bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Jordan Interview :: 10/17/17

bleedCrimson.net: Three matches in five days for a shorthanded team and you came out with three wins. Your thoughts?
Mike Jordan: Obviously being at home is a great thing. We were able to get some great practice time in during the week and we knew we had a couple of big opportunities in front of us. Obviously Thursday against Bakersfield and the rivalry match on Monday night, we were looking forward to those two matches in particular.

bc.net: Obviously playing without two of your key players, Jordan Abalos and Brielle Sterns, in the Bakersfield match, were you surprised with the way you were able to win?
MJ: I don't know that surprised is the right word. I didn't think Bakersfield played very well. They struggled handling the ball. If you're out of system a lot against us, you're going to lose. One of the things we do exceptionally well is convert mediocre to bad swings into really good swings of our own. You're back on your heels immediately if you don't come out and give us something with heat on your first attempt. We were able to capitalize on that. I thought we did a really good job defensively of digging the ball and we just got on a roll and Bakersfield seemed to struggle to find a way back in it.

bc.net: You were able to serve pretty tough against them and keep them out of system. Serving tough is something your team has been good at the past two or three seasons and it's something I know you've worked on a lot. What have you liked about the way that your team has served this season and particular in the Bakersfield match?
MJ: The thing to remember is it's an individual skill. Each player has their strengths and their weaknesses at the service line. Sometimes the weakness is they don't serve it tough enough. They may make it in a high percentage of time but the other team gets into their offensive flow and when they've got multiple good attackers up front, you're in trouble. Sometimes the weakness of a server is that while they may serve it tough, they're just too erratic. They can't hit the spots you're asking or or they miss too much. You really have to create a balance amongst them. We're trying really hard to make that happen. Players in particular, the comfort zone, we've talked about that a lot with players. So many of them are so comfortable doing what they do at the service line even though they're capable of doing much more. I think it's evolving all the time. You may serve it well as a freshman, that doesn't mean you're going to be serving it well as a sophomore or junior. Sometimes you need to move and maybe back up or change sides of the floor. Add things to your service game and that takes time and effort. I think some of our players put really good effort into and then there are others who need to catch up.

bc.net: You have a couple of tough servers on the team, someone like Ariadnne Sierra, who is a tough server. Is it a contagious thing where their teammates see them putting in to the work and able to serve tough and the results that they get out of it, does it help with the rest of the team?
MJ: I think it does. Ari does work hard. It took a year and a half for us to convince her to change her serve. She was a little erratic and it wasn't tough either and so at the end of her sophomore season in the spring, I finally convinced her she had to back up and take more chances and be more aggressive. It's not a coincidence that she's always leading us in aces or really close. I think for her, I think managing the game and score is important. She may have to serve more of an 80 percent ball at 20-all in the score as opposed to always wrecking it hard from way back where she does. I think you just have to manage the game a little bit better at times. I love the way she serves it. She creates a lot of problems.

bc.net: Coming off the sweep of Bakersfield, the team has a rough first set against Grand Canyon. Obviously you're looking for better consistency from your team. What did you see in that first set that caused the team so much trouble?
MJ: I saw a team that was really unprepared. We missed a ton of defensive assignments, things that were clear in the scouting report. Things that we walked through. We were in the wrong spots a lot. It was a mess. Then we were making attack errors and service errors. I think the thing that really angered me was the missed assignments and the lack of focus into preparation and the scouting report and things like that. In fact, I don't know that I've been that angry at a volleyball team to start a match like that. I would say it was uncharacteristic of us usually but this team has a little bit more trouble focusing and preparing than some teams in the past. We're on them about it to improve.

bc.net: What as coaches or what as a team do they need to do collectively to prepare better or more consistently?
MJ: It's all at their fingertips now. The video system we have in place is tremendous. Our assistants, Ben in particular, do a great job of getting that information out to them. We tell them exactly what we want them to watch but they can always watch more. I think it's new for young players obviously but we've had this for a couple of years now with the veteran players. They really just have to put in the time. In today's world where there's so many things distracting them, I think sometimes they lose sight of how important it is because it's not just us that has this video ability, it's everybody else in the conference too. So if their players are more prepared than ours, it's going to lead to some problems. I just think they have to take the time, manage themselves and get it done. Even when we do scouting video work in our locker room quite often with them in preparation and you've got to force your brain to stay focused on it. I'm sure there are times when there's a lot of daydreaming going on in there. That's something they have to learn to avoid.

bc.net: Last night you pick up a sweep of UNM. Again, the third match in five days and playing shorthanded as well.
MJ: We had a pretty light practice on Sunday but it was a focused one. In a short time we had to go from the conference scouts to a team we haven't seen before this year and it's not easy to do. The older players did a decent job. I think the fact that it's a rivalry game helps them focus more than other matches. We had a pretty good practice on Sunday and I felt like we were prepared, it was just a matter of execution. UNM has a younger team but still and athletic team and some veteran players who are carrying a pretty good load for them. Both middles have a lot of experience. We were really focused on doing the right things and I felt like we executed pretty well. The only negatives were the attack errors late in set three. They were timing issues. Sasha whacked a few balls long, she got underneath the ball a little bit as the tempo go higher. Other than that we were pretty good and it's always nice to give the Lobos a whipping on the home floor.

bc.net: Playing without Jordan and Brielle, you've talked about your team having to learn to play without them and that you've got other players you need to get scoring from. Through four or five matches without them, where do you feel like the team is in respect to that?
MJ: I think we're learning still. I think we're good enough to be competitive against anybody we play. I'm not sure, I don't believe we're a championship caliber yet or NCAA Tournament caliber yet. There's different ways to score points. Kills obviously everyone knows about but there's a blocking side of it too and at the service line. I think as long as they're scoring points, they're helping the team. I don't care what version they come. I would love a scenario where we have great balance like we did a couple of years ago and maybe we did earlier in the season when we were healthy at times offensively. But that may not come for a while. But if the people who aren't getting a lot of kills are blocking a lot of balls and doing good things at the service line, if they're someone who serves in our rotation, then that's great. It's just a matter of put points on the board somehow. I think we did a good job of that last night. Lia Mosher in particular, we didn't set her as much as I would have liked, a lot of that is she's in between Kassie and Sasha in the rotation but Lia came up with a solo and maybe seven blocking assists and that's great. So she's in double-digit point scoring. That's big time especially for a freshman. We've got to get Megan Hart and Brigette Lowe and Hannah Combs, we've got to get those guys scoring more points for us on a regular basis and that's what we're working at really hard, really diligently in practice. Hopefully we'll get there.

bc.net: You take on UTRGV on Saturday but you have a few extra days off without the Thursday conference match. With the young team and also being shorthanded. How helpful is it to have that extra day without a match and what things are you able to work on that you might not normally be able to?
MJ: It's nice to have the extra practice time but we really don't have an advantage at all because they're on the same schedule we are because they don't have a match on Thursday either. We both have ample prep time for each other but I do think the practice time, especially this time of year, is so valuable. For some people you might be able to give them an extra day of rest instead of giving them work as far as physically getting better and then there are those who need to get out there and get more reps. Juliana Salanoa, Megan Hart, Brigette Lowe, those guys are classic examples of that. We've got to get them more and more reps as often as we can in order to make them better so they can help us more.

bc.net: Do expect anything from UTRGV this second time around?
MJ: There's always a wrinkle or two that people look for. Everyone's always trying to improve their team in a different way but at the end of the day, there aren't that many secrets at this point. I think it's just how efficient is your team going to play that day. I think we'll be prepared and I'm sure they will too. It'll be a good match. They have a good solid team, they manage the game well. I would expect a good match again.