NMSU Volleyball Media Day Quotes

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - NM State volleyball head coach Mike Jordan and a group of players met with members of the media on Tuesday for NM State Volleyball Media Day as a part of the beginning of preseason practice to start the 2016 season.

The squad began practice on Monday and will continue with two-a-day practices over the next two weeks leading up to the Crimson and White Scrimmage scheduled for August 20 at 4 p.m. in the Pan American Center.

The Aggies will open up the 2016 campaign on the road as they travel to Las Vegas, Nev. for a tournament hosted by UNLV, and will face off against Albany on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.

Head Coach Mike Jordan

Opening Statement:

“I am excited about the season. I know our staff is as well. We had a great spring, making preparations for a team that lost five seniors to graduation. With all of those seniors being starters put a lot on our plates. I think the development of our players in the spring was tremendous. We had a lot of success when we competed in the spring, which helped our confidence. We have a lot of really good athletes. I think a major concern for us though is that all of those athletes were not in major roles in terms of late game production [last season]. We didn’t ask many of them to take pressure swings late in games. They are going to have to learn to deal with that pressure. They were able to do that in the spring, but now it’s on their shoulders to step up and make those plays late in games. I’m sure they are more than capable. They are a great group of athletes and work very hard. So far our first three practices have been very productive and informative. It should be a really good year.”

On having to replace key starters…

“In 2003 we graduated five or six senior that all played quite a bit. In 2011, the same thing happened. I think a lot of these players that are returning, while they may not statistically have great numbers in terms of production, they could have done that had we chosen to use them like that. Take Sasha-Lee [Thomas], Jordan [Abalos], [Kassandra Tohm] and Tatyana [Battle], if they were on the floor on a regular basis, they could easily put up three or four kills a set. We didn’t need them to because of the seniors we had. Now it’s their turn. It’s a good group; I like them a lot. I think they understand that they have to up their game a little bit and take on more responsibility, but they are prepared.”

On Sasha-Lee Thomas having some of the qualities that Gwen Murphy had…

“Yes I do. [Sasha-Lee] has the confidence. She is a very confident player right now. She has developed quite a bit. Athletically, both of their athleticism is off the charts, and they can do a lot of things. Sasha is a bit quieter on the floor, whereas Gwen was a little bit more of a vocal leader. I think Sasha will get there though, it’s just a matter of time.”

On players who have grown the most during the offseason…

“Quite a few actually, and that’s the exciting thing. The names that pop out at me are Kassandra Tohm and Jordan Abalos. Both have made huge improvements in their games. K.C. can do more than just attack a ball now. She has become a better blocker and defender. She’s not great at those things yet, but she is certainly better that she was. She serves the ball really well. Jordan has better range as an attacker than she did before. She hits the ball away from her body. She is an elite serve and receiver. I said when we recruited her that she could be a national team libero someday, but we need her as an outside hitter. Her ball control is certainly something we need on our team. She is a better attacker now and hits the ball really hard. The ball flies off of her hand. It’s a little like a tornado still. It’s impressive to watch from a distance, but you don’t know where things are landing when you get closer. She really is impressive. Our liberos, [Ariadnne Sierra] and Kaylee [Neal] are both tremendous and do a lot of great things for us as well.”

On being the reigning conference champion and having a target on your back…

“I like it, but it is what it is. I think our players need to understand that every night you have to play well. We have never taken [an opponent] lightly. I think that is part of the reason we have had the success we have had. In terms of beating opponents who are evenly talented or more talented than us, I think our record is pretty good. We go into it one match at a time and prepare the same way. If teams are shooting for us, we are sort of used to it now after the success we have had in recent years.”

On needing some freshman to play right away…

“We do. Hannah Combs is very capable. She comes from an elite club background, is 6-3 and has oven mitts for hands. She is a pretty strong kid and can do a lot of things. [Alexsa] “Crash” Parker is just learning the setting position at this level, but has a lot of impressive athletic abilities. Her body control is tremendous and she has tremendous touch. If she refines some technical aspects and gains confidence, she is only going to get better. I think those two in particular can play right away. Megan Hart is coming back, she was just cleared from her ACL injury last year. As time goes on, she will play a factor, but she has to get her feet wet. We will see some freshman on the floor at times.”

On how the schedule is set up…

“We could have played the same type of schedule as last year, but what is the point of that. Last year, we had one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. We obviously wanted to play some quality teams again. We have that in Texas A&M, who is the SEC champion and the favorite again, and Arizona, who will be better than they were last year, and we get them on our home floor this year. Sacramento State was in the top two or three in the Big Sky last year. We open with UNLV, a good team out of the Mountain West who will be better than last year, and UC Santa Barbara, who traditionally is a very good team and struggled with injuries and youth last year. [UC Santa Barbara] got a couple of transfers and got everybody healthy, so they will be a contender in the Big West.”