Let's see....since the time of last post I've managed to crash my wife's van, make a parenting mistake that got one of my kids dehydrated to the point of almost blacking out and then acquiring this massive head cold that causes me to walk in random directions. Nice.
In just another day or two, we'll preview the (taller) Sabrina Burns in order to get you even more ready for the season opener which is only nine days away at this point.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to catch three afternoon practices and I'll probably get in tomorrow's as well. Yesterday, I managed to stagger up to my perch at the top of Shelton Gym to watch practice. I was in this terrible mood from my headache and I kept thinking: I hope nobody talks to me - just nobody talk to me. I remember thinking that over and over until about a half hour into the practice when I suddenly realize the obvious: No one is going to talk to you because you are at the top of the gym by yourself. Yes, I've been that fogged over the last few days.
The practices have been great. I went to four or five last year and I honestly think the three I've seen this year were better than all five or so I saw last year. Plus, I must say that its been educational. Coach Humphreys voice carries more than Yale or Critzer's in the gym so when she starts teaching, I can typically hear everything. I can recite for you the proper body positioning for serve receive by heart. Don't ask me to illustrate.
Most every drill in practice is "points" based. Do this for "100 touches" or "first group to 30 points wins this drill" or "we play this drill to 10 with points off for balls touching the floor or errors"....or some scheme like that. I don't remember as much of that from my visits last year, but I really like it and it seems to work well. The girls treat every drill as a competition and it's amazing how there is no wasted time at all during the workouts. Breaks are short and focus is maintained for hours at a time. Pretty impressive.
I've had a couple people ask me about the freshmen. By the way, we will do a freshman interview once the season begins. Let me just say this about the newcomers: yes, at times, even my fairly untrained eyes see things that reinforce that they are new to college volleyball. But, there appear to be some pretty cool customers in this bunch. It will be interesting to see who individually emerges with more playing time, but as a unit, I like what the collective contribution projects to be. By that I mean, I can look at the six of them and be confident that we are gonna get something good THIS year. From whom, I'm not completely sure. But, as always, I've got a legal pad with me at practice scratching down questions and thoughts for future conversations with coaches. I'm really anxious to see the newcomers in game situations.
Some quick hits on the veterans: Gideon (yeah, OK, she's not a "veteran" yet) is going to be just fine. So smooth. Burns is better this year. Possibly quite a bit better...I think she's going to be a monster at the net. KO says she's feeling fine, so we know what that means: Pain for those not in purple. Like all teams, this one needs good health, but I just don't see any regression in the returners.
One thing has hit me like a ton of bricks, though. I know we are gearing up for 2010, but I guess I have the luxury of shifting time frames around in my head rather than coaching or playing - two things that require focus on the here and now. I was hit with this question:
"Who is going to be our L1 next season? Who is going to be the go-t0 on the strong side in 2011?"
When I pondered that, I realized that (both obviously and still amazingly to me) the answer will come from what we see this season. Unless someone changes position, it appears the answer is either Miksch or a current freshman (or a freshman recruit).
I think I'll have fun pondering that question and it's possible answers as the season goes on.
Two other things I don't want to forget to mention: First, about a week before my final post on the conferences' coaches it appears that Nicholls had indeed hired a new coach. Her name is TeAna Tramel and she comes to Nicholls after being an assistant at Washington State for two years. It turns out that this was announced on the conference website during the time I was doing the coaching series. I just didn't see it. Most of what appears in the news section on the conference website is duplicity - the articles just being lifted from school athletic websites. But, Nicholls "old" athletics website is still up alongside a new revamped version and in all the confusion I missed the announcement. At any rate, Nicholls doesn't come here to play until next year, so a formal welcome will have to wait.
Lastly, you should be over at the official site reading Ben's positional previews. As always, they are well done and informative. Ben and I are both planning on making the trip to Waco next weekend. At this point, it does appear that we will do a live court side Internet chat for each of our matches. These were well received last year by parents and fans and each of us enjoyed doing them, so they'll definitely be back for this year. Ben may handle some, I may handle some and a good fraction of them we'll do together.
I got my degrees at Baylor and SMU - two of the teams we play on opening weekend. So while I don't have huge allegiance to either athletically (especially volleyball), it will be good for me to get back to Waco. It is where both my parents were born and where I spent many days growing up. I loved going to college there, so it will be a pleasant trip down memory lane. I graduated in the Ferrell Center, so it's always a trip to be back there wearing different colors than green and gold.
Check back here on Friday for Sabrina Burns preview!