Thursday, September 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
This interview was done about an hour before the UCA/SFA match last Saturday in Nacogdoches. I also had questions for Jessica Hays, but she did not make the Huntsville/Nacogdoches trip due to injury. We wish her a speedy recovery and rehabilitation.
I also want to thank several UCA parents who expressed positive remarks about the blog either after the match or in recent days by email. As I have continually said, I am completely surprised more than say.. 3 people.. read in this space. When I started this three years ago, I knew it was small potatoes. It still is, but it is always positive to meet new people and share in volleyball discussions with folks all around the league.
We will have an SLC5 installment this week and I will also be sending out interview questions via Facebook to Maddie Hanlan, Sabrina Burns and Allison Gideon this week. Look for those discussions to get posted in early October. Two additional posts on more general topics are also in the works. We'll continue to pump out two to three posts per week all during October and November.
SFA Fans: Look for a new addition in Shelton Gym when you get back in there October 13 for the match against Texas State. That's all I'll say about that. I don't think you'll miss it.
Finally, I will be travelling to Huntsville next Wednesday. Expect some form of a live chat for the match against Sam Houston State.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I walked away from Shelton Gym on Saturday afternoon both frustrated and disappointed. In the hours after the match I penned a doom-n-gloom post in my head and was ready late last night to gather my thoughts and write how inconsistent this team has been and just get a few things off my chest. You know, I don't think I was alone in my thoughts yesterday: Many of us were down after the 3-1 loss to Central Arkansas. I looked ahead at the upcoming schedule and allowed myself to think: We're just not going to do much better than in 2010.
I've learned through the years to "hold off" in times in frustration. If your words are worth writing at 11 Pm, then they will probably still be worth writing the next morning or afternoon. Such a patient approach at the keyboard has served me well in an academic environment where many an email has wanted to fly off my fingers in times of anger. So, I took pause. I waited. After all, Sunday was a non-conference game and less than 24 hours away. The post could wait until Sunday night or Monday. Patience 1, Tired Frustration 0.
Look what happened. 24 Hours: Two Different Teams.
After the match today, Bobby Bottles (MC's Dad) came up to me and his first words were: "Who was that team playing here yesterday?". He didn't mean UCA.
And, that's exactly it. Against UCA, there were some fundamentally bad moments. The blocking was atrocious. Horrible. The word disgusting came to mind a few times. You just cannot give a team - any team - the kind of free, uncontested looks that UCA got in that match. They thundered ball after ball to the floor while hitting 1 on 1 and even completely without a block up.. over and over and over. After the first set, when UCA hit .400, the entire media table - SID's, former players, staff that have coached at various levels & myself all looked at each other and said the same thing: Are we going to block "ANYTHING"?
Nope, we were not. We lost. Bad. The comeback in Set 3 only acted as strong cologne over the top of the profuse stink that was the rest of the match. Humphreys told me before today's match that she thought they should have won Set 2. OK. But what's just as true is that UCA went home on the bus (hopefully it didn't break down three times like it did getting over here) saying that they should have swept us. They should have. You aren't going to see many comebacks from 19-10 this year.
OK, enough with that. All things are made new in the morning. Flash forward to Sunday.
Blocking? Check. Right off the bat in Set 1. Go back and look at the play by play. Nah, keep reading - I already did. Check this out:
In Set 1:
SFA 4, Missouri State 3: Block by Bottles and Miksch
SFA 6, Missouri State 4: Block by Bottles
SFA 10, Missouri State 7: Block by Ivy and Burns
SFA 11, Missouri State 7: Block by Randall.
Four of the first 11 points we scored Sunday were off blocks. We blocked better in Set 1 on Sunday than we did in the entire match on Saturday. Frankly, we did so against a team that overall is probably considered stronger than Central Arkansas.
Consistency. We need consistency. I was really pleased to hear Humphreys talk about finding a consistent lineup going forward in her post game interview with Ben Rikard. Two regular components to our floor arsenal will probably include Jill Ivy and Taylor Gross (see interview above).
