Monday, November 19, 2012

SLC Interview Link, Voting for All-Tournament

As a wrap up of the 2012 Southland Conference Volleyball Tournament, I will leave up this page for a few days linking to the seven interviews that were done during the tournament.  Click the link below to listen to day by day interviews with coaches and players from around the league

CLICK HERE for 2012 SLC Tourney Interviews

In the spirit of full disclosure, which I believe is important to maintain my role and a level of integrity among the league, here is the 2012 All-Tournament Ballot that I filed at the match.  I was allowed to vote for the All-Tournament Team as a member of the media:

My Ballot for All-Tourney:

(1) MVP : Jessica Hays, UCA
(2) Marissa Collins, UCA
(3) Sheina Fernandes, ORU
(4) Jill Ivy, SFA
(5) Jessica Nagy, UCA
(6) Shelbee Berringer, UCA

The announced offical all-tournament team consisted of the first five that I voted for and ORU libero Bruna Silva.

I'll add more comments about my thinking in casting my ballot later today or tomorrow. 

Congrats to UCA and ORU.  And again, I thought SFA represented themselves very, very well.  All in all, I believe we gave the tournament champions their toughest test.  More comments in a day or so...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Southland Conference Tourney Final: #6 ORU vs. #1 UCA

As we've done the first two days of the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament, we'll fill this space with reflections and discussions of today's championship match between ORU and UCA.  Check back regularly as various thoughts and musings will be posted here.  Make sure you support Southland TV and check in on the match in your area on the appropriate Southland affiliate.

Sunday, 4:07 PM
UCA is your Southland representative in the NCAA Tourney.. they played a great tournament and polish off the Golden Eagles 3-1.  Just a dominating performace by Jessica Hays.  This team is loaded offensively and they were the #1 seed coming in and took care of thier business.  I think the long rally that went their way and the yellow card situation really fired everyone up and send them on their way.  Congrats to the 2012 Southland Confence Tourney champion UCA Sugar Bears!

Sunday, 4:00 PM
A great, great rally goes UCA's way as several girls for the Sugar Bears made tremendous digs.  That coupled with a yellow card for arguing a bad set that wasn't call have got the UCA crowed fired up.. ORU's Sthepanie Mab obviously doubled and it didn't get called.  McFatrich barely argued and up ref Richard Bleu yellow carded him.. ORU might have wished that hadn't happened.. UCA fired up now and we are tied at 18.

Sunday, 3:50 PM
ORU had an early lead, but its gone now as we are tied at 13.  Hays tacking on.. she's got a shot at 30 kills!

Sunday, 3:43 PM
Random realization:  You know who would absolutely destroy UCA?  ORU with Jessica Hays on the left side.  ORU up 6-3 early in Set 4.  UCA took a TO already.. let's see if that affects things.. should point out that Fredeen is leading ORU in kills and has occasionally been able to cause issues.

Sunday, 3:38 PM
Hays with 22 kills in three sets.  Pancratz and Fernandes with five blocks each for UCA who - as is typical - doesn't have anyone with more than one.  ORU outblocking the Bears 11-3.  Berringer - who has played a nice defensive game - especially before the half - has 18 digs to lead all.  Brooks has hurt UCA on the back row.  Not doing much, I wonder if they'll sub her out.  No kills and only two digs.  UCA needs some help for Berringer back there IMO.

Sunday, 3:34 PM
UCA not as sharp in the back half of Set 2.  Dare I say, Marissa Collins is off just a bit, here?  The passing hasn't been great, but Collins hasn't played a good set in my opinion.  The serves for UCA also a big problem as a few errors coupled with agressive play at the net for ORU have the Golden Eages way out front, 24-15.  We are going to four.  A bad set for UCA.. they still enjoy the 2-1 lead however.. and need just to regroup once and they'll have it.  Hays still getting kills.. well on her way to another 20 kill performance.

Sunday, 3:27 PM
Maybe this will be the set that ORU gets?  ORU up 14-10 at a UCA timeout.  Several attack errors by UCA and then the block has shown up in this set as Sheina Fernandes has turned it up a bit.  A long, long rally went UCA's way and I thought that might turn the momentum back to the Sugar Bears, but ORU has held on and now has a four point lead.  Half a set to go, however.  Let's see if they can hold it and force it to four.

Sunday, 3:15 PM
Hays and Schnars with 26 kills between them at the half.  That's as many as ORU has as a team!  ORU not able to slow the attacking down as UCA is hitting .277.  ORU with 7 blocks, but it isn't enough as it looks like Jessica Hays is on her way to MVP status as we move into Set 3.  ORU needs to get a quick start and take the crowd out of it.  They've had plenty to cheer for so far...

Sunday, 3:05 PM
Nagy gets retailiation though and she gets the final kill of Set 2 and UCA is now in the drivers' seat for sure, Up 2-0 at the half.. That was the tight set that I thought ORU might steal.  We'll have to see if they force four, but UCA set up for the sweep and an entrance into the NCAA tournament.

Sunday, 3:03 PM
ORU not rolling over in Set 2... The Fernandes block on Nagy comes at a good time,  UCA forced to take a timeout needing just a side out to win Set 2, but ORU has it back to within one.  UCA 24-23.

Sunday, 2:57 PM
Jessica Nagy just about takes me out in pursuit of a ball.  I think she would have won that battle.  She was charging hard!  ORU timeout with UCA needing just four points to take a commanding 2-0 lead in this championship game.  ORU just not able to slow much down.  They've played them even this match, except for several points in the middle where serve receive gave UCA the three point lead they have now.  21-18.

Sunday, 2:50 PM
The 2nd set was tight and all tied up at 12-all until ORUs serve receive took a few points off and UCA got an ace and then a shank by Rosa puts UCA up 15-12 mid way thru the 2nd.  ORU still not giving Silva and others much of a chance to dig up cross court attacks hit from the left.  UCA still getting a ton of good opportunities on the power side.  Yesterday, ORU was at least getting good touches over there, but they can't slow Hays down today.

Sunday, 2:35 PM
Hays hit 7-0-15 in the first set and Schnars hit 7-0-12.  That's 14 kills from the left and no attack errors.  You don't need me - or anyone - to analyze that.

Sunday, 2:33 PM
UCA within two points, but Pancratz gets two straight kills for ORU.. one on an overpass by UCA and they got it down to three, 24-21 before McFatrich wants a UCA timeout.  UCA needing just a side out to take Set 1.  ORU will need to shut down the left if they are going to have a good shot at making the match even at the half.

Sunday, 2:28 PM
ORU trying to crawl back.  They have it down to 21-17 after a Laura Taylor attack and kill on 2nd hit.. that's what I was talking about earlier.. she needs to draw the block.. ORU not blocking on UCA's power side all that well as Schnars continue to gets good looks.

Sunday 2:21 PM
Jessica Hays is putting on a clinic.  Already taking over more against ORU than she did at any point yesterday against SFA.  Both serving and hitting... just taking this first set by storm.  UCA in control 18-12 as ORU takes a 2nd timeout.

Sunday, 2:14 PM
Early on, UCA going almost exlusively to Hays on the left.  She has 4 kills already.  The Sugar Bears also getting more on the left by Heather Schnars, who is getting the other left spot early on in favor of Brooks.  Schnars got serveral kills including a nifty tip over the top of Schaffer and Pancratz.  UCA leads 9-6 at the first TO by ORU

Sunday, 1:59 PM
Ready to rock and roll in the Farris Center.  Here's hoping that this match is as strong and competitive as the SFA/UCA match last night.

Sunday, 1:39 PM
The X-Factors for me for ORU are OH Joana Gruber and S Laura Taylor.  ORU's middles - especially Fernandes - and RS Schaffner I believe can give the UCA front line fits.  But, Taylor is going to need to get the LS going and Gruber would be the go to there in my mind.  Also, I think Taylor needs to be active on attacking on 2nd strike. If Taylor can keep Hammonds and Dittrich guessing by both mixing her distribution and also having to be aware of her attacking, then I think that can open up the left  - and that.. along with what they got yesterday from the middle and right, might be enough offense to pair up with their usually stellar defense to pull the upset.

Sunday, 1:21 PM
Both teams going thru passing drills and as always as the championship match, you can tell there is a bit more of a buzz in the arena.  More media, more people from the conference milling around.  Banners up for TV purposes.  I love the more "official" look to everything at the championship.  Both the ORU and the UCA faithful got here early.  I got in with about 50:00 on the clock and there were plenty of people that were already in their seats and ready to watch warmups.

To be on record, I think ORU has had a great tournament and I think they definitely have the talent to pull this off, but after UCA's big win last night against us, I think they'll be particularly focused.  I'll take UCA in four sets with each set being tight (all in 20's).  I was tempted to pick UCA in a sweep, but I think ORU will get a set 25-23 or in extras.  I've kind of become a mini-fan of the ORU team during this tournament, so I'll admit that part of me would love to see them win.  In the end though, I just think UCA is the better club and Collins makes them so, so good on offense.

What A Great Game. Thank You, SFA & all SLC Fans

I am going to get into a short discussion about Central Arkansas here in a minute because they deserve a ton of credit, but this post is going to begin and end with discussion about Stephen F. Austin Volleyball. It's time to write about the namesake.. this is SFA (accent on the "SFA") VolleyBlog and everyone knows I love Ladyjack Volleyball with a passion.

