Weekly Coach Jordan Interview :: 10/24/17 You picked up a good win on Saturday over UTRGV, your thoughts on the match?
Mike Jordan: There was a lot of emotion in that one. Obviously we were looking forward to competing and then a few points into the first set and Hannah Combs goes down with a dislocated knee and that changes things dynamically for us. We went from, "Hey, let's get after it and compete, we think we're gonna win," kind of attitude to, "Okay, now how do we piece this together in her absence, already being shorthanded." I know some of our players were really upset about Hannah getting hurt and felt terribly for her and the impact that can have on you when you see one of your teammates go down like that. You have to manage that as a team. I was pretty happy with our response. We didn't play all that well for a little while but we kept ourselves in the game and managed to go on a couple of point runs in the first set and snuck away with a 'W' in game one and I think that helped quite a bit. Game two we made a lot of errors, we didn't get some production out of a couple of people that we needed to get so when we dropped that set we decided to make a couple of changes, not only to the lineup but to what we were doing. The players did a good job. They came together, executed better and it was a good win. As a coach, how do you focus your team after something like that. It's something that you've had to deal with several times througout the past 10 years or so. You had Stephanie Ziegler go down at the beginning of a match at the beginning of a season, you had Krista Altermatt went down in the fifth set of a WAC title match against Hawai'i. Unfortunately, you've had experience with this type of thing. How do you deal with that with the team?
MJ: Well in the moment it's really just about getting them to understand that injuries are a part of the game and they'll be back eventually and they'll be okay and they're going to get taken care of and now we've gotta push the restart button and get going again. Easier said than done. You really rely maybe on the adrenaline and the competitiveness of your team. They're the ones that really have to help each other and find ways to compensate for the loss of a teammate. I think the players have done a good job of that in the past. It's certainly no fun. You start to feel a little bit paranoid or snakebit sometimes when you have things like this happening to the team. You get in there and again, it's a opportunity for somebody to step up and do a little bit more to help their team win. One of those players who stepped up was Lia Mosher. You talked last week after the UTEP match and said that you wished you had set her a little bit more and it looks like she did get set more in this match.
MJ: She's been improving offensively and it's been steady improvement since the beginning of the season. As I've mentioned before she's got a great motor and she works. She's got athlete instincts. She played other sports. I think she sees things happening better than some. You combine those two things and it's easy to make those players better. She's 6-3 and she's got some arm speed and she moves around pretty well. There's no reason to think she won't be an exceptionally successful player here and we're seeing strides already. We knew when we lost Jordan and then Brielle that we were going to have to count on Lia to do more, particularly offensively and she's embraced that, she's excited about it. She's doing very, very well. I think she's a really strong candidate for freshman of the year in our conference. I think she can become one of the dominant players in the WAC eventually. We've talked a lot about the difficulty of playing as a freshman, mostly with respect to your setters. What are your expectations, what's the learning curve for a middle as a freshman?
MJ: It's difficult. It's a difficult position to play. I think the most difficult part for any freshman is the confidence level. Not knowing where they fit and what the opposition is going to look like. Part of the reason for playing a tough non-conference schedule is to expose them to great athletes. Certainly when you're playing a UCLA middle or an Arizona middle, you're playing against some of the best athletes in the country. It gives you an understanding of where you fit I think. I've been pretty impressed with how Lia and Brielle, Juliana and Hannah and all these guys go about their business. I think they understand it's a difficult position to play and they work hard. They're really trying to make themselves better but it is a difficult position to play. You have to be relentless in trying to block the volleyball and you can't be someone who takes shortcuts there. Too many players during the course of a rally with just quit trying to close and they'll prepare themselves offensively to attack instead of working to close. This group doesn't do that. They work hard. I and their teammates really appreciate that. This was your longest stretch at home since pretty early in the season. How beneficially is it to have that much time at home? I know that in talking to other coaches from other sports one of the things that people don't realize is that when you''re on the road you don't get a lot of practice time and you can fall into some bad habits and being at home helps with the practice time and getting rid of those bad habits? Is that a similar case with volleyball as well?
MJ: It is yeah, no question. I think the travel in this conference obviously is particularly difficult. You don't get the practice time nor the rest that you like. But we're all in the same boat. Everybody's got to make these trips. It's just as hard for Seattle and Utah Valley to come down to us and UTRGV as it is for us to go there. You're not at a disadvantage over the other teams in the league. I think though when you have a group that is younger or a group like ours that is younger now because of injuries and playing less skilled, less experienced people, you want as much practice time as possible. As coaches we'd all love to have more practice time but there's no way around it. You just go manage it and do the best you can with it. I think our team has to prove that we can play well on the road consistently over the course of a full weekend. We haven't done that yet. Hopefully we'll look at it as an opportunity this weekend to pull that off. This weekend you're at Kansas City and Chicago State. You picked up a couple of sweeps the first time around but obviously now playing with an even shorter hand than you were playing with before.
MJ: Yeah, I think UMKC in particular has some pretty good weapons. They've struggled more than they would have liked, they've had their own share of injuries and issues but this is a team that has done well in the WAC and they've played well at home. We certainly don't overlook anyone. Chicago State has some really good athletes and it's the best team they've had since they've joined the conference. They play well at home. We're going to have to play well in order to win and we're going to have to again, maybe be creative in the lineups we throw out there and ask the players to do some things that maybe they're not too comfortable doing yet or haven't had much success doing yet but it's all part of the bigger picture and I know they'll work hard.