In fact, probably the biggest positive from the weekend was the emergence of Jill Ivy on the right side. Earlier in the season she saw spotty playing time and didn't play overwhelmingly well. A lot of her errors were going long - hitting the ball over the block and out of bounds. Lately, all that's changed. In fact, in Sunday's loss against UCA she was our best offensive weapon. This week (last three games) she hit 29-9-71 (.281). We'll take that for sure. Plus, it was nice to see her in on 4 blocks in 4 sets on Sunday after only 1 on Saturday.
Then, there is Taylor Gross. I like her hitting out on the edge. She's been very efficient. She hit 17-5-55 (.218) this weekend (Thurs/Sat/Sun) , including only two errors in 35 swings during the last two matches. Plus, she's fiery. Serious energy. She's one of my favorite celebrators after a big block or kill (Les Jackson's up there, too). Plus, Taylor is the designated girl for "Heeeeeeerreeee we go 'Jacks" heard when the team walks on to the court right before the match begins. A good pick.
Hey, we love our freshman. Holland, Ivy, Gross and Randall are all immediately central to the team. Hill has her role and Allen and Spicer are biding their time.. to be heard from. But let me end this post with a short rant.. and yes, its statistically based (imagine that?).
Get... Bottles... The.... Ball....On.... Offense.
There were many reasons we lost on Saturday. But consider this: Coming into Saturday, in games we won, Bottles had received 1 in every 5 sets. OK, follow along: What I am saying, is that when we have won, she has taken 20% of the teams' swings.
Saturday: She got set 1 in every 8 balls, rather than 1 in every five. Only 12%. That was the lowest percentage of swings as compared to the total attacks by the team that she has taken all year. She cannot be set that little (17 attacks out of 135 total by the team across four sets). Hey, I know Ivy was hot. But still, Bottles didn't get her fair share of balls set her way in the UCA match. Now, to be fair.. she didn't block any balls either (As already documented, that changed in a big way on Sunday)
[Warning: I am not a coach. I am a fan. The following is my opinion and I could be wrong. This is my blog and I'll write what I think.
Now, returning to regularly scheduled blogging:]
Listen, I am not blaming Holland. Heck, I'm not blaming anybody. Holland has done a really nice job. Really, really nice. She's a big reason we've won when we've won. But, I think it is perfectly all right to tell Holland.. "Look.. I don't care who is hot.. also always remember to find a way to get Bottles the ball". Last time I checked, she's got a few All-SLC honors on her mantle. Look, I know she's not God or anything, and I think she knows she has to really step up and lead despite all the young guns getting attention. Hey, she's a Senior. She can't make any excuses. But please, let's not get carried away with players that are half way through one season of NCAA volleyball. You wanna go to the tournament? You wanna finish in the top half of the league? You wanna be in a position to make some noise down the stretch? Then, dance with the one who brought ya, sister. Her name is MC.
End of Rant.
During the week I will post a really nice interview with UCA Head Coach David McFatrich. I had a great chat both on and off mic with both McFatrich and UCA assistant Todd Hay. I found out we share a few things in common that made me really identify with those guys. I was sorry to miss out on Jessica Hays, who is injured. I had a whole list of questions for her, just like I did for Kolbe when SHSU came to town. I did meet Hays' father after the match and that was neat. Hays - as any regular reader knows - is probably my favorite non-SFA player in the league.
Oh, and during that conversation with Hays' Dad.. you know who HE said his favorite non-UCA player was in the league?
That'd be MC Bottles.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Remember: Three matches in Four Days!! Check out the upcoming schedule on the sidebar --->
Axe 'Em!! We need wins!!
SLC 5: Western Edition
Chat with Brenda Gray:
Chat with Carli Kolbe:
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
MC Bottles & Paige Holland talk about the atmosphere in Shelton, the improved play of Sabrina Burns and this weekend's challenges (4:50)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
When it comes to MC, we've all been spoiled. Outside Hitters? We've had some, we've gone a few years with lean production, we've got some new ones that excite and give promise. But still, a lot of unknown. Libero? We've had Kuepker - and then Lo got hurt. We've had Maddie - and then Maddie got hurt. Now, Maddie is well, but this position has been stable in only bits and pieces. Right Side? Lots of activity and shifting there over the last few seasons. Setter? Don't get me started. I've learned that you shouldn't assume today's setter is tomorrow's. I listen - politely - when staff and such begin to talk setters and the "future". But, it's talk. And we all know the cost of talk.