Now that a few hours have gone by, I've had a great steak at a quaint restaurant in downtown Conway and watched my Alma mater - the unranked Baylor Bears - just destroy #1 Kansas State in football, I've had a chance to digest all the volleyball I witnessed today. The main thing I keep going over in my brain is how proud I am of the 2012 squad. We were 14-18 last year, and I wrote early in the year that I thought 18-14 was going to be about right for us. Instead, we finish 22-12 and take major strides towards moving back into the upper crust of the conference.

You see, its one thing to be a Northwestern State - a team on the rise that has historically been down. It's another thing to be an Oral Roberts - new to the conference and winding up a mid-seed that got hot. But, we are SFA. The history of Southland Volleyball traces to us. Well, us and UTA, but they left and now they stink. There is a certain pride, a certain expectation - with Ladyjack Volleyball, and the last few years didn't sit well with the SFA faithful. We weren't as relevant in the conference as we were used to. The 2012 squad pointed us back in the right direction and although we will miss Burns and Hanlan, we have a lot to look forward to. So, yeah, I am really proud of our coaches and our players.

The matches this weekend were incredible. How could you be in that gym tonight and not get caught up in what you saw?  I heard fans (both UCA and SFA) talking about how intense and how even the match was. Just great volleyball and I think both teams earned another dose of respect for each other. SFA had a six week spell where we played inconsistently. It looked like that might be our destiny again until halftime against the Demons. From that point on, SFA played with resolve. We had a down set or so tonight against UCA, but for the most part, we played quality volleyball. Our defense tonight was particularly impressive - both at the net and digging up balls. Jessica Hays had 17 kills and 19 digs, so it's not like she was quiet, but at no point did she take over the match. Many of her 50 attacks were touched, blocked or incredibly dug up by either Hanlan, Olson or Bates. Burns had 10 blocks and Hanlan finished her career in the libero jersey and had a match high 19 digs. I am so proud for them and the fact that they contributed so much in their final collegiate match.

Cara Leslie had spurts where she played particularly well and I am anxious to see what she can do as a sophomore. We needed her tonight and she stepped up. Jill (the Kill) Ivy was phenomenal. She had the UCA crowd sitting behind me in awe. I actually heard a couple of them say they hadn't seen someone hit a ball that hard at their defense all year long. I thought Holland was poised and ran a good game and Tori Bates had some smashing shots that had all of us excited for what she can do the next three years.

But in the end, it was two very good teams and we came out on the short end. It is right to give Central Arkansas their due. What they have done this year in pressure situations with comebacks and winning sets that are tight, and finding ways to force and/or win fifth sets is really impressive. When it gets to be crunch time, UCA seems to always handle themselves well. They do what good teams do.. they find a way. And they've found a way twice against us in two very emotional matches. In all, they beat us three times this year and that speaks for itself.

Also, let me address Alicia Dittrich and her her contributions tonight. She was great. Tonight she showed me - and others - why she led the league in hitting percentage. How can you not be impressed by 14-1-22 (.591)? She also played tremendous defense - the thing I have harped on with her position - she had 7 blocks. When people play like she did - even though I stand by my general thoughts and assessments about middle blockers and how I rated them during the entire year - despite that.. this is not a time for me to be defensive. It's a time for me to acknowledge what I saw... a great performance by one of the many fantastic players on the UCA squad. So, to all of UCA's main crew.. and especially to Dittrich because I have singled her out for other reasons, I tip my hat. You deserve your credit and I want to be "stand up" and give it to you.

This is a slightly different UCA team than in past years. I actually don't think they are as dominant as some other teams they've fielded. I think they actually have a few flaws - and blocking, in general, is one of them. But, one thing this Sugar Bear team seems to have in bushels is the ability to "finish" and find ways to win. Because of that, what they are doing in 2012 in some ways is more impressive than the teams that Chloe Smith played on.

Let me add this in here: Again, this isn't to be defensive, it's to be explanatory:  I was questioned about my "2/3 defense, 1/3 offense" assessment for middle blockers on Friday.  Since that time I have asked three additional people - two coaches and one other person who you'll have to trust me when I say has a history of being around the game - about those proportions.  The three answers I got were "Defense is at least half of it" and "60/40 on the defensive end" and "I think your 2/3 is about right".  It depends on a teams' system, and I have a small sample, I know, but I think my limited data taken from folks in the last 48 hours reinforces the proportional mix that has been utilized in statistical analyses. Let's move on...

How about Oral Roberts, people? Man, I am SUPER impressed with them right now. One great thing about tomorrow's final is I think it matches up the league's best offense against the league's best defense. Sadie Schaffer was terrific and I believe she is someone that can cause problems for UCA. Also, I am sorry that I will only get to see Sheina Fernandes play one year. That girl is a player. She didn't make a single attack error in that match against Sam Houston. Give me Hays as my 1st round pick and Fernandes as my 2nd rounder and I'll kick all ya'lls butts in Southland Conference Fantasy Volleyball.

I'll just let this be what it is: I said I didn't like our draw in the tournament when I wrote the first round preview article. You always want to win as many games as you can and finish as strong as you can.. but, I'll always believe that if we were on the other side of the bracket as the 6-seed, then the match you saw tonight would have been the championship. Now, UCA might still have won. But, I think we did fantastic given our side of the bracket.

I am so much more optimistic on the last day of the season now than I was even last year, and certainly more so than two years ago when we sat at home while others played in Huntsville. I am eager to see Granger next year along with the dimension that Connell and Crowder could bring. I foresee Olson at libero and Granger fighting for playing time, creating competition on the left with Bates and Randall. Hopefully, Kainer will develop more and push all three of them as well. Bates and Randall are already so good in terms of defense from the left side, that between the two of them and Granger maybe we will finally have enough offense to satisfy me from that position. I also think we will be deep and competitive at setter with even more quality choices on the roster.

Maybe one of this years' freshmen will pull a "Jill Ivy". Wow. Where would we be without her? She was a whole universe better this year than she was last year and in 2011 she was darn good! I got struck with something today... last year, I picked Texas State's RS Amari Deardorff as my Player of the Year. I think Jill is going to be better than her when it is all said and done.. and she might be as good as her right now! Oh man, if we get that kind of power on the left - what if Bates improves as much as Ivy did this year? - then we are gonna have a really strong offense in the next two years.

See, I am already there for 2013.

One last thing: Thank you - to everyone - that supported me in 2012 in even the smallest way. The blog became more well known than ever before. This space is getting recognized as more and more legitimate. I am blessed for that.

I want to say thank you for this: The last two days set all-time records for page views at My Google Stats for today showed 483 page views. 483!!. I average about 80 to 100 views a day and the best two days in terms of traffic that I have ever had are the last two days. I broke a record Friday with near 300 views and then got close to 500 today. That's 800 page views during the tournament so far. I have more twitter followers than half of the official twitter feeds for the teams in the conference .

To all the league officials, coaches, players, fans and parents: Thanks. I promise to keep promoting the sport. Thank you for your spirited opinions - even when we disagree - we are talking "volleyball" - and that's positive to me. I've learned and been humbled by all of you.

There are two articles I have just about finished that I will share during late November or early December.

Hey, I get to watch a final tomorrow between two good teams.. not as a public address announcer.. not as a blogger.... but as a fan.

Nevertheless.. I'll still be wearing SFA purple. Always.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

LIVE CHAT: SFA vs. UCA (2nd Round SLC Tourney)

Southland Conference Tournament, Day 2

Continuing coverage of the Southland Conference Tournament.  Today we've got two matches the first of which will feature #6 seed Oral Roberts against the #2 seeded Bearkats of Sam Houston.  Updates on this first match will flow below.

Click Here for all 2012 Southland Conference Tournament Interviews

Live Chat for SFA vs. UCA will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of ORU/SHSU

Saturday, 12:52 PM
Postmatch interview with ORU head Coach Sheera Sirola posted.  Click the link above for all SLC Tourney Interviews

Saturday, 12:34
And there it is.. ORU with the sweep.  We've talked about this.. a team in the #3-6 seed getting hot and polishing off a high seed.  ORU has been my dark horse and they definately came to play today.  A very, very impressive match from the Golden Eagles.  How about SFA do the same and we have a 5/6 final with the Ladyjacks vs. ORU.

Saturday, 12:29 PM
Sam Houston battling in the 3rd set had things even at 15, but once again at about the same spot in the set, ORU making a push behind a tremendous effort from Sadie Schaffner with at least five kills in the set.  ORU in position to get a sweep, which I just would not have seen coming.  ORU up 22-17.  Let's see if SHSU can force it to game 4.  ORU needing just three side outs

Saturday, 11:59 AM
It was one minute before noon on a cold day in the middle of Arkansas and on that day...


ORU up two the half.  Playing out of their minds.  Sam Houston is going to have to pull what SFA did last night against Northwestern State.  ORU wins Set 2, 25-21.

Saturday, 11:54 AM
Wow.  Once again the serve receive goes bad for Sam Houston state at a critical time in the game.  ORU now first to 20 again  after a big kill by Sheina Fernandes and then two straight reception errors by the Bearkat back row.  ORU leads 21-16.

Saturday, 11:50 AM
Wells-Gibson getting on track a little here in the middle of the second set.  After a miscomunication by Pancrats and Silva, a serve hits Silva right in the face and Sam Houston was able to tie it up.  Wells-Ginsn with at least four kills in the set.  Let's see if SHSU can make the push and tie it up at the half.  ORU leads 16-15.

