bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie head volleyball coach Mike Jordan during the 2008 season. This week we talked about the road sweep against San Jose State and Utah State, Lindsey Yon's Player of the Week honor, Erin Birmingham's play and the big rematch against #6 Hawai'i.
bleedCrimson.net: You picked up a pair of sweeps against San Jose State and Utah State last week, talk about the two matches.
Mike Jordan: I thought we did a good job defensively. Against Utah State for sure. San Jose, we struggled at the beginning of games two and three with a little serve receive issue. Other than that I thought we played really good volleyball. We did a really good job of holding them to low hitting percentages. And passing the ball, other than the beginning of games two and three I thought we did a good job there. I thought our setters did a really good job in particular the whole weekend.
We've just got more muscle than San Jose State and Utah State and so if we ball handle well and play good defense and serve well we should win and we should sweep. We did a nice job of that. We blocked well the entire weekend, that was a big deal. I'm pretty proud of the defensive performance we had.
Offensively we're showing flashes. I think we're improving, it's a slow improvement but it's getting better. All in all, two conference road wins, we'll take that.
bc.net: Lindsey Yon picked up the WAC Player of the Week. She had a pretty stellar week offensively and defensively.
MJ: Yeah, she's playing her best volleyball of her career. She's just good at a lot of things. When she's playing as well as she is she's a go-to player and certainly one of the better players in the conference.
bc.net: Quietly Erin Birmingham has put together three really good matches in a row. She's had 10 kills on 16 attempts and eight total blocks combined in the past three matches.
MJ: She's really quick and she's doing a good job of making herself available. Offensively we're getting more and more comfortable with her all the time. She's made some good changes. She's improving and the results are starting to show.
bc.net: How much of that is just getting familiar with the system and getting comfortable with the players.
MJ: It's pretty familiar. We've spent some time on some arm stuff with her, some technique changes. It's starting to happen more often. She's hitting the ball harder now than she has in quite a while and so that's been really good. I think her confidence is growing because of that too.
bc.net: We talk about your defense a lot but from year to year your defense is outstanding. How are you able to instill that defensive mentality into your players?
MJ: You can't be a really good volleyball team without playing good defense and you've gotta have a commitment to it. You've got players that care more about offense than they do defense and you've gotta get them to change that attitude. And we've had problems with that in the past, I think we've always been a good defensive team but I don't know that we've always been great. But we certainly a whole lot better this year than we were last year at it. I think everybody's sold on and understands because offensively we're not the same team we were a year ago, we have to be a better defensive team so the effort level is there.
bc.net: Obviously it's no secret that you guys think you can win the WAC this year. This match on Saturday against Hawai'i is critical because if you win, it could mean at least a share of the regular season title, if not, Hawai'i would have to lose three matches.
MJ: Yeah, if we don't beat them they're not gonna lose in the conference. They're a great team and it's their home environment. It's going to be a tough place to go get a win but anybody can win on a given night and we've got a good team. If there's anybody that's gonna do it, we're the team to do it.
bc.net: Having gone to Illinois and Stanford and playing on the road there, do you think this team is maybe a little bit more prepared to handle that environment than maybe some of your teams in the past?
MJ: Yeah. I think we've got enough players that have seen great environments, and we've got a great home environment here. We've been on the road in tough places to play the last couple years. I'd be really surprised with as many great teams as we've played, if we were intimidated. Hopefully we won't be too nervous. That's kinda the thing, you get too hyped up, you get too amped up for games sometimes and your adrenaline is flowing too much and that can make it harder for you to play. I don't think we're going to be overwhelmed with anything. We know what Hawai'i does, they do it well. We're just going to have to do what we do and do it as well as we can.
bc.net: You'll be finishing up your home matches with Hawai'i pretty early in the conference season this year and then you look at a team like Louisiana Tech who you haven't played yet but will be playing back to back here coming up. What are your feelings on that, would you like to see that change and be more balanced?
MJ: Yeah. You know obviously scheduling in this conference is difficult because of the travel, the distances teams have to go, the fact that it's a nine team league. That all creates issues, there aren't true travel partners within our conference. I think the WAC's trying to get schedules that are doable for everybody. Can it be done better? I'm sure it can from year to year. But I'm not the person to do it. That's their job. Would I like to see a better balanced schedule, one match with Hawai'i early and one late? Sure, absolutely. But it's not going to be like that every year and that's just the way it is and you deal with it.
bc.net: The short turnaround to play them, does that work for or against you?
MJ: I wish we had a little more time between matches, we just played them two weeks ago. I think our ceiling is higher than theirs, we've got more room for improvement. Obviously the time we had in between now and then we could do some things a little bit better but it's pretty much going to be the same two teams that played two weeks ago. I think Kanani Herring is going to play in the front row, she's a very good player. The kid that played for her, Ferrell is a good player, they're all great players so it's going to be a tough match. We're excited about playing them.