This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2021-22 season for the Medaille College men.
The second week of conference play featured a midweek away match, then a long (4.5 hours) trip for a Saturday double-header. Two of the matches were ones we identified as must wins if we want to reach the conference tournament.
Day off for the holiday. This was always planned, but given the two guys leaving the match on Saturday, it was good timing.
Our setter wasn’t going to be able to go on Wednesday for our match. That being the case, the big focus for this session was giving our back-up (one of our MBs) a bunch of reps. Some of that was simply through hitting lines. Another part of it was dedicated to going through the rotations (6v4 with the 4 serving). We also did some 5v5 play to allow him to work in a more free flowing environment. That was also an opportunity to work overall on error reduction.
Wednesday – Hilbert
We played away at fellow Buffalo-area conference member Hilbert. Coming in to the match they were 1-10 on the season overall, with that one win coming against Sage. They’d come close to grabbing a second on Saturday, but fell short 2-3. That was a match-up of #7 vs #8 in the preseason conference poll, with Hilbert being the latter.
We made seriously hard work of this match. After winning the first set 25-21, we turned around and lost the second by the same score. We couldn’t pass serve at all, and as a result generated little in the way of offense. Things turned back around in the third set for a 25-18 win, but once more it was reversed in the fourth for a 25-18 loss. The fifth set started comfortably, but definitely got tense down the stretch and finished 15-13 in our favor.
The bottom line is our offense was not effective enough. We only got kills on 35% of our swings, against 25% errors. Full credit to Hilbert for part of that as they pulled off some really good defensive plays. We also needed some better decision-making on our side of things.
And our serving continues to let us down. By the numbers it doesn’t look bad. Hilbert only passes about 1.60 on the match, and missing 17 serves in 5 sets isn’t a horrible number. The timing and type of those misses, however, were problematic. Plus, to be honest, a lot of the serves that were pretty easy, just not well played.
Thursday & Friday training
On Thursday, after talking briefly about the prior night’s match, and a little about the upcoming ones, we did some serving & passing work. Unfortunately, we were down a few bodies, so were limited on the stuff we could work on. In any case, after playing 5 sets the day before, this was more a recovery session with a bit of 4 v 4 action dominating the time. The scoring focus put an emphasis on keeping balls out of the net by giving bonus points to the opposing team if it ended there.
Friday’s session was one of the most lively of the season thus far. It started with the best game of Brazilian the guys have played this year in terms of energy, tempo, and decision-making.
After that, most of the session was given over to working on a new line-up. I wasn’t happy during Wednesday’s matches with our offensive options. Moving that MB to setter forced me to slide an OH to MB, and then my libero to OH. Obviously, having a small player at the net is never idea. I felt, however, that we didn’t have enough flexibility and availability of attacking options in that rotation. On Wednesday I had the remaining MB next to the new Setter, with the OH-turned-MB the one away. I flipped that.
Saturday – Mt. Alloysius
The host of our conference tri-match, and our first opponent of the day, was Mt. Aloysius. They are a newly started program. As such, they were picked to finish bottom of the league (#9) in the preseason poll. Their conference season started with a pair of 3-0 defeats. Then, on Wednesday, they dropped another in pretty decisive fashion. On top of that, their coach told me one of their starting MBs was out due to a team suspension.
In our first two sets we had some early wobbles that had me wondering if I needed to flip the MBs back for passing purposes. We steadied out, though, and won both easily at the end. Plus, we dominated the third set from the beginning. The scores were 14, 15, 10.
I should note that our Super Super Senior (2nd year grad student), who plays OPP, broke the school record for matches play in this one.
Saturday – Hiram
The day’s second match was against defending conference champions and preseason favorite Hiram. They started conference action 3-0. Two of those wins were against teams from the lower end of the preseason poll. The other, though, was a solid win over Geneva.
The irony of the situation for us in this match is that when we played them last season we also ended up having to play a DS/Libero at OH. The match score ended up the same (3-1 to them), but this time it was much more competitive. Actually, it was perhaps our best all-around match of the season. I’m not talking about the stats, but rather the energy, effort, and team cohesion.
While part of the reason it was such a tight battle (25-19, 20-25, 25-27, 23-25) is that Hiram’s top player (last year’s POY) had to leave the match in the first set with an injury , our tactics helped as well. A major factor in that was serving strategically to limit their ability to attack on the RS when we had our short player in that position. Obviously, that’s the smart thing to do. We certainly didn’t stop it entirely, and they did improve in their ability to make it work over time, but we definitely gave them fits trying to make it happen.
Back on the road on Wednesday, but we’ll get some home cooking on Saturday when we host our first tri-match.
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