Saturday, 11:45 AM
Gotta tell you, man.. I like this ORU team.  I mean, really like this club.  They are playing strong at the net and have Sam Houston back on their heels.  The defense is incredible.  Silva digging everything, Pancratz blocking and getting a few thunderous kills here in the 2nd.  They are an exciting team to watch.  Clearly, the have a ton of talent.  I don't think Sam Houston is just going to roll over here, but after a little run sparked by big defensive digs and strong kills at the net by Pancratz and Fredeen, ORU leads in Set 2, 13-10.

Saturday, 11:31 AM
Down the stretch in Set 1, the serve receive went bad for Sam Houston and coupled with too many attack errors was the difference.  The Bearkats made a mini-run at the end of the set but it was too lttle too late as Oral Roberts took Set 1 25-19.  A highlight and very emotional point at the end of the set featured a rediculous dig by Bruna Silva that floated back over the net, over the block and into the back corner for an ORU point.  Silva also serving well down the stretch.  The Dark Horse Rides.  Watch out.  ORU isn't going to make this easy for the #2 Seeded Bearkats.

Saturday, 11:26 AM
Wells-Gibson not able to get much going in Set 1.  ORU doing a good job of keeping up the block.  SHSU got a spark with a big Tayler Gray block and then an ace by Jamie Haas, but two straight attack errors by Wells-Gibson leads to a Brenda Gray timeout and ORU is up 18-14 looking to take an early lead.

Saturday, 11:18 AM
As expected, a tight start between ORU and SHSU.  One thing I notice right off is that ORU gets a ton of touches, if not blocks, at the net.  They are such a strong defensive team.. Sheina Fernandes playing well early getting kills with both power and touch shots and mixing in a pair of blocks  ORU also feeding Schaffner on the right side good bit.  Sam Houston not able to get everyone on offense integrated yet.   ORU leads 12-8.

Saturday, 10:54 AM
Just about ready to roll on Day 2 of the SLC Tourney.  This first match should be war.  SHSU, my pick for the final from Day 1 against my dark horse, Oral Roberts.  The last time these two teams met was in Tulsa and it went to five sets with the Bearkats winning 3-2.  The 5th set went to 21-19.  Most people I have talked to place that match along with SFA's five set match against UCA as the two best regular season matches in the conference this year.  And here we are on the second day of the tournament and those two matchups will repeat themselves.  Should be a good one.  Let's see who gets out to an early jump.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm Gonna Get This Off My Chest & Then Gear Up for More Volleyball

CLICK HERE for: 2012 Southland Conference Tournament Interviews

It's late at night and I'm back at the hotel after watching a full day of volleyball and of course, the best moment of my day was watching SFA complete a five set comeback against Northwestern State.  But, something has been burning under my skin all day and I am going to try and deliberately, but still hopefully, tactfully get this off my chest.

The rules and regulations placed on Southland Conference coaches and SID's when voting for postseason honors and all-conference selections are.. well.. in a word.. dumb.  Is it tactful to write "dumb" on the Internet?  I hope so 'cause you need to step back, I'm about to go off a little.

Seriously, these rules and guidelines make no sense.  The whole impetus of this post is to once again bring up the case of ORU middle blocker Jessica Pancratz.  It turns out that ORU head coach Sheera Sirola did not include Pancratz as a nominee when coaches were asked to submit their players names.  Now, it's not my place to question that decision - and I won't.  I don't really understand it, but it is entirely possible that there is some reason why the ORU brass decided not to put her name forward.  Maybe the coaches felt like they had "nominated enough" of their players, maybe they didn't want to forward the names of both their middle blockers, maybe there is some story I (we, someone) doesn't know - maybe there's not.  I will not question a coach in that position - especially one I haven't had the honor of really fostering an acquaintance with yet.  I should say, the ORU staff is one of the few in the conference that I don't have at least some mild acquaintance or relationship with.

So yeah, I rant about how the league did Pancratz an injustice because I am assuming that all coaches and SID's could have voted for her and they chose not to.  As it turns out, no one COULD vote for her.  So, yeah - apology sent to the voters.

But, here's the deal.  This whole thing is still stupid.

There shouldn't be any nominations.  Why in the world do we need to "nominate" players for postseason honors?  That's too much control for any one person to have when it comes to this sort of thing.  What you are doing there is telling the other nine coaches, nine SID's and your own SID that you can't vote for a player because a head coach doesn't put her on a ballot.  Sorry, that's too much control for a coach to have.  All-Conference Honors aren't about you.  They are about the LEAGUE as a whole deciding who the best players are.  A coach should not have the power to reduce the pool of players that can be voted for.

The way the system works now, a coach can pick and choose who to submit for various honors and essentially drive votes to one of their players by leaving certain other players off of ballots.  That's not what Sirola did, obviously.  All of ORU's players that were honored very much deserved it.  Fernandes didn't need any help - she's awesome.  Clearly a first teamer.

I am just saying that IF someone wanted attention to go in one way, that they can do that by eliminating other choices. That's ridiculous.  It cheapens the entire process of the league trying to genuinely honor the best athletes.

There doesn't need to be a nomination process.  The possible player pool from which to vote for when casting ballots for All-Conference selections should be the entire set of rosters for all Southland Conference teams.  EVERYONE should be eligible.. no matter what a coach says, no matter what an SID says, the possible set of people who should be eligible for those lists should be the entire player pool in the SLC.

Then, to aid voters, a list of all freshman and all newcomers should be sent to the voters just to clarify who satisfies those definitions.  That's it.  Now, after that, coaches and SID's should submit a list of say, x, ranked names, and the conference should score 'em and we've got ourselves the honorees.  It's not that hard, but instead we've got some crazy restrictions that frankly, create at least one mess of a situation each year.

What are fans like me to do?  We are looking at these lists saying "What about her?" and all the while the "her" in that question isn't even on some nominee list?  Yeah.. that's a good system. Whatever.

Hey, remember back in 2009.. I went crazy train about Lamar's Wendy Krell winning Freshman of the Year when I thought it should have been Jayme Bazile - also from Lamar.  While we are at it.. why do I always get in trouble over these middle blockers.. first the Bazile/Krell fiasco and now I've got people thinking that I am paying for Jessica Pancratz to go to ORU.  Anyway, I digress.. my point is that I thought Bazile was more deserving for Freshman of the Year in 2009.  Turns out.. she got zero votes.  You know why?

Ding. Ding. Ding. Lightbulb.  You guessed it.. .she wasn't even on the ballot.  Why?  Because we've got a rule (for fools) that says that a coach can only submit one of his/her freshman for that honor.

Excuse Me?  That's a good idea...uhhh.. why? 

So, Justin Gibert at Lamar is forced into a choice (a choice that gives him too much power) and has to decide which of his two players he wants on the ballot.  Hey, here's a novel idea:  Let the rest of the conference decide.  After all.. every kill, every block that both of those players put up that year was AGAINST THE REST OF THE LEAGUE.

I heard several coaches today talking about how when they voted for All-Conference that they thought about players that "they had to adjust against" or players that "they had to key on" or players that "were difference makers in the matches where they saw them".  To all of that I say... EXACTLY.  That's why everyone should be eligible.

Don't give me a filtered ballot and ask me to make a conditional choice.  Don't insult my intelligence by telling me who and who isn't eligible for an award.  Don't create a system that can be marginalized and manipulated to gain recognition.  Don't put Coach Sirola in the position that she was in.  Again, I don't know the whole story and I never will.  So what.  That doesn't make the way we are doing it at the present the right way to do it.  By the way, nobody put me up to this or encouraged me to write this.  I've been thinking this for years.  I'm just getting tired of thinking that the official lists are conditional in some way.

The coaches definitively know the entire league.  They are fully qualified to vote with the entire league as the player pool.  Why restrict their mindset and make them ask why someone is or isn't on a nominee list.  Secondly, like it or not, it is the SID's job to know their sports.  The "S" and the "I" in SID stand for SPORTS INFORMATION.  So, an SID is supposed to be knowledgeable in INFORMATION about their club.  We can debate about the quality of their voting, but again, do not restrict their choices in some artificial way.

There.  I got it off my chest.  I'm sure some people will agree with me and I am sure there are people out there ready to defend the current (lousy) system.  That's fine.  I'm independent here.  I am just covering volleyball.  I'm just a fan, who is a PA announcer who writes a silly blog that some people occasionally read.  But you know what?  I am going to keep doing it my way. 

At least I don't have a bunch of silly rules.  At least I actually sit down and consider the ENTIRE league and review ALL of its players in an attempt to recognize the best of the best - not a filtered subset of the best.

I know this isn't going to change things. And you can call me mad because I looked stupid arguing for a girl that wasn't even on the ballot?  You can say I am just embarrassed because I wasn't aware of the nominee list.

Well, maybe there a little truth to that, but in the end you know what?

I think a girl who put up the highest block per set rate in the last decade in the conference deserved a little recognition for those accomplishments at the end of the year.  So, kindly, excuse me for caring. 

And all the while, history will record that Jessica Pancratz - the person who blocked at the best clip in 10 years in the SLC- didn't get a single vote for All -Conference.  Why? 

Because of a rule that limits who can be voted for.

Sure.  Keep your rules.

She deserved the honor.  I'm happy to try and give her some of it.

