Weekly Coach Jordan Interview :: 09/23/14 You had a very good weekend in New Hampshire, maybe one of the more complete weekends that you’ve had win a while.
Mike Jordan: The competition was decent, it just wasn’t nationally ranked opponents. It was the Pac 12, that kind of thing. I thought we did some good things. We were physically dominant at times which was good to see. I thought we got a little bit better connection in the quick attack than we’ve gotten and we hit for better percentages there because of it. That’s a positive. And we continue to play good defense. We hold teams to low percentages and you’ll give yourself a chance to win when you do that. I’m fairly happy with the results. On the topic of defense, you swept all three matches and in only two of the nine sets did the opponent get past 20 points.
MJ: Yeah. We served well and got teams out of system and if you’re out of system against us because of how hard our defenders play, the fact that we block fairly well, it’s going to be tough to hit for a good percentage against us. We took some pretty decent transition swings. I was certainly happy with the fact that we were able to be dominant at times. You mentioned the serving. You had 24 service aces and only 15 service errors. I’m sure you’d take those numbers all day long.
MJ: Yeah, absolutely. I think two of the three teams we played, their numbers had shown they were susceptible to giving up too many aces and they did. We did the right things at the service line for the most part. We hit some good serves in the right places. The players did a solid job. One of the concerns for you going into the year was just being high error and you had a good weekend in terms of that and you had only seven errors in the match against New Hampshire which is in stark contrast to early in the year.
MJ: It’s a couple of things. One, we’re improving and we’ve made a big deal about it in practices. Players are working hard, making some changes, making better choices. We’re playing a lot of different players but we can put a lineup that will typically be low error and there are a couple lineups I could roll out there where we could get better blocking and better attacking from a kill percentage standpoint but we might make more attack errors. You’ve got to pick and choose your lineups and fortunately for the most part this weekend we were low error. Some of it to be be very honest with you was we weren’t facing blocking like we did versus Utah, versus a BYU, that kind of thing. Big, giant physical blockers can force you into attack errors and we didn’t face that this weekend. The fact that we’ve seen it already, hopefully when we see it again it won’t bother us too much. Gwen Murphy had a good weekend, her numbers were excellent. This is maybe the first weekend that she’s had the kind of numbers that she was putting up in conference play last season.
MJ: She’s been a little bit of a victim, she’s made some attack errors she shouldn’t make, but she’s been a little bit of a victim of teams working hard to stop her. She’s starting to figure that out. Set location is also a big deal. Like I said, we did a better job of locating the quick attack stuff to her this past weekend than we had previously. Those improvements led to her hitting for better percentages. How happy were you with the overall performance of your team coming off of two straight weekends of tough competition to not maybe fall into the trap of letting down a little bit.
MJ: I certainly don’t think we’re overconfident. We’ve got a couple good wins but not a great win. We don’t have a win over a ranked opponent. It’s not like this team has a history of being dominant where we could relax against teams like this. I think we understand we have to play well everyday. The players are motivated to do that. At this point I don’t know that it matters who that we play. I think they understand that a lot of this, especially early in the year, is about their improvement and our improvement as a team and they’re just happy to compete. As you look back at the whole of non-conference play which players have made the biggest improvement from the first weekend to this past weekend?
MJ: I think Andi Tauai is doing some really good things for us. Her serve receive, she understands what we’re trying to do now. She’s a good attacker and she plays hard. We’re seeing a lot of good things from her. I saw some really positive things from Bradley Nash in the New Hampshire match, things we haven’t seen all year from her in terms of her effort attacking, being more physical and playing a little faster. Sasha-Lee Thomas has had some highlight reel moments, she’s also had some lowlight reel moments. That’s going to happen when you have so little experience. I think a lot of our players have really improved but to maintain a level of consistency, to set the bar a certain high and reach it consistently is what we’re striving for still. That’s the goal of all the players individually, it’s what our goals are for them. Hopefully we’ll keep working and I think we will. It seems like you have a lot more depth on this team that you’ve had in years past. Is this the deepest team that you’ve had in terms of interchangeable parts?
MJ: At the outside hitter position yes and at the libero position. But I can’t say that necessarily for the setting or the middle hitting positions. I do think we have depth and that’s great and I think all of them are capable of contributing but also all of them have weaknesses that need to be addressed. They understand those weaknesses and they’re working hard at them. You open up conference play this week against Grand Canyon on Thursday and Bakersfield on Saturday. You’ve played both of those teams last year, Grand Canyon for the first time and Bakersfield you’ve played before. What do you expect to see from them, especially Grand Canyon in their second year transitioning up?
MJ: I think they’re decent teams. They can present some problems. Again, it’s so early in the season and the inconsistencies of a team can really cost you matches. So, we’re still very focused on what we’re doing within our group. Obviously we’ll have a scouting report and a plan with our opponents but it comes down to how we execute what we do. I think certainly in the middle and at a couple of the outside hitter positions we have a lot we can bring to the table and a lot of problems we can present to our opponents. Hopefully if we take care of the ball well we’ll be able to use our physicality and our size, our strength, our arm speed, all the things that go into physicality. Hopefully we’ll be able to go use that to our advantage. When conference play starts and opposing coaches are looking at your film and scouting you. What are they going to see on tape that they’ll say, “These guys are better at this than they were last year?”
MJ: I think our balance offensively is really difficult for people. Also the fact that we can interchange parts and interchange lineups and give you different looks. It’s difficult to scout us. Some of it by design and some of it by accident. The inconsistencies prevent a couple of players from being in the lineup all the time. But, we are difficult to scout and we can change the lineup set to set and give teams a different look or get a different matchup. I know that presents a problem for people.