bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie head volleyball coach Mike Jordan during the 2008 season. This week we (along with Richard Reyes of The Round Up) talked about the five matches last week, what the team needs to improve on and looked ahead at the Stanford tournament this weekend.
bleedCrimson.net: Talk about the five matches this past weekend.
Mike Jordan: First of all, five matches in five days wasn't really that big a deal because the first two matches were only like an hour and a half. We practiced for two and a half hours hard the whole time. We've got a lot of players that are part time players. They play front row but don't play back row and vice versa. So physically, I started hearing people think we'd be tired by the end of the weekend. Well yeah, you're tired at the end of the week no matter what but it certainly wasn't because we played five matches in five days. To say we were physically exhausted would not be the truth, it would be an excuse and it's not an excuse we're going to make. I think the reality is that Texas has way more athleticism and way better skill than we do right now. We got intimidated by their block, period. We showed some resiliency and a little toughness coming back in the games after getting down 6-1, etc. They're just a fantastic team.
Utah, we made a lot of unforced errors and we weren't very good attacking the volleyball. We didn't hit worth a darn and we didn't stop their slide hitters at all. That's it in a nutshell.
I saw a lot of good things. There's a lot of reason to believe that we could be a great team but it's going to take a lot of work.
Richard Reyes (TRU): Eight games into the season how do you think your team has done so far?
MJ: I think we've got a lot of tools and a lot of room for improvement. We've done some good things. We've shown flashes of brilliance. We've shown that we can come back from deficits so we've got a little toughness in us which is great. We've just got to play a little bit cleaner game. Fewer errors and better execution and we'll be fine.
bc.net: Are there a couple players that stood out that had a good five matches last week?
MJ: I don't think anybody played well every match and that's part of our issue, we're just a little too inconsistent. Lindsey played pretty well in most of the matches. Obviously the Texas match was a bad match for her. I can't really look out there and say anybody played well consistently. They all did some good things and struggled at times.
bc.net: Who would you like to see step up either from a playing standpoint or a leadership standpoint?
MJ: I'd like to see everybody step up. I don't have preferences when it comes to that. Certainly vocally we need to be a little bit more positive, come together a little bit quicker when things start to go bad. Leadership isn't something that's handed to any one particular person. I'm fine with anybody. I don't care if it's a freshman or someone who's not playing, it doesn't matter. If things need to be said, let's say them.
In terms of play, in particular our quick attack needs to be a little bit better than it is now. That's all our quick hitters, our middles and our rights.
RR: So far how do you think your season has measured up to your expectations of how you thought it would go?
MJ: I'm not too concerned with the wins and losses so much. Obviously we want to win every time we play and that's the goal but I thought we'd be better at some things. I thought we'd be a better quick attacking team than we have been and that's a concern for me. I certainly we could serve tougher than we have been. Those two things have surprised me. Nothing else has really surprised me. You know there are certain things early in the season that you're not going to be that good at but I didn't think quick hitting and serving would be the two.
bc.net: Through the four losses that you've had the common thread has been the slow starts. What do you do to fix that?
MJ: Well part of that has been our attacking. That's the big woe. We've been passing great for the most part and at times we're getting really good swings and not finishing swings. The big Texas block and Utah, I think we were trying to avoid the block as opposed to attacking it and we made a lot of unforced errors. I saw that at Illinois as well. Illinois has got a big physical team and I didn't feel like we were as aggressive offensively as we needed to be. When you're three passing as much as we're three passing, you should be putting the ball away on that first swing than we're doing. Once we improve at that, and we're going to work hard at it, then we're going to be very tough.
But the slow start, that's why that happens. We're taking really good passes and pretty good sets and not finishing plays and teams are winning some rallies on us. We've just got to put that first ball away more efficiently.
RR: You've played a tough schedule so far, some Top 5 teams, some Top 25 teams and you have yet to play Hawai'i. How do you think that's helped your team develop and what do you think are the benefits of that?
MJ: We're learning about ourselves a lot quicker. It's one team to beat a mediocre or bad team. Sometimes they can't show you what you're not very good at. Good teams, very athletic teams like most of the ones we've played are capable of exploiting weaknesses. They show them to you. It's like looking in the mirror and going "Oh no, we're not very good at this." That's what we need, we need that mirror. So I'm happy that we've played the schedule we've played. We've learned a lot about ourselves in terms of playing at a higher level against better teams, what we need to get better at. And now it's just a matter of getting in the gym and making those adjustments.
bc.net: Talk about the three matches coming up this week. Stanford's first on Thursday, then Santa Clara on Friday and Santa Barbara on Saturday.
MJ: Obviously Stanford's one of the premiere programs in the country. Tremendous athletes and they're well coached. But anybody can beat beat on any given day. My hope is we'll go in and play with a winner's mentality. That we'll have learned from our matches so far, be more aggressive in attacking them both offensively and at the service line. The same for Santa Clara and Santa Barbara. They're all great programs with great players and a lot of tradition and they're all well coached. Every match will be a challenge, every point will be a challenge and that's what we need.
RR: What adjustments have you made and what do you need to do in order to be successful?
MJ: Well the adjustments are coming now. We're working hard at our quick attack stuff, we're working hard at serving tougher. You've just got to keep talking to the players and make them understand that these adjustments are going to help us and they do. They're a very coachable group. I'd be surprised if during the week we're not aggressive. I'd be surprised. I think we'll come out and be very aggressive against everybody we play.
bc.net: The Santa Barbara coach just picked up her 800th win. Talk a little bit about getting 800 wins and do you see yourself coaching to 800 wins? (Ed. Note: The second half of this question was asked a little jokingly)
MJ: [Laughing] No way. Kathy Gregory is a legend in our sport and has coached so many fantastic teams. I'm really impressed with what Kathy has done over her career. I joke that I'm fortunate if I can get through a season. To get to 800 wins takes a lot of great players and a lot of longevity and I don't think about that stuff at all. I can't think past the next match, I just can't.