Live Chat: SFA vs. Northwestern State (1st Round SLC Tourney)

Southland Conference Tournament: Day 1

Click Here For all Southland Conference Tournament Interviews

Welcome to's coverage of the first round of the 2012 Southland Conference Tournament.  Check back here for regular updates - many per match - all during the day from Conway, AR.  Be sure and click the link above to listen to all interviews done during the weekend.

Friday 8:40 PM
I'll make my way over to get something to eat and back to the hotel..  Interviews will get posted late tonite so check them out later or in the morning as you prepare for SHSU/ORU at 11:30 and SFA/UCA at 1:30.  Good night!

Friday 8:37 PM
UCA up 22-12 and SLU uses their last timeout.  Hays over 20 kills at this point.  UCA such an offensive powerhouse.  SFA will need their defense primed and ready tomorrow at 1:30 if they are going to beat them.  But, UCA certainly didn't play in a dominant, convincing way...especially on defense.  SFA will need to have attacking going from all pins and in the middle.  UCA still the favorite both tomorrow and the rest of the way.  But, I don't see the dominance yet.  Not that it can't show itself at some point, but that pivotal 3rd set was just so crucial.. a few points here and there and we could have had an upset or at least another 5 set match.  Give UCA credit.. they did what they had to do to win and we'll have to play a very solid match to keep up with their offense tomorrow.

Friday, 8:30 PM
Looks like SLU is out of gas.  That 3rd set took a lot out of them and they've fallen behind 15-7 at the midpoint of Set 4.  Passing starting to wane for the Lady Lions as Schnars and others for UCA are serving tough.  Jessica Hays upp to 19 kills for UCA midway thru the 4th.  SLU will need a monumental comeback at this point, I just don't think they've got anything left after a rough end to the 3rd set.

Friday, 8:18 PM
Wow.  SELA had UCA on the ropes 21-19 and then Courtney Donald missed a wide open shot and that seemed to turn the tide and propel UCA to the comeback... There for a moment I thought SELA was going to go up 2-1.  They definately had their shot.  The back row players for the Lady Lions passed particularly well in that set and UCA again looked shaky.  To their credit, UCA fought back, in part behind freshman Heather Schnars, who was inserted for a spark and she got several key kills.  I can't resist adding this nugget since Berringer was OK.. but, at one point in the set Donald went up on the right and just smashed one right off Berringer's face.  She got removed with a slightly bloody nose.. and returned later in the set.. but man, that was the kill of  the day.. I don't think Berringer ever saw it.. but I know she felt it.  Sugar Bears up 2-1 and now it will take a lot for the Lions to recover.

Friday, 7:42 PM
We go to the half tied at 1-1.  Can SELA win the all important swing set #3?  We'll see.

Friday, 7:39 PM
I'm going to say this very kindly since it already came up once today, but I just think its true.. UCA really isn't that good of a blocking team.  SLU getting some easy looks on the right and Hays and others just aren't there on defense.  Offensively, UCA is a juggernaut, but if  team could throw a balanced left and right attack against them, I think they are vulnerable.  I just don't see that they consistenly can block well.  2nd set is tight, but SELA still hold the lead late.

Friday, 7:32 PM
Again, in the 2nd set, SELA jumped out to an early lead scoring the first four points of the set including some strong serving by Morgan Todd.  Then the Lady Lions stretched things out all the way to 11-5.. and its times like those that make me think UCA is vulnerable... they just couldn't go on a roll.  But then UCA clawed back and on an emotional swing where SELA's Grayson thought she had UCA's Nagy blocked, UCA digs it up and ties it at 12... At this point in the first set is where UCA pulled away.. let's see if SELA can maintain as we are pretty much even at 16's.

Friday, 7:12 PM
Well, that SLU "hangin' in" thing didn't last too long.. UCA serving tough and Taylor Hammonds playing well on the front row for UCA.  The Sugar Bears have so many weapons and most of them getting into the act here late in Set 1.. UCA up by seven and on their way to a Set 1 win.   This team is just so good on offense.  Very much an offense driven team.. so hard to slow them down.

Friday 7:07 PM
SLU is hanging around in set 1.. actually holding the lead until about 10's.  UCA with several service errors to kill stretches of point for them.  Marissa Collins already doing her thing, spreading the ball around well getting Hays kills on both the left and right and integrating the middles Dittrich and Hammonds well.. Collins just makes all the players around her so much better.  UCA has a lot of talent, but it gets maximized b/c of Collins.  Just an artist.

Friday 6:47 PM
OK, back in blogging mode as host UCA is about to get started against Southeastern Louisiana.  Let's see how 1st team ALL-SLC MB Courtney Donald does this time around against the Sugar Bears.  She's killed 17 balls each of the first two times these teams have met.  Got an interview with SFA head coach Debbie Humpreys after a very emotional comeback win.  All interviews will be posted later tonight, so make sure and check back late tonite or in the morning as you prepare for Round 2.

Friday 3:34 PM
I just got a report from one of the referees that TAMUCC's Brianna Brink may have suffered an injury in the 2nd set which would explain her removal from the game.  I couldn't confirm that before the Islanders left the gym, but wouldn't want the last update to imply it was coaches decision only.. so there may have been an injury factor to her being replaced by Phelps... just wanted to clarify.

Friday 3:00 PM
Well, that wasn't what I expected.  I had ORU over TAMUCC, but not in three sets.  The Islanders get victimized by MB Sheina Fernandes whoo has 10 kills on no errors.  Joanna Gruber killed 8 balls with only error as well.  The early good play by Brink ended and she was replaced by Ashley Phelps, who actually did a good job while in there getting five kills on 11 attacks in her two sets.  ORU played with a ton of emotion and I look for their match tomorrow against SHSU to be a fight.  TAMUCC couldn't really ever get anything going and ORU hit .273 and won the battles at the net.  SFA taking the court.. switching to "Live Chat" mode soon.  Will be back with live blogging for the final match tonight featuring UCA and SELA.

Friday 2:23 PM
TAMUCC is going to need to make some adjustments at the half after ORU pretty much thumps them in Set 2 25-16.  Not surprised at all by ORU getting out to a fast start in this tournament.  I've been saying for weeks that this is a very strong #6 seed team.  Let's see if TAMUCC can make adjustments and come out and force a fourth set out of the half.  Interview with Wells-Gibson and Black will get posted tonight.  Also hoping to talk with some folks from UCA, soon.

Friday, 1:55 PM
Unforced errors - Brink and Baresh going long on a few attacks coupled with Laura Taylor's aggressiveness at the setter position have ORU back out front against TAMUCC.. watch out.. if the Golden Eagles get hot...

Friday, 1:43 PM
So far, the Isanders are getting plenty from OH Brianna Brink.  I wrote earlier this week that I thought she was the X-factor.  If Corpus gets offense from the left - much like SFA needing kills from that side...then they will be tough.  Corpus up five mid way thru the 1st set.

Friday, 1:15 PM
Just got in a good chat with SFA head coach Debbie Humphreys and have interviews scheduled with SHSU's Kim Black and Devaney Wells-Gibson.  Check back later in the day for those audio files.  A very interesting match looms between ORU and TAMUCC.  Been looking foward to this one.  Can the Islanders get enough out of Baresh and Brink to confuse Fernandes and Pancratz?  Will ORU get enough offensively from the pins?  And.. a good battle between two great defenders in Micah Nolan for Corpus and Libero of the Year Bruna Silva.

Friday, 12:20 PM
Sure enough, Sam Houston stays in control and sweeps NICH 3-0.  Kaylee Hawkins with a particularly good match for the Bearkats.  Sam Houston not stressed that much.  Should have plenty left in the tank on Saturday at they take on the winner of the next match between ORU and TAMUCC.

Also, let me get this in right here.. I was just informed that ORU MB Jessica Pancratz was not on the All-Conference ballot which obviously explains why she didn't receive an honor.  I am a little surprised at the decision to leave her off, but the ORU coaching staff had some tough decisions as to who to put on and I can respect their decision not to stuff the ballot full of their players as the 6th seed.  Still.. the facts in my article from a few days ago remain.  I still believe she deserved an honor.  And I now more than ever believe the constraints that are placed on the voters by the conference structure are rediculous.  The sample of players that people should be able to vote for should be the ENTIRE league.  Instead, these contraints lead to goofy things every year.

Friday, 11:50 AM
Sam hitting .298 at the half being lead by Kaylee Hawkins who has 9 kills on 19 attacks with no errors.  Sam Houston with seven aces and holding NICH to .051 hitting. Wells Gibson also has 9 kills and Black with four blocks.  The left sides for NICH - Stock and Brandt  hitting negative as RS Sarah Terry leads the Colonels with four kills.

Friday, 11:47
I think the dagger is sinking in for NICH.  Sam Houston on cruise control with Kim Black mixing in some nifty shots... going with both power shots off the block and then reading the back row nicely and finding holes just pushing shots to the corners.  NICH about to be down 0-2 at the half and they look like the wind got knocked out of them.   SHSU wins 25-12 in a route to go into the half.

Friday, 11:40 AM
Sam Houston pretty much in control of set 2 as NICH calls TO at 14-8.  Sam got out to a fast start again in set 2 with kills by Hawkins and good serving by Tayler Gray.  NICH MB Jessica Addicks unfortunately went down with an apparent knee injury at 7-3.  Never like to see that.  She hasn't returned in the set.  SHSU went into a little funk, but recovered after again Jamie Haas was brought in to serve and aced NICH again.  Serve recieve and being able to stay in system a big issue for the Colonels so far in this match.

