issue I saw in the passing the day before. And because I had, I repeated Flip-Switch after once more doing the +7 serving exercise.

From there, to get some back row attacking action happening, we did the same Queen of the Court 3s. I then progressed that into a 4 v 5 situation. It was played on about 2/3rds court as a MB/RS vs. MB/OH setup. The setter was on the team with the RS. I had an assistant coach setting on the other side from Position 2, but that’s all he did. Since his position was out of bounds, he wasn’t involved in first contact. Play was initiated by downball over the net to the winner of the prior rally. I gave a bonus point in the case of a back row attack kill.


Hilbert came into the match having not won a single set yet on the season. They also ended the match that way. We had a good crowd for the match and had a number of nice plays to keep them fired up. Aside from a bit of a wobble in the third set (of course), we weren’t ever really under pressure.

One of the funnier things to happen came toward the end of the first set. Our setter has been working on a topspin jump serve. She didn’t use it in her first serving sequence, but being up double digits her next time around made her feel comfortable enough to take the risk. She ended up tossing the ball straight up rather than out in front. Still managed to put the ball in play, but she definitely came to the bench at the end of the set in disbelief that she’d tossed the ball that badly. 🙂


Having played a match the night before, and with an uncomfortably warm and humid gym (also a problem during the match), I opted for a fairly short session. We talked at the beginning about our mentality moving forward as we aim to earn a spot in the conference tournament. Then I had them do 4-person Over-the-Net Pepper as a ball-control warm-up. From there, we did the game where they aim was to put downballs in Zone 1. Scoring was the same: point for hitting Zone 1, -1 for a downball out of bounds, -2 for a downball in the net. Additionally, a team letting the ball drop with no effort went back to zero. That happened multiple times, so we didn’t get through the exercise quickly.

After that I repeated the target serving exercise we’d done previously, but adjusted it to +5 and said they had to get that for each corner. The planned session ended with Flip-Switch, after which a couple of players wanted to do some hitting reps.


A chunk of this session was dedicated to working on aspects of our play in preparation for playing Saturday’s match. In particular, we wanted to make an adjustment to our defense to account for some tendencies the opposition had. We also kept working on our serving, as well as reception (this time 3-person).


La Roche was our opponent for our designated Mavs For Mavs match. That’s an incentive program for Medaille Student-Athletes to attend each other’s matches. Each sport picked a match on their schedule where they wanted to maximize attendance. This one was ours. It was also a bake sale day by the team by way of the Student Government Association to raise money for breast cancer awareness/research. We also had 3 recruits (2 male, 1 female) on campus for visits, so it was an interesting day.

And that applied to the match. The team stats coming in suggested we were probably pretty even teams, and it certainly played out that way. Unfortunately, we just came up just short and lost in four. Could have done better executing our serving and defensive plans. Could have also taken more chances in offense, though slippery court conditions did make for nervous attackers.

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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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