But, middle blocker? Particularly, the position we call the "M1"? There's only one sentence you need to know: "At Middle Blocker, a 6 Foot Senior, #1.. M.C. Bottles". Every home game. Every lineup. The first one out of my mouth. All. The. Time.
This team has a lot of good players. This team has a lot of players that could be good players. This team may even have a few players that could be stars. Let's be clear: This team has one star. It's Bottles. She is rightfully the face of this team. She deserves - and commands - respect. The question is only where she will fit among the many great middles that SFA has suited up. She is among the best and she's the first name opposing coaches talk about when going over SFA scouting reports. I'm not making that up. I talk to these coaches. They talk about her.
I don't want to stir up any controversy because after all, this post is to celebrate our two seniors for 2011. But, I'm going to lay it out there: Melissa Miksch is under appreciated, under utilized and underrated. She's garnered a decent amount of playing time during her time at SFA, but I think she's deserved more. We've experimented in places and at times where Miksch has deserved to just play it out and work through a few things. It's just my opinion and I'll just leave it at that.
We've been through all this before, but let's say it again. Melissa Miksch is an athlete and you're not. She is always in great shape and is the poster child for conditioning and strength. She is versatile and can play basically anywhere. See, most players you can put in a box. Put her in the "middle" box or put her in the "DS" box. Mel can't be put in a box. OH? Yes? Libero? Yes. Back row? Yes. More than three rotation capability? Yes. (Oops, I said I'd leave it at that). She's a volleyball player. She's got legitimate ability all over the court.
The following interview is brought to you courtesy of Chipotle Restaurants.
SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, we have only two seniors on this team this year. In what ways do you intend to be a leader both ON and OFF the court? What type of leadership style fits you best?
Mel: I intend to be a leader this year in various ways. I believe that becoming good friends and being more comfortable with everyone can add good chemistry in a team. MC and I want to be the best senior leaders as possible this year in order to win that ring at the end of the season. We both expect everyone to do their job with 100% effort every time they step out on the court. I do believe that I have become more of a vocal leader on the court, but I am also a leader by example. Whether it is in the weight room or in Shelton the girls can watch me and see what they can build up to and learn from the way I play. I have played every position except for middle, so it is easy for me to relate to any of the positions.
SFAVolleyBlog: MC, any time a team experiences a down season like we did in 2010, there are sure to be changes the year following. What do you think will be the one biggest difference between the team last year and the team in 2011?
MC: This year I believe that the biggest difference is the depth of our team. We have 16 girls on our roster this season and that’s the most girls we have had on our team since I have been here. Along with the depth I also think this is the most competitive group we have had. No practice goes by without any trash talking or multiple arguments about a call!
SFAVolleyBlog: So, with those 16 girls on the club this year and many of them new, what is the biggest piece of advice that you could give the new players about the rigors of college volleyball? What’s the one thing you hope they learn the quickest in order to create the biggest opportunity for success?
MC: When given the opportunity to play you have to step up and do your job or you won't get that playing time that everyone wants. I didn’t start for the first 4 or 5 games as a freshman but once given the opportunity I proved that I should be on the court. You have to take advantage of those opportunities!! Also, to be successful you have to be a mentally stable and a consistent player.
SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, when you finish your Senior season, do you see yourself involved in volleyball in some way after college or do you think the memories will be enough and you’ll begin to put the game behind you as you transition to other phases in life?
Mel: I will definitely miss the game of volleyball and working out with the team after this season is over. It will be a hard transition, because I have been playing volleyball since I was in 5th grade. I do not see myself coaching volleyball later in life, but I will for sure step in to play a game of volleyball whenever the opportunity arises.
SFAVolleyBlog: MC, many of your teammates regularly engage in social media sites like Facebook. But, you in particular are an active poster and commenter. With all the stories in the media about athletes engaging in Facebook/Twitter, has the need to watch what one posts in open forum ever come up in team discussions? What is your thought about social media sites and the responsibility (if any) an athlete has when using them?
