bleedCrimson.net: The team picked up a couple of wins last week, a five set win over Utah Valley and then a sweep of Seattle.
Mike Jordan: To go on the road against two quality teams and get wins is great. Again, two different matches. A high error match with Utah Valley and then our outside hitters did a much better job against Seattle in making attack choices and we located it a little bit better and really did a good job defensively and at the service line in both matches. I saw a lot of really good things and any time you get two wins on the road to pad your lead a little bit down the stretch is great.
bc.net: Tatyana Battle had an outstanding night against Utah Valley with 26 kills and she was really dominant in that fourth set and even though you didn’t win that set she had nine kills and three more in the fifth and carried that over against Seattle. What did you see from her this past weekend?
MJ: She started the Utah Valley match and she made some pretty bad errors and then she got better quickly and that’s key. She didn’t struggle for long. I think after about the middle of the second set she was getting it going pretty good. Obviously we’d like to see somebody play well the whole match but I think the sign of really good players is that they make mistakes sporadically and not in bunches. I was happy to see her bounce back maybe a little quicker than she has sometimes. She made a lot of key plays for us and not just attacking it but at the service line and she made some good digs. She’s an improving player and her upside is pretty good.
bc.net: How difficult is it for a player if you start out poorly in a match to have a mental reset and then go on a run like she did over the final three sets. She had 17 kills in the last three sets against Utah Valley.
MJ: It’s really important. It’s really important for the player obviously but it’s really important for the team. I throughout this season have committed myself to calling timeouts earlier than maybe years past hopefully just to get them mentally reset. Players need to do that themselves and we’re not quite there yet consistently. I tend to burn a lot of timeouts early. I think I called two in the UMKC match before they even got to the midway point of the set just trying to get us thinking clearly and pushing that reset button and getting competitive again. Players need to do that on their own or help each other do that but her bouncing back the way she did and a couple of other players as well was really key for the match.
bc.net: Ariadnne Sierra had a great weekend, 31 digs against Utah Valley and five service aces and then she had six more service aces against Seattle and you went on some really long runs with her on serve in both matches.
MJ: She was great, especially at the service line. She created a lot of stress and came up with some big digs. She’s improving as well all the time looking to do things within a system. Her technique is still improving. We’re seeing the results of the hard work and the changes she’s making. She’s making a lot more plays now than she did when she was younger and way fewer mistakes. She’s always had the ability to fly around the floor and make the highlight reel play but she’d tend to make a lot of mistakes early in her career. It’s great to see her develop the way she has and become more of a leader as well.
bc.net: The three freshmen were thrust into a lot more playing time in the Utah Valley and Seattle match and they finished with 11 kills and just two attack errors against the Redhawks. What are you seeing from the three, Megan Hart, Hannah Combs and Brigette Lowe?
MJ: We see a little bit of everything. We see the good, the bad and the ugly. They have stepped up at times, they’ve also made some really bonehead plays at times. Technically they’re still a long ways off from being good at things but their length, their arm speed can pose problems for people and it has at times. We’re getting more and more confident setting them in certain situations. They’re working hard at improving their attacking skills. Trying not to be so one dimensional. I’ve seen some really, really good things and some really bad things. You just have to be patient and just have to understand that they’re freshmen and not everybody is on the same curve. Some take longer to figure things out. Yesterday in practice, Hannah Combs who has played fairly well offensively recently was really struggling just following directions. You just have to be patient and keep teaching but at the same time instill a little bit of discipline in them and make them understand that they’ve got a lot of work to do.
bc.net: We haven’t talked a whole lot about Hannah Combs. What does she bring to the team as a freshman?
MJ: She’s got arm speed and some length and she can score. The block has to improve a lot. She has to improve her spacing as an attacker quite a bit. She loses sight of the ball. She’s got a lot of bad habits. It’s just getting her outside that comfort zone. When she does things well we see someone that can help us. We just have to keep working with her. There’s reason to be optimistic with all of the bigs but she in particular has a little bit more arm speed than the others.
bc.net: From the fifth set of the Utah Valley match through the sweep of Seattle felt like and certainly numbers-wise, your cleanest stretch of volleyball you’ve played in a while.
MJ: It may have been. After the second set against Seattle at the break we had a conversation with the team and it revolved around look at the numbers now compared to at this point of the Utah Valley match and we were probably half as many errors or maybe less, it was close to that. That was a direct result of our outside hitters making better choices and our setters working harder to locate balls out of system. It’s not a coincidence that we were rolling at that point because we weren’t giving points away and stopping our own point runs. To say I was pleased with the back half of Utah Valley and Seattle, no question.
bc.net: Coming out of the intermission of that match against Seattle the team was able to keep their play at a high level and that’s been a big of a bugaboo with the team in conference play letting a couple 2-0 leads get to four and five sets. What does it take with a young team to keep that mental focus when you are on a roll like that going into the break?
MJ: I think it’s a problem with a lot of teams. I think there’s a sense of complacency that sets in. The sports speak is we didn’t step on their neck when you had the chance, killer instinct, that kind of thing. I think it’s very common in volleyball. I can’t really tell you why but I see it all the time. I check scores constantly and the number of times a team is up 2-0 and seems to be cruising and then finds themselves suddenly fighting for their lives in the fifth is a lot higher than it should be. But it happens and it’s certainly happened with this team a couple of times where we’ve started poorly in the third set and I think a lot of that is preparation and a killer instinct and a competitive attitude. I can tell sometimes when we’re ready to go out there for the third that we’re not ready to go. Sometimes we say something, sometimes we don’t but often times you look up and you’re down 6-1 or 6-2 and you’re struggling. It’s important for them to understand to be a great team you have to consistently play well.
bc.net: What is the health status of Kassie Tohm?
MJ: There’s fear of a concussion. I saw the video replay and it didn’t really look like she hit her head that hard but sometimes it doesn’t take much. She’s getting checked out today by a doc and they’ll put her through the tests and we’ll know more in a few hours.
bc.net: This week you have Grand Canyon and Bakersfield. What do you want to see from your team?
MJ: Consistency of effort. Again, continuing to make better attack choices throughout the match. I like how hard we’ve played defensively. I like what we’re doing at the service line. I think those are things that are fair to expect quality effort from our team on. But we play one match at a time and every match is an opportunity to learn a little bit more especially with the youngsters and for them to show what they’ve got and for us to get better as a group and play hard for each other. As we wind down conference I hope that’s the number one thing on their mind. Let’s get better and let’s play hard for each other.