bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie head volleyball coach Mike Jordan during the 2008 season. In this interview Coach Jordan talks about the team's first spring tournament this past weekend in Tucson, his take on how the substitution rules have affected his strategy and previews the Aggies' next spring tournament in Houston on April 11th and 12th.
bleedCrimson.net: Can you talk about the spring tournament this past weekend in Tucson?
Mike Jordan: Arizona being a Pac-10 conference team has got a lot of athleticism and they're usually a very good ballclub. i think they're going to be good in the fall and certainly a good test for us. Unusual playing without Lindsey Yon and Whitney Phillips who are both capable of giving us good serve receive and experienced outside hitting. Kelli Goodan got an opportunity to play out there quite a bit, Whitney Woods played out there quite a bit, Alex Steinmetz. The point of spring is to get your players experience, teach as much as you can and I think it's great that they got to play as much as they did. I think in terms of the level of play, it's early spring and it's certainly not anywhere near the level if you're trying to win a conference championship. But at the same time the growth of our players right now, I'm pretty impressed with what I'm seeing. We've worked hard in individuals to improve and we've worked hard in the first couple of weeks of team practice to improve and I've seen a lot of that. Young players are making plays that they didn't make in the fall. I'm pretty happy with the progress so far.
bc.net: A few of the folks that made the trip out to Tucson were wondering about Kim Oguh playing and Angel Tirado not playing, can you talk about that?
MJ: Angel did play, not a lot. She did play a little bit. Angel's got to get in a bit better shape. I'm a little bit worried, she's coming off a knee surgery and playing middle right now, she's just not capable of moving around that quick. I think for her and for us, it's not good that she plays a whole lot right now against fast competition when you're actually competing to win. She needs to get a bit better shape. I think Kim gives us obviously a good athlete but we didn't use Kim offensively that much. She only took a handful of swings pretty much all day. So we set a lot of those balls to the other players, the other outside hitters.
bc.net: Can you talk a little bit about this being the first match with the new 25 point rules and how did that affect your normal substitution pattern?
MJ: Well, we kept the subs. We got to 12 which is the max, a couple of times. I'm really disappointed more about the subs than the point scoring. I think when you limit substitutions you're limiting playing opportunities. If you've got a lead or you want to give somebody a rest or you want to give somebody playing time you can't really do that with the system we're in, in the 6-2, subbing our setters out in the front row. We can't really afford to give anybody else some playing time so it really bothers me. I think in terms of the 25 point games, again you're shortening the game, you're giving fewer opportunities. Our game didn't need to be shortened. We did that when we went from side out scoring to rally scoring. We shortened the game and made it better for t.v. There's no reason for us to be shortening our game right now. Again, really disappointed that this rule change has come about. I'm hoping that the people in command of those things wake up and realize that the majority of the people who are involved in college volleyball don't want this. To have it forced down our throat like this makes no sense. I think the AVCA needs to wake up and do what's in the best interest of our sport and this is not it. Any time you're taking opportunities away from young women to play, it's not a good thing. We shortened a game that doesn't need to be shortened. We did that years ago when we went to rally scoring.
bc.net: Can you talk about some of the positives out of this weekend, what were you pleased with?
MJ: I think Kelli Gooden attacked the ball really well on the left. She's got limited experience over there, she's 6'3", she's got a solid arm. She definitely attacked and blocked well over there, that was good. I think our pin attackers, our outside hitters, showed some good versatility. Whitney Woods played some on the left, we were able to switch blocks some, side them out from both antennas. I think those things I was really happy with. I thought as the day went on we started to block better. Some of our issues were coming off Spring Break. We practiced just the night before, we had the whole week off before that so we weren't practicing going into it so you've got to scrape some of that rust off. I think it was a particularly rough day for the setters, when you're not setting for a week it's tough to come in and start putting the ball on the money like we need them to. I do think our outside hitters showed splashes of good things, if they become better ball handlers and take care of the ball a little bit better I think they're certainly going to help us win some games.
bc.net: You guys play another spring tournament out in Houston on the weekend of April 12th, can you talk a little bit about that?
MJ: We get an opportunity to play Oklahoma on Friday night. Oklahoma's got a great team. It's an exhibition match, best of five. They'll have referees, the whole deal. There should be quite a few people there because it's in conjunction with large qualifying club tournament. So I think there'll be a lot of people there, I think it's a great opportunity for us to go into the Houston area, which we recruit, and showcase our abilities and against a good team, and learn more about ourselves. We're expecting Lindsey Yon to get cleared any day to start playing again. Hopefully she'll be able to play some with us that weekend. We play some good teams on Saturday, shortened games, best two out of three. We play Baylor, we play Texas, we play Arkansas and Tulane. All very good teams. Again, giving yourself an opportunity to compete against good competition, you learn a lot about yourself. I'm looking forward to it.