MC: As an athlete you're always in the spotlight. As a team I don't think we have any issues with Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes I think people are a bit harsh on athletes, but we do represent SFA and at the end of the day we have to be responsible for our actions. I think Facebook is a great way to keep up with old friends from high school and club!
SFAVolleyBlog: Mel, are/were your parents or siblings athletes? In all honesty, who is the best athlete in the family?
Mel: My family is very athletic. My Dad ran track in high school and then went to Blinn on a track scholarship. My Mom was a cheerleader in high school. My brother played basketball in high school. I followed in my sister’s footsteps the most. She played volleyball in middle school, high school and in college. She went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. We even had the same high school coach (Jason Landers), so we always make the comment that he had to coach a “Miksch” for 8 years! My family (especially me and my sister) always discuss who is the best athlete in the family, and we always ends up agreeing that I am.
SFAVolleyBlog: Senior night this year will honor just the two of you. Tell me one thing about the other one that you’ll always remember. What part of the others' game do you most admire? And finally, what’s one thing about the other that you think few readers would know ?
MC: My favorite memory actually happened this summer. It was the night of my 21st birthday and were driving through my neighborhood and drove past a party. While were driving past, Mel tells me that I should yell “ It’s your &%$#@! birthday!!” It was hilarious! I was not expecting her to yell that out like that, but it was the funniest thing I have heard her say! For people who don’t know Mel she seems like she’s quiet but she’s not! I love Mel and I really admire her for stepping up last season and filling our libero position. She was amazing and still is! Also her ability to be a solid 6 rotation player is something that I will always admire! [Ed. Note: Agreed, but remember, I am not bringing it up again].
Mel: There are so many things about MC that it is hard to pick just one thing, but if I had to pick one it would be her competitive nature. She would be willing to do whatever it takes to win a game. I believe that is why she has been so successful since her freshman year. One thing about MC’s game that I admire the most is her ability to see the court on the other side and mix up her shots. Something I know about her that others might not know is that she loves Chipotle and that she will have it at her wedding! [Ed. Note: How could you not know MC loves Chipotle? Seriously. The wedding part, though? That's good stuff right there]
Many thanks to both Mel and MC for their great responses to my questions. I want to pass along something else about these two seniors. I occasionally, like in these interviews, contact players and others via email or Facebook in order to ask questions. These two are ALWAYS prompt, courteous and seem to "get it" when it comes to dealing with auxiliary personnel like me.
There are times when I wait a long time for responses and I get it. I really do. These girls are busy and they really don't have an obligation to me. But, these two seniors have figured it out. They know how to respond in a professional and prompt way to requests such as interviews and people trying to solicit information. It speaks well to their character. It speaks well to their leadership and it speaks well to how they were raised. People in my "on the perimeter" position notice this sort of stuff because we recognize that WE are NOT integral to the team, but the players are. When those integral to the club deal positively with those of us in the shadows it reveals a level of maturity that is elevated above the norm. That shouldn't go unmentioned in regards to these two.
The home slate begins on Friday night as we get the official first match back in Shelton Gym underway at 6 PM. I'll admit to being really curious as to how everything is going to look and sound. On Thursday, I'll briefly breakdown the recent road trip and we'll also look forward to our final veteran interviews that will feature Madison Hanlan, Sabrina Burns and Allison Gideon. In coming days we will have more audio interviews posted and I'll also begin a new audio feature that kicks off in 2011 that I'll call "SLC5". Our main focus here at the blog is always on Ladyjack Volleyball, but SLC5 will be a weekly segment that takes a quick tour around the entire Southland Conference. It is my hope that you'll enjoy that post each week as we near conference play. In addition to starting up SLC5, it is my intent to expand my coverage of the conference by posting interviews with other players and coaches from around the league. When Sam Houston comes to town in another week, we may get a chance to see how that works.
As always, we are "SFA's Strongest Presence on the 'Net" and we've got both SFA and Southland Volleyball in focus in a unique way that you really can't get anywhere else. I told you last month that 2011 was going to be furious - you'll want to check back here a couple times a week to what new we've got in mind for feeding your volleyball brain!