Friday, 11:27 AM
The story of set 1 between SHSU and NICH was definately serve and serve receive.  Lots of aces and lots of shanked receptions.  Both teams with quite a few good tough serves, but both teams with a slew of errors as well.  NICH hung tough until 21-all with Wells Gibson and Brandt trading left side attacks down the stretch.  A big block by Black and Hawkins near the end of the set seemed to give the Bearkats the push they needed to take Set 1.  NICH was close to stealing that one, though.. and they might had if not for so many reception issues.

Friday, 11:15 AM
Early on in Set 1 between SHSU/NICH, the Colonels really struggled in serve receive and passing and Sam jumped out to an early lead.  Since then, Nicholls has had a lot of soft shots and tips go down by going over the block and landing just in front of back row defenders.  Nicholls hanging tough and tied at 11 mid-way thru Set 1.

Friday, 10:56 AM
Just had a short chat with UCA head coach David McFatrich - one of the really good guys in the league - and very supportive of work done here at the blog.  He's not a big fan of my leaving his MB's off my all-conference picks, though.  Readers will recall that I have used a 2/3 weighing to defense for looking at middle blockers.  He didn't like my math on that one.  I think even if I had weighed offensive and defensive contributions the same that my conclusions would have been basically the same.  People are always wowed by big hitting percentages.  I guess I've changed my tune on that stat during the years.  MB's hitting percentages are always higher than OH and RS and Dittich's is really darn high.  I get it.  It's just not all there is to being a middle blocker in my opinion and when you don't block at a Top 15 rate in the conference, then that's going to weigh more in my mind.  That's the fun of this job.  I get to have pleasant disagreements with people way smarter than me and there is still a chance they'll read here!  Haha.

Friday, 10:36 AM

About 20 minutes away from the first serve between #7 Nicholls State and #2 Sam Houston State.  Already ran in to SLC Player of the Year Devaney Wells-Gibson's mom at breakfast this morning and our own Paige Holland's grandparents while socializing at the hotel before driving over.  Conway hotels are all filled up with tournament go-ers.  This year, the accommodations are a bit awkward in that Southeastern Louisiana, Oral Roberts and Northwestern State are all staying at the same hotel.  Also, SFA, Nicholls and TAMUCC are all staying in the same place as well.  Sam Houston separated themselves and are staying closer to the campus as opposed to the "hotel circle" that exists about five miles north of the UCA campus.  Several SFA players telling me that breakfast was strange with two other teams eating their Fruit Loops right across the table!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Absurdity of Ignoring Jessica Pancratz

My readers know that I am going to tell it like it is.  So, let's not waste any time:  Leaving Jessica Pancratz of Oral Roberts off the entire list of All-Conference teams is one of the most colossal voting errors in recent history by the league's coaches and SID's.

I submit to you data that you can verify yourself on the conference website.  My claim is that we just witnessed the highest rate of blocks per set in the last decade in this conference ignored by those casting ballots.  People, you ought to do more research.

Please recall that before 2008 we played to 30 points rather than 25.  Thus, traditional sets now are 5/6 as long as they were before 2008.  So, all "per set" numbers prior to 2008 must be scaled appropriately in order to make comparisons.  C'mon, it's simple division, it's not that hard.

Check out this list:

Southland Conference Leaders Since 2004 in Blocks and Blocks Per Set:

2012: Parcratz 148, Pancratz 1.35
2011: Hilbun 146, Adams 1.33
2010: Black 139, Bazile 1.23
2009: Bailey 160, Bazile 1.25
2008: Thomas 120, Bailey 1.00

2007: Jones 139, Jones 1.16                     (5/6 of 167 and 1.39)
2006: Rohde & Murray 141, Rohde 1.14   (5/6 of 169 and 1.37)
2005: Fowler 113, Fowler 1.03                 (5/6 of 136 and 1.23)
2004: Fowler 108, Burton 0.98                 (5/6 of 130 and 1.17)

Notice anything?  Pancratz just put up the highest block per set rate this conference has seen in the last decade and under comparable lengths of sets has the second highest total blocks in the last decade in the SLC.  I wonder how many people knew this when they voted?

For this she gets 1st team All-Conference honors, right?  2nd team?  3rd team?  Honorable mention?

Nope.  Nothing.

That's nothing short of ridiculous.  You can't defend that.  The girl is a middle BLOCKER and she just had the highest BLOCK rate in the last nine years - maybe more - I don't know 'cause the conference archive stats list only goes back to 2004.  No matter how you value offense in middle blockers it is just absurd to ignore the highest per set block rate anyone has seen in a decade when voting for All-Conference.

I thought the official All-SLC teams were very, very well chosen by the coaches and SID's.

Except they made one HUGE mistake. 

The voters owe Jessica Pancratz an apology.

Monday, November 12, 2012

4th Annual All Conference Teams

There will be an article that goes along with these selections, but to make absolutely sure that my lists are released before the official All-SLC Teams are announced by the conference, I am posting these late Monday night.

Check back here late Tuesday or early Wednesday for some discussion and my reasoning in a few cases.  For now, I will only repeat a few phrases from years gone by about my selection process:

Recall,  I actually pick "teams". The conference does not do this. Often, the conference puts12 girls on the first team, six girls on the 2nd team and has 9 girls listed as honorable mention for a total of 27 girls recognized. I will have three teams of seven for 21 girls honored and then a list of the players I considered for the list and "just missed".

As I said each of the last three years: "There are seven starters each night for any particular team, so we will pick seven girls per team. Each team is required to have a a setter, libero, two middle blockers, two hitters and a seventh player that can either be MB or OH."

2012 SFA All-Southland Conference Teams and Awards:

First Team:

OH Devaney Wells-Gibson, Sam Houston
RS Jessica Hays, Central Arkansas
MB Sheina Fernandes, Oral Roberts
MB Jessica Pancratz, Oral Roberts
RS Jill Ivy, Stephen F. Austin
S Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
L Bruna Silva, Oral Roberts

Second Team:

OH Kendall Cleveland, Sam Houston
OH Stacey DiFrancesco, Northwestern State
MB Sabrina Burns, Stephen F. Austin
MB Kim Black, Sam Houston
RS Shannon Hullum, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
S Tayler Gray, Sam Houston
L Maddie Hanlan, Stephen F. Austin

Third Team:

OH Briana Brink, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
OH Jennifer Brandt, Nicholls State
MB Courtney Donald, Southeastern Louisiana
MB Brooke Alverson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
RS Mackenzie Neely, Northwestern State
S Laura Taylor, Oral Roberts
L Keelie Arneson, Northwestern State

Just Missed:  OH Scout Brooks, UCA,  OH Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State, OH Sierra Whittaker, Lamar,  S Emily Sweet, Northwestern State, S Logan Borque, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, L Micah Nolan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Player of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Setter of the Year:  Marissa Collins, Central Arkansas
Libero of the Year:  Bruna Silva, Oral Roberts
Newcomer of the Year: Courtni Bauer, McNeese State
Freshman of the Year:  Caiti O'Connell, Northwestern State
Coach of the Year:  Tony Graystone, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi

Late Monday Night Notes:

1) I created a ranking/statistical player rater spreadsheet within the last year to help with this years' picks & I'm pretty darn happy with it.

2) I believe middle blockers should be judged at least 2/3 weight based on blocking and hitters judged at least 2/3 weight on attacking.  I know that Hammonds and Dittrich of UCA were completely left off my lists despite finishing 1-2 in attack percentage in the league.  That one stat alone doesn't carry a tremendous amount of weight with me.  In fact, I think it is very clear that the two MB from ORU, Burns, Donald and Black are better choices than the two at UCA.  UCA finished last in the SLC in blocks.  I know one reason for that is that that UCA faced the fewest opponent attacks of anyone in the league.  Even if you adjust for that Hammonds and Dittrich each wouldn't have finished in the Top 10 in blocks or blocks per set.  I can prove it to you if you want. As it stands neither finished in the Top 15 in the league in blocking.

3) Wells-Gibson and Hays are the other reasonable POY candidates.  I really "wanted" to pick Hays since she is my favorite non-SFA player in the league, but this is the year I was sold on how much UCA "goes" because of Collins court leadership.

4) As is almost always the case, the 3rd team setters are interchangeable.  Sweet and Borque ranked basically equal to Taylor using my data.  Taylor is more aggressive and I like that in setters.  She killed 119 balls compared to 33 for Sweet and their assist numbers are basically identical.  Still, Sweet and Borque could get honored and I've got no problem with it.

5) I switched from Ivy Baresh to Caiti O'Connell for Freshman of the Year over the last two weeks.  If the league honors Baresh it won't be a mistake.  She plays 6 rotations.  I just found O'Connell more impressive down the stretch and decided to change my mind on this one.

6) I see little difference in Silva, Hanlan and Arneson.  Order them how you want.

More in a day or so.. this gets them out before the conference sends out their release.  See you in Conway!

Tuesday Night Edits:

On Marissa Collins as Player of the Year:  Please read carefully because you need to understand something - as of this week, Collins is 3rd in the NATION in assists per set.  She is only seven assists shy of leading the entire NCAA Division I ranks in total assists.  This cannot be ignored.  Regarding Hays and Wells-Gibson, I think the decision between those two is tough.  Hays "feels" like the better choice of the two, but when you stack their numbers up against each other you'd be hard pressed to say that Wells-Gibson hasn't matched her pretty much all across the board.  In the end, I am going with the quarterback.  Collins work as the Sugar Bears setter this year has been undeniably outstanding.

