bleedCrimson.net: Your team went 2-1 on the weekend and as we talked about last week, you wanted your team to compete no matter who they were playing and they certainly did that.
Mike Jordan: Yeah. I thought we came out against Nebraska, I don't think we played great by any stretch but I thought we competed well. It helped that we jumped out to a lead, executed early and built a little confidence. But really we battled. They took a timeout at 5-1 and we were excited to play and that had to have woken them up a little bit. When you get down 5-1 to a team, that wakes you up right away. If there happened to be any, "We're Nebraska, we're going to steamroll anybody we play" kind of thing going on, I'm sure it was gone by 5-1. Two good teams were battling. I was impressed with our competitive spirit as much as anything. We were enjoying playing, we made a lot of plays and while it wasn't great volleyball by any stretch, it's too early for teams to be that good, it was still high level volleyball for this early in the season and we were doing well.
When set three started, basically there were two things that happened. One, Nebraska made an adjustment and started setting higher to their outside hitters and that allowed them a little more freedom to turn the angles that they wanted and then Bradley got hurt. That just took the wind out of our sails. It was a little difficult to swallow her getting hurt. I would have loved to seen the match with her healthy but it happens unfortunately.
The other two matches, we came out and played well. We didn't play great, again there are so many things that are going to be improved on because it's early in the season but we had pretty good competitive spirit. We had to flip the lineup. Not having Brynja [Rodgers] as well was a pain because she gives us the ability to play in the 6-2. So we played with the lineup a little bit and the last couple of matches a lot of people got to play and we stayed pretty competitive. It wasn't always pretty volleyball, there are a lot of things we need to fix and make better but I like the way we competed. That's something we talked about wanting to have happen and it happened and I'm proud of them for that.
bc.net: Your blocking and your floor defense were good this weekend and for it being so early in the season that has to be a good sign for the rest of the season.
MJ: The floor defense most of all three matches. I think we had very few lulls defensively. The blocking definitely was a little up and down. We had moments of doing pretty well. There were certainly moments when we missed assignments. Our technique needs to be cleaned up but again, that goes with it being early in the season. We need to clean up our footwork and hand position but certainly it's improved over a year ago.
bc.net: Deirdre Parajes had a good weekend stepping in for Bradley Nash after she went down with the injury.
MJ: She had a good sping, she came a long way in the spring. She can play on either antenna which is definitely helpful and we're going to continue to bounce her back and forth depending on what we need. She's got a strong arm. She played well when she got her opportunity against Nebraska, she played well against South Florida and then again on Sunday. She's like everybody else, D's best volleyball is down the road a ways and if we're seeing improvement in production that's great. I'm looking forward to her continuing to put up these kind of numbers.
bc.net: Your serving looked to be a bit tougher in the first three matches and you've got four players in Meredith Hays, Kelsi Phillips, Jennah DeVries and Stephanie Zeigler who when they're out there on the floor together give you a pretty tough serving rotation.
MJ: Well, I think our serving is a work in progress. There's been more emphasis put on it this preseason than in years past and hopefully that's showing a little bit. I definitely would not say that we're a tough serving team yet by any stretch and a couple of the players you mentioned, I think they're trying to serve tougher than they have but that doesn't mean that they're serving tough. Jennah in particular can hit a tougher ball than she's hitting but they're trying. It's not something that you can completely overhaul overnight. It takes a while to relearn something you've been doing for a long, long time. Serving is one of those things for most of our players. Hopefully it's just going to continue to improve throughout the season. Part of it is changing the mindset that we want to be more assertive. Of course fans go crazy when there's missed serves and we could go back and 99 percent of our serves if we wanted to but obviously that's not going to take the other team out of their system. You've got to live on the edge a little bit. Hopefully our players will do that and we'll benefit from it.
bc.net: Meredith Hays had a solid debut this weekend as well and she looks to be every bit the big gun that you were expecting her to be.
MJ: I knew Meredith would do well right away. Just physically, she's prepared to play at this level physically. She's played a lot of open club volleyball throughout the course of her high school career so she's been in some good tournaments against some good teams and seen a lot of good players. She's a competitive person and a very hard worker so it's good to see all that paying off and her doing as well as she's doing.
We're going to count on her quite a bit, there's no question but like I've told Meredith on numerous occasions, we don't need her to be a superstar right away. We just need her to do a few things really well and she's trying really hard. I'm really happy with her and I'd say the same thing about Bradley. They're not too different, they're a lot alike. I feel the same way about Bradley as I do Meredith.
bc.net: This weekend you host the Hotel Encanto tournament and you'll face Grambling on Friday morning, Arkansas-Little Rock Friday night and then the big match against LSU on Saturday afternoon.
MJ: We don't know a lot about Grambling or Little Rock yet, we'll find out some things this week. LSU, we played last year at their place and lost in five, we lost to them in the NCAA tournament in '07 in five and so hopefully we can turn that around. I have a lot of respect for their program, they have a lot of athletes. They're very good. Well coached. It's one match at a time and we're going to focus on Grambling, then we'll worry about Little Rock and then we'll worry about LSU.
We're excited to host the tournament again. Scheduling is tough and in order to get three teams to come in and play on the same weekend a lot of things have to go right. Fortunately we had the contractual obligation with LSU, they're coming here because we went there last year. I've known Van Compton [UALR head coach] for a long time from our days in the Sun Belt and we've had some conversations over the past few years about playing so we're happy that they're coming out. I'm looking forward to seeing Grambling. I don't recall every playing them. I'm sure they'll be athletic.
bc.net: What are some things that you'll be working on this week in practice that you hope to see improvement on in the tournament this weekend?
MJ: One of the biggest issues for us is where are the kills coming from with Bradley out. We're experimenting with lineups and that's kind of hard on the players, it takes away from the continuity when you change things a lot on them but we've got to continue to look down the road a ways and not right now so much. Finding ways to be better offensively is one.
I'm hopeful that our middles will be more involved offensively, especially in transition. We'll spend a lot on the side out game as well like we always do.
And we'll work on some of the technique stuff as well. We've got to give time to individual skills. We'll spend an hour to 90 minutes a day just working skill stuff. Better blocking techniques, better hand contact when we're hitting it, the serving stuff we talked about. We've got to give it its due. It can't be all system and X's and O's. You've got to really make sure you're giving players the reps they need.