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

After the action from the prior week we were 2-4 on the young season. While it’s definitely still early days, I thought I’d share how the AMCC teams have done thus far. Here’s the table coming off the weekend.

Obviously, it’s hard to make real comparisons at this point given considerable differences in schedules up to now. It’s been my experience, though, that team stats are a fairly reasonable predictor. Here’s where those stand.

The figures are ranked by Hitting % (efficiency), where Medaille sits at 4th. Interestingly, we’re in the top 6 in all but one of the major categories.

  • Kills/Set – 5th
  • Aces/Set – 3rd
  • Digs/Set – 6th
  • Blocks/Set – 7th
  • Points/Set – 5th

Very early days yet, but positive signs for our relative competitiveness.


Because of how beat up and recently ill the team was, I called off the day’s practice even before our 2nd match on Saturday. As a result, I spent most of the day working on recruiting and other admin stuff. This is after having reviewed Saturday’s matches on Sunday morning to stat serve & pass and rotational differences in scoring.

I got a bit of good roster news during the day. A player from the 2019 team (she was a freshman then), who wanted to be in this year’s team but didn’t think she could commit to the schedule, decided she wanted to rejoin the team. This after spending 2020-21 recovering from shoulder surgery. Ended up that the internship she saw as conflicting isn’t going to – at least for a while. She’s very much like our other 2019 holdover in that she played in all the matches that year, and with slightly better stats.


I decided on Monday afternoon to extend the player’s recovery time another day, so cancelled this day’s practice as well. It had the positive side effect of allowing the team to go watch the men’s soccer match, which was part of the Mavs 4 Mavs programs. That’s where teams are encouraged to turn out for a specific contest on each other’s schedule to really drive student-athlete support for each other.

I spent the bulk of the day working on recruiting.


The 2019 returner got all her paperwork and stuff done as of Wednesday morning, so she was cleared to practice. That got the roster up to 9, though effectively 8 given the player with the knee injury being out of commission for the time being. I ended up only having 7 for the session, though, as the player who misses Saturday’s matches due to illness was still out.

My main objective on the session was getting a look at the new addition, and to give her a chance to start meshing on the court with her new roommates. After doing some serving, we moved to narrow court Winners 2s. I basically used that as a kind of all-around warm-up for what came next, which was part-rotation work.

I set up a 4 v 3 structure, with 2 OHs, an MB, and the Setter on one side such that one of the OHs and the MB were front row. On the other side, which did all the serving, I had the other MB and one of the remaining pin hitters front row, with the other playing read defense in 6. The objective was for the receiving team to get to a 5-point advantage on the scoreboard (normal scoring), though if one of the teams got to 16 point first that ended things. I rotated the 4 pins through all the positions, flipping the MBs back and forth from game to game. We did one round based on the front row OH passing in 5, then a second based on them passing in Position 1 as they do in Rotation 1.


With the sick player awaiting the results of her covid test – and thus not cleared to practice – it was another 7-player session. With my assistant playing in, we got up to 8. I started them off with Brazilian to get the competitive juices flowing (which it did). We then did Continuous Cross-Court Digging to work on improving our dig control.

After giving the players some time to serve with a focus on their best serve (I told them to do 10 good ones, after which they played around with different serves), we did Side v Side. I had intended to play both the 4-to-4 and 2-to-2, but only ended up doing the former. We played a game to 12 based on earned points only, then swapped setters to play a second. The last exercise we did was a 4 v 4 game that was back row attack based, but allowed for front row attacks when the opposition sent over a free ball. I had them play a regular game to 25, changes setters, then played a second to 15.

I was pretty happy with the level of aggression I saw in the attack. We’re still working through developing a more seemless awareness of who takes what ball, but it’s getting better – even with the new player inserted.

On the good news front, our injured player found out she’s only got a sprain rather than any kind of tear. She’ll have to do some rehab, but if things go well should be back at some point. She does need to learn how to land better, though, as she’s currently a heavy 1-leg lander.


Tournament action once again, this time at nearby Buffalo State. Our first opponent was Cazenovia. Based on looking at their prior results, I put them in a similar category as teams like Wells and SUNY Poly. They actually beat Wells in a 5-setter earlier in the week.

This match was hard work. Aside from the 2nd set, which we won pretty easily, it was nip and tuck most of the way through. Cazenovia played scrappy defense, and although they didn’t have any truly strong hitters, they were still effective enough to make you have to work hard on defense. At the same time, though, our team play wasn’t where it needed to be. Our defensive positioning was all over the place and we had a lot of moments where were unclear who was taking the ball. Throw in some badly timed missed serves and we kept them in the match when we should have been pulling away.


First match of the day was Houghton, who is a member of the Empire 8 where we’re headed next year. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as they’d only played 3 matches before the tournament. Physically, they were comparable in size to Wells and SUNY Poly. They beat Cazenovia 3-1 in their second match of the season.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how much it mattered how good Houghton was. We played poorly. Our defensive discipline was poor. We had a number of “mine/yours” moments. Our serving was weak, and our passing was arguably worse. The latter contributed to a largely ineffective attack (though Houghton was quite scrappy).

The final match of the tournament was also against an Empire 8 team – Alfred University (not to be confused with Alfred State, which is part of our current conference). I saw them play their first match of the season against RIT. They lost perhaps a little worse than we did against RIT, but I heard one of their starters was hurt in warm-ups, so it was probably not their best side. They ended up being the strongest team in the tournament.

We definitely played better in this one. We broadly served better (though definitely missed too many in bad spots). That likely contributed to our better defense. Passing was definitely problematic (sub-1.5), again leading to a lackluster offense. Though we also had too many hitting errors (over 20%).

Interestingly, our setter made the All-Tournament team.

Thoughts from the tournament

We’ve got work to do in a some of our rotations. Half our rotations were solid in terms of points scoring, while the other three were decidedly weak. In terms of siding out, two rotations were sub-50%, with one at only 38%. That can’t remain the case.

Coming up…

We’ve got one more week of non-conference play left. From now on, our schedule is a very consistent one. We play either Tuesday or Wednesday, and then Saturday. A pair of re-matches feature in the coming week’s schedule.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.