On Dittrich and Hammonds of UCA:  Please understand me, I think these are great players, but one needs to consider the entirety of the situation.  Among middle blockers, Dittich ranks first in attack percentage and fifth in each of kills and kills per set.  She ranks 18th in blocks and blocks per set.  Like I said yesterday, even if you scale her numbers up for the fact that UCA didn't face as many attacks as other teams those rank 18's wouldn't get any higher than 15's.  The numbers on Hammonds are 2nd in attack percentage, but 9th in kills and 8th in kills per set among MB's.  She 17th among blockers in blocks and blocks per set.

Now, consider Pancratz.  I don't want to hear an argument for Fernandes.  Picking her is obvious.  There is no doubt in my mind that Fernandes is a first team MB.  Now, Pancratz is the one I may take some heat for.  Pancratz is 12th in attack percentage, 11th in kills and 10th in k/s among MB.  Those numbers are marginal.  But, I only weigh them 1/3 of the total count and I weigh defense 2/3 of the total weight.  Pancratz is 1st in both blocks and blocks per set in the conference.  Her position is middle BLOCKER, I remind you.

So, I ranked Pancratz first on defense and 11th on offense among blockers.  I ranked Dittrich tied for first with Donald on offense, but 18th on defense.  Hammonds ranked 4th in offense, but 17th on defense.  When you give 2/3 weight to defense, then that shows Pancratz should be ranked ahead of them both (by quite a ways actually when you mix in other blockers that fall between them in similar analysis.

On Right Sides:  I thought Hays, Ivy, Hullum and Neely were clearly the best right sides in the conference this year, so I wanted to make sure they made the lists.  So, I'll admit this year to making sure there was a right side on each team.  Folks that don't like that constraint can move one of my "just missed" left sides up onto the lists and that'd be fine with me.

On Graystone and Newcomers: I may have missed some newcomers, but I couldn't identify many girls that were eligible for that award.  I took a look at the entire conference obviously, but if I missed a candidate then I'll issue an apology if need be.  Finally, the Hernesman's at Northwestern State are also good candidates for Coach of the Year, but frankly, I don't know how that would work with each of them listed as co-head coaches.  I genuinely believe Graystone is the right pick here.  Other than the addition of Baresh, he had a lot of the same players as he did last year and they didn't make the tourney in 2011 and this year they are the #3 seed.  That's an amazing one year improvement.

I'm quite happy with the picks this year.  Actually, I didn't struggle with them as much in 2012 as I did last year.  That's because of the spreadsheet data that I've been keeping during the year this year.  I feel like I was better prepared than ever to cast my "ballot".  If anyone would like to see the actual data, I'd be happy to show you how I did it in Conway.  Introduce yourself... I am always willing to talk volleyball with anyone and I'd love to meet some readers that I haven't had the chance to chat with if you are going to be in Conway supporting your team.

I hope you enjoy the lists, and I anxiously await the "real" lists tomorrow.  Last year the coaches and SID's did a great job.  I know they will honor some great players and I certainly concede that they are the experts.  My goal, as always, is just to shower more attention on our great sport and give a small honor to a few of the players that I believe have had worthy performances this year.  Of course, there are plenty of others not on end of season lists that had fine seasons as well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 SLC Tournament: 1st Round Preview

Before we get into today’s topic of breaking down Friday’s first round tournament matchups, let me make sure and share with you this week’s schedule here at the blog. On Tuesday night, I will post my list comprising the 4th Annual SFA All Conference Teams. I always put out my list the day before the conference does so that my picks can stand in an unbiased way against the coaches and SID picks. I’ll refresh you on the rules I use for making those selections in that post.

Next, I will be traveling to Conway on Thursday and be providing commentary all during the day live during Friday’s matches. We’ll call this “live blogging” since I will provide updates several times an hour all during the day. Then, at 4:00 I will shift into “live chat” mode using the traditional chat software that you regularly see here when SFA squares off against Northwestern State. We’ll shift back into live blog mode after the match and for all day Saturday. If SFA plays on Saturday and/or Sunday, I will certainly do live chats for those subsequent matches. I am considering chatting live during the conference final on Sunday no matter who plays – I’ll make that call based on a few discussions with conference officials.

Lastly, I am also working on beginning a new “SFA Volleyblog award” in addition to all conference teams that I put out each year. I don’t want to give away any details because I am still compiling some numbers, but it won’t surprise you that this new “award” will focus on back row defense. I think you’ll like the data that I present, but I may not get it all done by the time I get to Conway.

OK, on to the previews of the first round of the 2012 Southland Conference Volleyball Tournament:

Match 1: 11:00 AM Friday
#7 Nicholls State vs. #2 Sam Houston State
Regular Season: Sam Houston swept Nicholls both times

I am happy for first year coach Patrick Hiltz in that his club officially gets a tournament berth, but we can’t hide behind the facts that a) Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana made the tournament due to the format not changing in the year we only had 10 teams and b) 6-12 and 5-13 teams don’t really deserve to compete in the postseason. I’m not being ugly, it’s just the truth. I understand the conference decision not to alter the format of the tournament for just one year, but that meant that we ran the risk of having some below average teams in the postseason. Now, there are some conferences where every team plays for the right to earn an NCAA berth, but I don’t prefer that sort of format at all. All that being said, this shouldn’t be a big issue since Sam Houston should have little trouble eliminating the Colonels in the opening match.

Sam Houston has too many weapons on offense and Nicholls just doesn’t have the counterpunch. Nicholls has no wins against any of the teams seeded above them in the tournament. I would like to say this, though: Nicholls State has a fair number of Seniors this year and I am happy that those players will get a chance to play in the conference tournament to finish their college careers. Jennifer Brandt, Jessica Addicks, Kathryn Stock, Nancy Taylor, Sarah Terry and Amanda Newlin have each played a fairly integral role on the team during 2012. Some of those players have been central to Colonel Volleyball the entire time they have been on campus. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching Brandt and Addicks – it seems like they have been at Nicholls forever. I hope they play an inspired match and give Sam Houston a fight in what likely will be their final game of their careers.

Sam Houston is also full of seniors. I think their resolve is hardened now, and like I said way back on August 30 in this space, I expect the final to feature the Bearkats against the host Sugar Bears. I hope to interview both Brenda Gray and some of the Bearkat players during the tournament. I’ll post those audio files as they are recorded. Before we get into more discussion about Sam Houston – because I am sure I will comment about them a lot this weekend - we need to recognize the contributions of Devaney Wells-Gibson and her impact on the Bearkat success. I’ve focused a fair number of words on the veterans like Black, Hawkins, and Cleveland. But, Wells-Gibson, only a sophomore, has stepped into the void left by Carli Kolbe and been nothing short of stellar. Take a look at these stats: 4.07 kills per set, 435 total kills, a .242 attack percentage in 1162 attacks plus 3.28 digs per set and 50 blocks. Folks, that’s elite. In fact, it might be good enough for SLC Player of the Year Honors. I will go ahead and tell you right now that she is one of the players I am considering for that honor. I don’t think she’s received the credit around the league that she deserves. If the Bearkats make the final, I as suspect they will, watch for her to show up on the All-Tournament team.

Odds: (50/50 means a toss up): Sam Houston 85/15. Nicholls might challenge or even escape with one set, but that’d be about the extent of the damage I think they could inflict.

Match 2: 1:30 Friday
#6 Oral Roberts vs. #3 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Regular Season: Split. Home Team swept road team in each meeting.

Ahh, here we go. This is the match – other than our own – that I am most anxious to see on Day 1. I told you last week that if this was the 3/6 match up I was going with ORU and I’m not changing course now. Let me slip this in right here… I thought SFA’s 3-1 win in Tulsa was mighty impressive. The comebacks in Set 3 and 4 were some of the firmest resolve I think the ‘Jacks have shown all year. ORU looked a little shell shocked in those last two sets. I think they got it together and took their frustrations out on Northwestern State two days later.

I expect ORU to play well in this tournament. They have two fantastic blockers in Jessica Pancratz and Sheina Fernandes. Pancratz ,in particular, has become one of my favorite non-SFA players this year. That girl can block and she’s got one of the fastest arm swings I’ve seen lately. You know how in baseball there are some players you just gotta watch take batting practice? That’s like Pancratz in warm-ups. Watch her hit in warm-ups – she can put on a show.

One of the key battles in this matchup will be the ORU blockers against TAMUCC’s Shannon Hullum on the right side. I think Hullum is TAMUCC’s best offensive weapon and in fact, while we are at it – Hullum has REALLY improved her game during her time in Corpus Christi. When the Islanders came to Nacogdoches, I was focused on Baresh because I haven’t seen her play before. Hullum stole my attention though. Baresh didn’t play all that well against us, but Hullum really shined. She’s another player that I think got overlooked a little this year.

