bleedCrimson.net: You're four weeks into the season now, what have you learned about your team through the first three weekends of play?
Mike Jordan: I like the tempo we play at. We've been too high error at times. I think that's been the major bone of contention with the coaching staff. We've just got to take better care of the ball offensively better than we have but we're already seeing some progress. The first two weekends taught us a lot. I think this past weekend, we didn't get the same kind of pressure put on us. We didn't have anybody the caliber as UCLA for instance, but we still made fewer attack errors and better attack choices and I think those two things go hand-in-hand.
We're an improved blocking team from a year ago but we've still got a ways to go. We've got too many bad block touches. We're working hard at that right now, along with the attacking, those are the number one goals in practice.
bc.net: Defensively how is your team? The numbers look good and even the match against UCLA they hit .236 where a team of that caliber, you wouldn't necessarily be surprised to see them hit over .300 early in the season against you.
MJ: Yeah. I'd stack our defense up, obviously blocking is part of that, but as far as the floor defense goes, I would stack us up against anybody. I think we dig it really, really well. We give really good effort all of the time. I've been really pleased with that. We give ourselves a lot of transition opportunities to score because of how many balls we dig and I think we can get better at that too. We've got a couple of players, Natalie Mikels is just a freshman and she's learning every day. But athletically we're quick and I think what we're doing from a system standpoint is really beneficial for us.
bc.net: This team has the five seniors and the two juniors and then you've got a lot of unproven talent on the team after that. Who are some of the new players that you've been getting some contributions from?
MJ: Obviously [Brielle] Sterns and [Lia] Mosier in the middle. We felt like Brielle would be somebody who could play right right away when we were recruiting her. Lia has been a little bit more of a surprise. She's got a great motor and she works really hard. Neither one of them are anywhere near the player they're going to be but that's an exciting thing too. We're getting a little contribution out of them now and I think by the end of the season you're going to see us setting them more and the hitting percentages going up. They're already, for freshmen, blocking at a pretty good level so I like what I see from them.
Natalie Mikels obviously setting in the 6-2 has done a really solid job for us. It's not easy to go from high school and club and then come in and play and adjust to the speed we're playing at and she's doing a really good job. Serving it great, scoring a lot of points for us when she goes back there. We're seeing some good things from her.
Then there's quite a few of them that if they keep improving could earn some playing time. Salanoa is really physical. She's just got to catch up to the speed and iron some things out and she could be in our lineup before the year is over. Savannah Davison isn't cleared yet from her ACL but we're hoping that's going to happen any day. She's got a great arm and is showing some good things in her limited practice opportunities. Then we've got some little as we like to call them, little liberos who are really doing some nice things for us. I don't know how much they'll help this year but there's opportunities for them, especially late game serving subs, defensive replacements, etc. But I like a couple of them down the road for next year, I think they're gonna be pretty good players.
bc.net: You talked about Natalie Mikels, this is the third straight season that you're breaking in a setter.
MJ: Well, Briana Ainsworth is a junior and Natalie has got the benefit of having a two-year starter at setter to work with every day. I think Bri is a pretty good example for Natalie and has been very helpful. The fact that she's a freshman, yeah, we're going to have those freshman mistakes, there's things you can't change right away about them, it takes a little time. She's a really good observer. She's been really good at studying the game and listening and she's very coachable. In a lot of ways we're getting a better effort out of her than we would some freshmen. And she wants to set, she wants to get out there and play that position and she's good at it. I think that confidence is a nice thing for her teammates. We don't really look at her like she's a freshman. Maybe in the first couple of weeks the upperclassmen handled her with kid gloves but she's part of the group now and I think of all the setters we've had as freshmen in the last decade that have come in, she's I think as prepared to play as any we've had with maybe the exception of Jennah [DeVries] and maybe Briana. We're pretty happy with what we're getting from her.
bc.net: You've got five seniors and it almost feels like Briana and Tatyana are seniors because they played so much as freshmen. You have to be pretty happy from a leadership standpoint with that group of seven.
MJ: I think they do a lot of things right. I think they can be better especially when things aren't going that well out on the floor. If we happen to be struggling I think there needs to be a bit better effort from a leadership standpoint but I do think that they're good people and they try hard and they're good example. I think that rubs off on your team and we've got good chemistry. People get along and work hard together and we have a pretty good time.
bc.net: Going into this weekend what do you want to see from you team that you haven't seen or maybe want to continue to see from them?
MJ: I just want to see us get a little bit better each time out. I talked about the attack selection and minimizing our errors and being a better blocking team. I think we're serving it pretty well, knock on wood. We're passing it great. We've got two of the best passers out there in [Ariadnne] Sierra and [Jordan] Abalos. When you look at our numbers, they're pretty impressive from a passing standpoint. I feel good about that. Again, I like how we're digging it and the effort we're giving there. We fly around and make a lot of players. If we can just take care of the ball a little bit better and do a little bit better job up front blocking, we're going to be really tough for teams to beat.