bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Jordan Interview :: 09/28/17

bleedCrimson.net: Last week you had a good win against UTEP (3-0) and a tough loss against UTRGV (2-3). What are your thoughts on the two matches?
Mike Jordan: I thought we played reasonably well against UTEP. We're a little bit more physical than they are and we played better volleyball for long stretches. I think rivalry games, there's a lot of emotion in them and I thought we handled it well. We seemed to be pretty confident in our ability to win the match. I saw some progress from some younger players too. We walked away from that happy that we got the win.

UTRGV, I feel the same way about that match as I do the Arizona match the week before and the North Dakota match the week before that. Here we've got a pretty good team on their home court and we're in control of the match and we're up 21-16 in the fourth with a chance to finish it and all of the sudden we stop making plays and start making errors and let them back in it. Then we're up 12-10 in the fifth and again we can't finish. And I didn't like the volleyball on the floor. It seemed to be more of panic and uncertainty than confidence in our ability to make plays which is frustrating when we've got a fair amount of upperclassmen out there, players who have been in these positions a little bit before. I feel like we lost the match more than UTRGV won it. Moving forward, we're trying to find ways to do the right things late game more often. Are we calling the right plays for the right people at the right time? X's and O's wise we are, we're getting people one-on-one opportunities attacking the ball but we're either not hitting it in the right spots or we're hitting it out of bounds. Then we get tight and that doesn't help. The players have to be confident in their ability to make plays in those situations and look forward to that responsibility and we seem to be looking at each other instead.

But again, we played really good volleyball again for long stretches. It's a tale of two teams really and we're expecting our veteran players to come through in these situations and those opportunities are going to keep coming. Hopefully they learn from those mistakes and get it figured out here pretty quick.

bc.net: You talked a couple of weeks ago about wanting to see better decision making from your hitters, better recognition. What is it that they're not seeing or not making as far as decisions late in sets and late in matches that you want them to see and do?
MJ: When you've got two blockers in front of you on a ball that set to you from off the net, you have to make an assumption that those two blockers are going to be on time and you've gotta have enough court vision to know where they are. Then it's a matter of making a choice in how you want to attack it. You can't hit it low right into them like you did in high school with power and expect something good to happen very often. You've gotta go off the top of that block or carve it around the block or mix in a tip in those situations. We're not doing that. We're hitting low into the block a lot when we shouldn't. Then we've had some one-on-one opportunities on good sets in-system play where again you've got to have enough vision to hit what they're giving. So if they give you line, if a blocker's giving you line, you've gotta pound that thing down the line. If they're giving you a hole inside, then you've gotta take hole inside. So, I think sometimes we're guilty of taking the swing that we're most comfortable taking or the swing we like taking the most as opposed to taking what's there. That's frustrating. You should get that kill more often than we're getting. Those are things that attackers have to learn and have to go out be comfortable doing and we're struggling with that at times right now. We don't seem to be struggling with it too much earlier or in the middle of sets but late games against good teams, we seem to want to do what we're most comfortable doing instead of what we need to do. So we've just got to keep putting them in those situations as often as we can in practice. Obviously you can't simulate games completely in practice. It's different with the uniform on and people in the stands and the pressure to win there. But we've got talented players and we're just going to keep working at it.

bc.net: You mentioned after the UTRGV match that you saw some good things from your younger middles. What are the things you're seeing from them that you're impressed with?
MJ: Well their ability to put the ball away is improving. They're improving their spacing and their timing with the setters. They're being more active getting up in transition which is not an easy thing to do. We had to pass them up a lot early in the season, now we're able to find them more. You can see their attempt numbers are going up and that's reflective of the setters having more confidence in them because of the work they're putting in. We're seeing some good things there. It's going to lead to better balance offensively and they're working hard. It's not just Mosher and Sterns but Salanoa as well who hasn't gotten a chance to play much yet but all three of them are doing a little bit better each day and learning each day and we're very happy with their progress.

bc.net: You open up the home portion of conference play tonight against what looks to be an improved Chicago State team and UMKC. What do you see from Chicago State that has allowed them to play better than they have in the past?
MJ: It's by far their best team. I've been impressed with their outside hitters. They have a couple of JUCO transfers who are really good. One who we were very interested in, Dela Cruz. They've got good arms. They're not real tall but they're really good volleyball players. They've got a good libero and some quick athletes that are learning. When they walk in the gym they're not going to be the most impressive team physically but they play good volleyball and they're doing it more often in longer stretches and have gotten a lot of wins that in the past they wouldn't have gotten. It's certainly a team that we're going to have to play well to beat.

I'm a little nervous, Jordan Abalos hurt her knee again and she's out indefinitely. She's such a big part of our ball control and our passing game that she's a tough loss for us. We're going to have to find ways to manufacture points without her on the floor and that's not going to be easy. I tell our coaching staff all the time, we're handcuffed to Jordan Abalos because of all the things she can do. When she's playing well we're going the right places. If she's playing poorly, we're struggling. And her not playing at all makes me nervous. I think this team is obviously capable of winning without her but it's not going to be as easy.

bc.net: In her absence, who are some players who you're looking to turn to in terms of offense but also in terms in passing since she, along with Ariadnne Sierra, your best passer.
MJ: The hard part is that of the six rotation outside hitters, which Jordan is one, Savannah Davison is coming off her ACL that she tore in high school. She's just gotten cleared but she's really not ready to play yet. Brigette Lowe and Megan Hart can play on both antennas but they're not true six rotation players. They don't have that kind of ball control. We're going to have to make some adjustments in the lineup. Kassie Tohm is going to have to play more on the left and maybe see a little bit more passing action. I think Kaylee Neal will play a bigger role at times as a back row DS. Tatyana Battle and Ari Sierra are going to have to step up, probably pass a little more two-person serve receive. It's not easy, it's hard, it's tiring but they're capable. It's just going to pressure us a little more than we like but it is what it is.

bc.net: Especially for players like Tohm and I guess a little bit with Brigette Lowe, you are constantly through the course of a player's career preparing them to play different positions and not just be a specialized one-position, three-rotation players. Obviously this is a situation where all of that training you do with them comes into play.
MJ: It does. I think that's why you'll see Kassie Tohm step up and take on some of that responsibility. She's been able to practice in the spring and train for this. Brigette Lowe unfortunately missed all of spring after thumb surgery so she hasn't had any time to train for this so it's going to be a little bit harder. Megan Hart is not someone that we really see as a back-row player but she's got a good enough platform and good enough hand-eye coordination that we could give her a small slice of floor and ask her to take care of it. It's not going to be easy. Really we're going to be very reliant on Tatyana and Ariadnne and Kaylee to get us through this and hopefully Jordan can get back and if not as a six-rotation player, a three-rotation player at some point. We're hopeful but we don't know yet how this is going to play out. We're just going to have to continue to work at it and hopefully we'll get a little bit better each week.

bc.net: Then on Saturday you take on UMKC. What do you know about them?
MJ: Long, physical team. Lot's of tall athletic kids. They return really good players in Harrington on the outside and Sadler in the middle. They've got a Nebraska transfer, Ratcliffe, who's got a lot of athletic ability. Physically they're going to be pretty solid. They're struggling a little bit just because they had to replace so many players, including their setter who is really, really good. It takes time. They do a lot of quick stuff like we do, quicker tempo attacking. It takes a long time for that connection between setter and quick hitters to take hold and improve. It's not something you just walk into the gym and you get to be pretty good at it right away. It's difficult and I think they're struggling, they're going through that but they're just going to keep getting better each week. They're definitely physical and they'll be a challenge.