If the Islanders can mix up their offense and get contributions from Brink and Baresh on the left, then I can see this matchup falling their way. Brink may be the X-factor. She’s my current “Tara Frantz” candidate. There’s always one girl who puts up decent numbers and I just don’t buy into how they do it. That’s Brink..I’m not sold on her. Logan Borque is going to have to have the game of her life trying to mix up the offense and keep the ORU front line guessing. If Borque is off, ORU will win. Borque didn’t set well in my opinion when I saw her in Nacogdoches, but I know she is capable of better. Still, I just don’t think Brink and Baresh will be able to do as much as what TAMUCC will need them to do against the ORU front line. Sticking with the setter matchup – Laura Taylor did a nice job against SFA with attacking just enough on 2nd strike. I’d like to see Taylor try and do a lot of that against Alverson to keep her guessing in the middle in order to open up more for either Tatum Freeden on the left or players like Rosa or Schaffner on the right.

Then there is Nolan vs. Silva. Two great liberos. I’ve been singing Nolan’s praises to people for a while and although I wasn’t impressed with Silva when she came to Nacogdoches, her resume is complete enough and I’ve talked to others that have witnessed her stellar play to where I am a believer.

I don’t think there is any doubt that this is the most interesting match of the first round. I think the left sides are even with maybe a slight edge to the Islanders. I like ORU more in the middle – in fact, I like ORU in the middle by quite a big margin. Plus, I’ll give a slight edge to ORU at setter and on the back row. Corpus Christi has the edge on the right. That seems like a toss up on paper, but in the end, I think the low seed gets this one.

Odds: (50/50 means a toss up): ORU 60/40. If Brink and Baresh combine for 6 kills per set, then I’ll swing it to them. But again, if Borque doesn’t run the offense well, ORU might cake walk it.

Match 3: 4:00 Friday
#5 Stephen F. Austin vs. #4 Northwestern State
Regular Season: Split. Home Team won each meeting. SFA won 3-1 in Nacogdoches, NWLA won 3-0 in Natchitoches.

When SFA beat Northwestern State in Nacogdoches, the ‘Jacks were in the middle of probably their most consistent level of play all season. September was a banner month for SFA as they stormed out to a 5-0 SLC record and at one point looked like they could challenge for the league’s top spot. If not for feisty UCA denying the ‘Jacks four match points in their game at the end of that month, who knows what might have happened. Instead, SFA lost to UCA in a heartbreaker and ever since that point has been radically inconsistent. After the UCA match, they went to Huntsville and played horrible. They then immediately got ripped by TAMUCC and I penned the article about still believing this year was different. After all, we going into the “soft” part of the schedule. But, then Southeastern Louisiana happened. And it happened twice. Bad in a non-conference game down in Houston vs. HBU. Good against Lamar and a non-conference match against North Texas. But then ridiculous at Northwestern State. Then, really good at home against the Islanders in the rematch with them and good at Oral Roberts. Then, yesterday at UCA where the team couldn’t even hit zero? Up. Down. Up. Down.

The good thing is: It’s been about a month (SELA, HBU) since SFA laid an egg twice in a row. We have been able to adjust after bad losses. The issue is that we haven’t been able to maintain any momentum after we’ve adjusted. And that is DEFINITELY the key word for SFA’s match up against the Demons: adjustments. SFA must do something to slow down the offense that Northwestern State’s front line can throw at you. In Natchitoches, we couldn’t block to save our lives. DiFrancesco and O’Connell destroyed us on the left. Neely did some damage, but they didn’t really need her that night because why go away from the primary side if the defense can’t stop it? I mean, Emily Sweet isn’t stupid… she could easily tell that we weren’t defending her primary targets, so just keep feeding it to the left until somebody throws down on you a couple times.

I mean.. Hanlan is one of the best liberos in the conference, but if you allow left side hitters to hit uncontested cross court shots over and over then even the best of back row players can’t dig them up. The X-Factor in this match for Northwestern State is Glynna Johnson. If she contributes on offense, then SFA may be in trouble. Why? Because, if we don’t at least slow down DiFrancesco and O’Connell on the left then we are going to lose. But even if we do slow them down, we’d have to make sure that Johnson and Neely don’t get 15 or 20 kills between them. Johnson didn’t do a lot in Natchitoches, but again, she didn’t have to. So, what I think the Demons have to do is to get everyone involved. If they do that, our block may not be able to adjust and they’ll take the match.

SFA has to get the offense out of Jill Ivy that they were getting a few weeks ago. After getting double figure kills from Ivy in 8 of 9 matches in the middle of the SLC slate, she’s topped out at 8 kills in her last four contests. She hadn’t hit negative all year until her errors have exceeded her kills twice in the last two weeks. Is she wearing down? I don’t think so, but it’s clear that we are going to need her typical offense as our base starting point. The ‘Jacks will also need Burns, Allen, Bates, Ivy – even Leslie if she is ready for game action in time– to be a big presence at the net.

Our offense always makes me worry. Ivy has to come up huge and in addition to that we have to get a stellar performance on offense by at least one of Burns or Bates, preferably both. One positive for SFA is that sometimes we can pull a wild card out of our hats….like Katzy Randall getting a double-double or Jacque Allen putting up really good offensive numbers (15 kills vs. Lamar, anyone?). Who knows? Cara Leslie had some great games for us early on. I don’t know how much she’d be ready to contribute or even how she would be used, but maybe she could provide a spark.

In the end, I just worry about how much more offense Northwestern State can generate from the left side than we can. I think we can match up with them in the middle. I think we are better on the right and I think the liberos are both stellar. SFA seems to have to walk too thin a tight rope to pull off a great match. We frequently can’t compensate for one of our better players having an off night. We can win, but the balance is so delicate.

Odds: (50/50 means a toss up): Northwestern State 55/45. If Ivy and Burns dominate, we win. If Sweet picks us apart by mixing up her distribution and NWLA gets contributions all across the front row, we lose. Either way, UCA lurks.

Match 4: 6:30 Friday
#8 Southeastern Louisiana vs. #1 Central Arkansas
Regular Season: UCA won both, but SELA took sets both times including pushing UCA to five in Conway.

You know how SELA was able to hang? Their middles. Courtney Donald absolutely ruled against UCA both times they played. Check it out.. in two matches against the Sugar Bears, Donald hit 34-5-63 (.460). Holy smokes, that is awesome! C’mon Southland Conference.. show some love for Courtney Donald. This girl has got to wind up an All-SLC pick, maybe even first team. Hey, SELA’s other middle, Veronica Turk did some damage against UCA as well. Is there a secret in there? Is that the way to attack them? I don’t know, but it goes without saying that if the Lady Lions are to have any chance of pulling off the upset, then Donald will have to shine.

This tournament is set up for UCA to win. I actually think they got a great draw in terms of the bracket. Sam Houston has the tougher side in my opinion. I just don’t see the winner of the SFA/NWLA match being able to maintain things against UCA on Saturday, especially if the SFA/NWLA game is well played on both sides and it goes to five sets. The Sugar Bears just have too many things going for them: possible player of year Jessica Hays, experience, good play in the middle in Taylor Hammonds and Alicia Dietrich – who by the way, complement each other really well in terms of skill sets. Then you’ve got the outstanding setter play of Marissa Collins. Finally, any one of Nagy, Brooks or Schnars might get hot and just add insult to injury while you are over there trying to slow down Hays. It’s just too much. Finally, factor in the home court advantage, which still exists even though we are playing at Ferris and not Prince.

UCA is beatable. Conference play has shown that. But, the only team to beat them in Conway is the team they will likely square off against in the final: Sam Houston. The Sugar Bears are 6-0 against the teams on their side of the bracket. They can’t go into cruise control mode, but if they play their game, the three teams on their side of the bracket will have to absolutely play their best game of the year in order to hang in. They have a ton of talent and I expect they will be energized by the home atmosphere. They’re the favorite and their Friday match shouldn’t slow them down much.

Odds: (50/50 means a toss up): Central Arkansas 90/10. First time they played: UCA 3-SELA TWO. Second time they played: UCA 3-SELA ONE. Third time they play: UCA 3 - You complete the pattern.

All in all, I still will go with Sam Houston and UCA in the final. ORU is my dark horse and my heart, of course, is with SFA. We’ve shown this year that we can compete with the top teams in the conference, so this is do-able. We can go in there and make a run. But to do so will require three straight matches of consistent play – we are going to have to elevate our game in order to accomplish that.

I think the bracket sets UCA up the title, and who could argue that they don’t deserve it? Sam Houston is a worthy regular season co-champion and as many seniors as they have on the roster, they will surely show up knowing this is their last shot.

To be really honest, I don’t like our draw in the bracket. I’d feel more comfortable on the other side of the bracket. But, if a team gets hot, then often times there is little that can stop them.

We’ve beaten Northwestern State. We are capable of beating them again. We pushed UCA to the brink, and it’s tough to beat a good team three times, so we have that going for us. We’ve beaten Sam Houston State. Now, all of that was in our own rowdy, loud gym. We’ve got to take that confidence with us on the bus to Conway and put all the pieces together three straight days. I can’t wait for Friday. Going to this tournament is one of my favorite weekends of the year. How about we have a little celebration Sunday night? Why not us?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sabrina Burns & Maddie Hanlan: Thank You

Tuesday night in Nacogdoches we will honor two very special people. We have two seniors on the team this year and both of these players have carved out quite a legacy for themselves in the lore of SFA Volleyball. This post is my token tribute to two fantastic volleyball players and even better people. I’ve been so blessed to be included approximately on the circumference of Ladyjack Volleyball’s inner circle. I’m not a full-fledged inner circle person, but I’m privy to a lot. I’m granted access pretty much where I want to be and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to and watch these players in both game and practice environments. I’ve had plenty of conversations with coaches, athletic department staff and others around the Southland conference about these two players. I can tell you without a moment of hesitation: Sabrina Burns and Madison Hanlan are universally positively regarded around the league.

