Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 Player Preview: Allison Gideon

JJ Jones. Bianca Aranda. Marissa Dorcheus. Wendy Walling. Terri Sherrill. Sunni Williams. Jennifer Fritsche. Whitney Schott. Paloma Bucker. Lauren Adams.

Recognize that list? It is the SFA Top 10 all-time assists leader board. With only two exceptions, I have seen all of them play.

In my mind, Jones and Dorcheus (now Marissa Avery) were the two best. I'm not sure what order I'd put them in.

By all accounts, if she plays the way people around here expect her too, redshirt freshman Allison Gideon has a good shot at appearing somewhere on that list before her playing days in purple are over. Of course, her playing days in purple have just begun. I'll say this though.. she may already be creating her own mold.

Dorcheus? Always in the right spot. Just always got to the right spot. She was quick, smart and knew where to be at all times and could get there. Jones? To me, she was just deadly accurate. I never heard one attacker say they wished JJ would do such and such.. they all bragged on her ability to actually get the ball to the optimal point of contact.

But Gideon? She hits the ball. She is a legitimate offensive weapon and anyone who watched the matches in Waco last weekend was convinced of that. You know what? It isn't just hitting. Allison was able to rack up "kills" by dinking and dumping at just the right times and hitting the open floor spots. You don't have to spike it to be an offensive weapon as a setter (although I think it's cool when setters do that), but you just need to get the defense to legitimately respect you as an attacker every time you touch the ball. I think Allison is going to be that type of setter.

Here's our interview as preparation for this weeks' matches against ULM, Wichita State and Portland.

SFAVolleyBlog.net: What was it about SFA and the possible opportunities here that made you agreeable to redshirt last year? After all, playing opportunities right-off-the-bat may have existed elsewhere, so what was it about coming here?

Allison: Coach Humphreys made it clear from the beginning of the recruitment process that redshirting was a definite possibility for me. After talking with the coaches and my parents about it, redshirting actually seemed to be a pretty good deal. I'd get the chance to be a four-year starter at a great program, and I'd get my 5th year of school paid for, which will hopefully include the start of a masters' degree. Such an incredible coaching staff and team would have made SFA a tough opportunity to pass up, and the fact that my best friend was already high jumping here made it impossible. After a lot of prayer I really felt this is where God wanted me, and after being here a year, I can honestly say that I know that without a doubt.

SFAVolleyBlog.net: What was the #1 thing that you think you learned from last season? What is the primary benefit of the redshirt in your mind?

Allison: Redshirting turned out to be highly beneficial to me as a setter. I was able to get to know each of my hitters, which sets they like and which they struggle a bit more to hit. All that means that we will be able to connect better and more consistently this season. It also gave me time to really learn how the coaches want the offense run. I now have the opportunity to fine tune and improve upon all I've learned, as opposed to having to learn everything in a few short weeks.

SFAVolleyBlog.net: As you've worked with the attackers in practice this year, have you begun to learn little "likes" and "dislikes" that each of them might have? Are you conscious of those things as you choose them to set to?

Allison: I've definitely been able to learn about which ball each of my hitters likes to hit and is most successful with. For each of the hitters, my focus is to keep the ball in the back of the hitting zone, or off the net in other words, but there are certainly things I keep in mind when setting to each particular hitter. Sabrina, for example, obviously needs a higher set, while MC likes to hit a quick ball. I'm beginning to learn the freshmen's tendancies as well. My job is to put the hitters in the best possible scenario in order for them to put the ball on the floor. Of course, that determines who I set the ball to and sometimes how I actually set to them.

SFAVolleyBlog.net: From watching practices, it appears that there are different drills than I remember in the past which are concentrating on attacks from the middle of the court as opposed to on the outsides and also more setting to the back row attacker. Am I off base, or are there a few new approaches or hitting plays being worked on than what I remember from years past?

Allison: You are correct in these observations. We've been working on forcing the middles the ball, especially in transition. The quick ball is the harder ball to defend and is often more unexpected in transition. It is also a great way to set the tempo of the match and create splits in the block, hopefully creating a one-on-one situation for each hitter. Not to mention, our middles are very good at putting the ball down. We have been working on back row attacks, just to add some variety to the offense. The back row can be a very good option, especially when I'm front row and so there is a need to create that extra hitter.

SFAVolleyBlog.net: In an earlier blog post this month, I pondered who might be the best candidate to be the primary strong side hitter in 2011. Whomever that is, you'll be the one setting to them. Do you like what you see out of the freshmen hitters that you are learning to work with? Once KO is done is year, are you confident we will have a strong presence on the outside to replace her?

Allison: Our freshmen have really stepped in and done a great job. They're working hard and are consistently bringing their best to practice, which is exactly what we need. There is no doubt in my mind that we'll have a solid outside presence even after KO leaves. They'll have big shoes to fill for sure, but they're staying aggressive and are not afraid to take some chances, and I can't wait to see what they can do this year and in the future.

SFAVolleyBlog: Finally, if you had to pick one particular set/play to make, which would be your favorite. On the flip side, which set/slot/play is the toughest for you to execute at this point?

Allison: We've actually been working on a new play set with the middles and I'm really excited about it. It is not a difficult ball to set and it is incredibly hard to defend so I think we will be very successful with it. MC and Carrie especially like it because it allows them to approach off of one foot - like a slide - which they both love, all while only staying in front of me. I love it because it is a nontraditional play and I just enjoy being tricky. I don't know that there is a particular play that I am struggling most with at this point, but the first few days, the B's were definitely my least favorite. Recently, we've been connecting much more consistently and I'm very comfortable with that slot now. Really, my biggest focus is keeping the ball in the back of the hitting zone for all my hitters, especially to the middles which is where I tend to try and force the ball back to the net.


We've got our two "go-to" players on offense left to preview. MC and KO's interviews will be along in the next week or so.

If you are a student reading this for the first time now that school is back in session, make sure that - besides the home opener, you mark down Wednesday, September 15 at 6:00. We'll be in action in Johnson Coliseum against North Texas on that evening.

Now.. off to get ready for the first home match of the year.. I look forward to this date all summer.

Axe 'Em 'Jacks!