bleedCrimson.net: You had kind of a mixed bag of results from last week. You get a sweep over Grand Canyon and a four set loss to Bakersfield. Kind of a weird match with Bakersfield but what were your thoughts on the Grand Canyon match first?
Mike Jordan: Grand Canyon, they're just missing arms. THey don't have a lot of physical kids. They play a decent brand of volleyball. They can stay in sets. The first set we got a little high error again and kept it close. Then we minimized the errors and took care of business after that. We were the more physical team but you also have to play clean in order to win and we did that for the most part in the match.
As for Bakersfield that was one of the more disappointing performances I've been a part of. I could see the team somewhat relax after the first set and I've seen that before. Like I said, it's fairly commonplace but when you're playing for the opportunity to clinch the outright championship on your home floor, it's frustrating that you don't get a more competitive personality from your team. I watched us walk out on the floor in set two and look like we believed we were going to win instead of playing to win each point. I hated everything about that match. Maybe the worst thing that could have happened was the trouncing we gave them in the first set. We've been telling them all along that we aren't as good as our record indicates. When you make that many errors, obviously you put yourself in jeopardy. To make 32 attack errors in four sets is ridiculous. We hit balls out of bounds with no blocker in front of us and we hit balls out of bounds with one blocker and we got blocked by one blocker. The setting was atrocious and we just looked completely out of sorts and I didn't see a whole lot of fight in us when we got behind.
bc.net: You mentioned that you see that happen a lot in volleyball and you see it happen a lot across sports like football for example where a team's first offensive drive they march right down the field and score a touchdown and then the rest of the game is a struggle for them offensively. Mentally what's the difference between having a great first set versus just having things come just a little too easily in a first set?
MJ: For coaches we want our players to be consistent all the time in the way they approach what they do. So for us, the answer is nothing but for the players that's a different story unfortunately. Too often we've been behind by five or six points and come back to win. When you do that you think you can do it all the time. Bakersfield made a lot of plays. They were a lot more prepared defensively than a lot of the teams we've played. They worked harder to stay in rallies and lengthen rallies and we just didn't seem like we wanted to keep playing. It was frustrating beyond belief. I'm not shocked but it's certainly a weakness of ours with this group that needs to be addressed until it changes. It's been addressed but we've got to keep making a big deal out of it until it changes.
bc.net: You mentioned this after the match on Saturday, obviously losing isn't great but sending the message that you've been talking about with your team about needing to play hard all the time, maybe this loss wasn't the worst thing in the world for them to have happen.
MJ: Yeah sometimes that sends a different message. When you're in the locker room after you win and you're saying things like we've got to do a better job of this and that, I think theoretically they get it but I don't know if they're really taking it to heart. There's a part of young people that wants to say, "Hey but we got the job done." But we're looking at the bigger picture. We're looking at what you have to play like in November and we're not there in order to win championships. I hope the loss wakes them up, shakes them up a little bit. If it doesn't then we need to change players. But I think it will, I hope it will. We'll see.
bc.net: This is a week where you just have the one match against UTRGV so you have a little bit of extra practice time. Following up on that loss you took on Saturday, what have you been working on with the team? Anything different than what you've been working on throughout the second half of the season?
MJ: We've actually taken the last few days off. Physically we're in a bad way. Too many players that can't practice or can't practice enough or are hurting. We've got no left side. With Banko out for the year we have no left side sub for Abalos or Battle so when they stink, we're stuck, they've just got to stay on the floor. Jordan is hurting physically she needs some time to get it together. We're going to start back up today. It will have been 72 hours since we played so three full days. We're going to get after it a little bit. We're going to challenge the team to work harder between points, work a little bit harder to score. We've got some things in place to try to make practice a lot harder on them and hope that they're a little bit more prepared when it comes match time when it gets rough out there.
bc.net: Are you starting to see from the freshmen a little bit more of the instinct kick in from learning the system throughout the year?
MJ: Certainly not enough. Are they better? Sure. Are they a little smarter? Sure. Are we getting more out of them? Some yes, some no. I think when you play a 6-2 system like we do and you have so many pieces involved, so many players involved. The goal is to try to get the team to the point where we were last year or at least close to it where we had tremendous balance and we could move players in the back row and we could move them in the front row and have them play different positions and play matchups. This team is not there and nor should it be. Last year's group, a lot of veterans. I don't expect us to be like we were last year but the goal is to try to get there. You have to keep working toward that. I feel a little bit better about us than I did a month ago but again my view is what are we supposed to look like come conference tournament time. What do we need to look like? And we're not there. We just have to keep pushing and trying to find ways to make it happen.
bc.net: With the match on Saturday you again have a chance to clinch the regular season title and the top seed in the WAC Tournament. After what happened on Saturday what do you want to see from your team from a mental preparation standpoint?
MJ: I want to see a look in your eye that says you want to compete. I didn't see that on Saturday. I've seen it quite a few times this year but I sure didn't see it on Saturday. Time will tell if this is a group that has enough leadership and toughness to finish this thing the way we hope.