bleedCrimson.net: Your season can be broken up into really three or four different sections: non-conference, conference play before the injury to Hannah Walker, post Hannah Walker injury and then post the Sasha-Lee Thomas injury.
Mike Jordan: Going into the season I felt as though we would have some growing pains for sure. We graduated five players from last year’s team. They all played so even in a 6-2 system like ours where you’re playing high number of people, we’re having to replace three-quarters of our lineup. Seventy-five percent of your lineup is difficult to overcome, especially when a majority of them were really big pieces of the puzzle. But, we were all very excited about the level of athletic ability on our team. The incoming players all have a lot of athletic ability and as a coach you realize it’s going to take a while before their skill develops, some more than others. You realize it’s going to take a while for them to understand the systems and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The hardest part of this season for us was trying to create a balance between the amount of skill work and the amount of system stuff you do in practice every day. We want them to develop their passing skills, that attacking skills, etc., but we also have to make sure that when they’re on the floor, they know how to play with the person next to them, that they understand the blocking system, that they go the right way defensively. When you’ve got a young team you have to rely heavily on upperclassmen to help you get the young players going in the right direction. So we knew going into the season we were going to have some bumps in the road early, especially with the strength of our non-conference schedule. It was not a surprise to me that we weren’t able to beat BYU and CSU, a couple of those teams we dropped early matches to, Montana State, we probably beat them 99 times out of 100 if we played them. Those things weren’t that much of a surprise to me. But along the way I think we were all pretty happy with the way we were developing. We were seeing good performances from players at time. Some of our players were getting more consistent week-to-week. Not noticeable changes necessarily sometimes but they were definitely improving. Then once the injuries started, and side note, Audra Jones was hurt all year, our number three middle, our backup middle, a 6-5 sophomore, was not available to us this year because of the [ACL] injury in basketball. To lose Hannah [Walker] who as a senior and the libero and the toughest kid on the team bar none, Hannah was the heart and soul of the defense, she was the one who was the one helping the young players, pointing them in the right direction, motivating the team a lot, holding people accountable. Losing her was a big blow.
When you play another young player, Ariadnne Sierra at the libero spot or Andi Tauai moves to libero and has never played it before and you put a younger player in her place at outside hitter, you’re getting a little bit at a lot of spots, not just the one. We were still overcoming it. I felt like we were making some progress and even with that going on I felt like we could win the conference tournament. Then when Sasha [Thomas] went down with the injury, that was really, really a tough blow and not just because she was really starting to develop as a freshman and from a physical standpoint one of the premiere middles in the conference already, to lose that blocking ability and have to have an outside hitter because of Audra’s injury, having to play middle, it’s like taking a guard and trying to make them play center. It weakens you. It got harder and harder as the year went on. We just couldn’t catch a break in some respects. To lose those players off a team that was already young to begin with made our skill level and our volleyball IQ, our understanding of the systems, was really not there. We were playing hard and I appreciate that about this team. We were playing hard, we just weren’t playing efficiently at times. It was difficult but not completely unexpected. The injury part was the tough part to swallow. You just have to suck it up. It is what it is. Continue Reading This Post >>