This is true not just for their play on the court, but for their leadership and character. I only know them both in a tangential way – having short conversations with each, interviewing each from time to time, but as usual, I am a very careful observer. What I’ve seen is quality. I want to personally in this space thank both of them for their time, support and willingness to allow me to interview and chat with them through the years. But, thank you both primarily for the outstanding dedication you have given to SFA Volleyball and the University as a whole. You will be missed…dearly.

When Hanlan goes on the road, she almost always is introduced during the starting lineup as “Madison”. In Johnson Coliseum and Shelton Gym I have universally announced her as “Maddie”. Before her first game in an SFA uniform, I sent her a short message asking what name she’d prefer and she sent me a one line reply: “Maddie will be just fine”. And it’s been that way ever since.

I spent her first season at SFA in denial. I honestly couldn’t believe we were just going to hand the libero jersey over to a freshman right after we had had a veteran hold down that spot so well the year before. I spent the better half of the season defending the veteran on this blog while not trying to slight Hanlan’s efforts. Then one day, I was in the middle of a conversation with Debbie Humphreys and she was talking about the recruiting class of 2009. When she got to Hanlan, she made a statement that used the phrases “I think we got”, “libero” and “best in state” all together. I didn’t hear another word of that conversation. My mind drifted off thinking about the level of the praise that had just been showered down.

I figured that I better start watching (and learning) rather than looking backwards. It took me way too long, but by the end of Hanlan’s first year in purple I was convinced she was the right person for the job. I’ve never doubted this since. Many, many times I have written that back row defense is my favorite part of the game. I think I am just now realizing how spoiled I have been the last four years to be able to watch Hanlan play. More so than I probably realize, Hanlan’s play has more than likely continued to influence why I enjoy the digging and passing part of volleyball. If she weren’t so darn good at it, then it’s entirely possible that over the last four years my fascination with the skills it takes to play back row might have waned.

Oh, when we introduce her tomorrow night, you’ll hear all the numbers, so I won’t repeat them all here. All you really need to know is that she is one of only two Ladyjacks to ever record 2000 digs, ranking only behind All-American Stephanie Figgers on the school list. We don’t really need to discuss this point – it is plainly obvious – Hanlan is the 2nd best back row player ever to come to SFA. To average 4.60 digs per set for a four year career is unbelievably impressive, so yeah – I’ll remember all that digging ability.

But what else? I’ll remember the energy. Go through and look at the pictures of Hanlan on the SFA website. Many of them pose her in enthusiastic jumps after points won, or with a huge smile on her face. The best time to watch Maddie is when she is digging up some cross court kill attempt, but the second best time is right after we score. I’ll remember the interviews I did with her – she’d admit to you that she was nervous doing things like that. Hanlan’s not the one to seek out interviews or conversations that are going to be taped or broadcast. I’ll remember the intelligence. Hanlan won numerous accolades for her academic work at SFA and maintained a regal transcript in a very tough Biology major at SFA. Think about the dedication it takes to be an athlete and take courses that often involve lab work. No really. Stop and think about that. As a scientist myself, that hasn’t been lost on me.

I’ll remember the influence she’s had on others. Numerous girls – some who have already graduated – would routinely comment on her leadership and friendship. And yes, unfortunately, I’ll remember the times she’s been hurt, most recently the injury last year that ended her season prematurely. Those times won’t be my focus, but they stick in my head nonetheless. I’ll remember her parents and their dedication. How many times have I said that these volleyball parents never cease to amaze me. They set an incredible example of how to support your kid through thick and thin. Debbie and Scott Hanlan are prime examples of this.

Earlier in the year, while in Hanlan’s home city of Arlington, the family was having a get together after a match. Scott politely brought me the directions to their home and told me that he’d enjoy it if I could attend the dinner that night at their home. That invitation wasn’t lost on me either. C’mon think about it – that dinner is a team event. The girls were invited because they are on Maddie’s team. The support staff – trainers, managers, etc. – these folks are inner circle – they go where the team goes so it’s natural that they be invited to those kind of events. It’s really NOT natural for someone in my position to have that level of kindness extended to him. I couldn’t go since my Mom lives in the area and we had plans, but I was honored at the inclusiveness.

I know someone else will wear the libero jersey – maybe an OJ Olson or a Janet Hill or someone else. I get it. And those girls will surely carry on a great legacy of back row play at SFA. But, it is going to be really different not seeing Maddie back there. I know I am spoiled. Thanks for all the great plays, Maddie. I’ve probably reacted on the sidelines more to your efforts than any other player during the time you’ve been with us. I said this last week in a post, but just go ask the other staff at the media table how many times during a play I’ve leaned back in my chair and said “Oh, what a dig by Hanlan”. The kills and the blocks get announced, but it terms of “oooh’s and “ahhhh’s”, I think Hanlan’s spectacular ability to keep the ball off the floor has elicited just as much emotion with the mic off as the announcements made with the microphone open.

Speaking of blocks, let’s talk a little Sabrina Burns, shall we? Here’s the list of middle blockers on the Top 10 Career Blocks list at SFA that I have seen play (and seen a lot): Traci Rohde, Brittany Burton, MC Bottles, Jennifer Wilson, Kristy Rhodes… and Sabrina Burns. That’s quite a list. When I think back to when Burns first arrived on campus, it is really amazing that her place in SFA Volleyball history will be cemented among those players. All of those players have left a lasting personal impression on me and Burns is no different. She’ll finish no lower than 9th all time at SFA in total blocks and of course, that clearly places her among the best middle blockers to ever come to SFA.

There are some players that you look at and you wonder: what position does she play? One look at Sabrina Burns and you KNOW she’s a middle blocker. Tall, strong, long arms – yep, she’s got middle blocker written all over her. 367 attacks that have come her way have been rejected back to the other side. That’s good for 0.92 blocks per set across a four year career and whenever you start sniffing a block per set then you know you’ve got an elite defender.

I remember when the tide turned. I remember the very hour that Sabrina Burns made it known that we were going to be graced with one of the best we’d ever see: Rice Tournament. Sophomore Year. August 17, 2010. Match against Samford. It still ranks as her career high in blocks. That day, 11 balls got blocks and I swear about six of them were in a row at one point. I genuinely don’t like to laugh at our competition, but that day, Burns was so dominant that she had me literally laughing at the poor girls trying to get the ball past her. I remember at one point sitting there at the media table laughing to myself as the Samford sets continued to go to the right side hitter thinking: Are you serious? You are going to try to hit it over her again? And then.. a microsecond later.. boom.. the attack would fall right back in the face of whomever hit it. What fun. It was highly entertaining to see Samford fail so mightily at getting balls past Burns that day.

After that day, we all knew we had MC and Sabrina for two more years and then we’d have this year where Sabrina could shine as the primary blocker. It’s worked out pretty good, hasn’t it? Hey, all I’ve mentioned so far is defense, but what about these four numbers: 1.00, 1.42, 1.85, 2.42? Or, what about these: .068, .160, .245, .237? Those kill per set numbers and attack percentages by year show a generally increasing trend. That’s called improvement. Sabrina Burns is all about getting better.

Talk to anyone – I mean – anyone in the SFA Volleyball inner circle about Sabrina Burns and one phrase is guaranteed to come up: work ethic. I will bet you a large pizza in Conway at the SLC Tournament that when Humphreys gets her chance to talk about Burns during Senior Day ceremonies that she uses the term “work ethic” at some point in her description of Sabrina. How could one possibly outwork this girl? It’s not possible. Her dedication is unrivaled – I mean, possibly unmatched in the history of the program. Frankly, I think it’s amazing. Just like Hanlan, here we have a stellar student (valedictorian of her high school class) taking on a tough Accounting major, living a life of honor , humility and grace, while busting her tail - day in, day out - to get better at volleyball. Seriously, how can you not be impressed by Burns? If you’re not, then you probably have no soul.

What else will I remember? I’ll remember someone that was positive. She is genuinely excitable – she allows herself to experience joy and let it overflow in conversations with others. Think for a minute how rare that is. With Sabrina, what you see is what you get. She’s not faking this – she is truly that genuine. She’s fun to talk to because sometimes she is innocently aloof in the middle of conversations. Not really spaced out, she’s just so genuinely excitable that she becomes bubbly and energetic just because you can tell she enjoys things and events around her. I’ll remember her tendency to shake her head back and forth after a big block. I’ll remember how confident she spoke about the freshman middle blockers (Allen and Leslie) during a recent interview. I’ll remember her serve – so improved during the last year that she’s actually become one of the team’s best. Like Hanlan, I’ll remember how inclusive she has been - always thanking me for supporting Ladyjack Volleyball.

One major thing I’ll remember is what she said to me one of the first times I talked to her before her junior season. She was elated to tell me that over the summer of 2011 that she had grown – she was 6’3” now. I told her I’d be glad to change it on my roster cards that I bring to the matches to help me with starting lineups and announcements. I told her I’d play my part in trying to get it changed on the official website and sure enough after an email or two, we got her listed as 6’3” on the official website.

Like Hanlan, how could I ever think back on Burns and not pair her up with her family? Just as recently as last Friday night, I drove away from Natchitoches with two bags full of goodies baked and put together by Anita Burns. Anita and Tim Burns are dedication personified. Someone should tell their story to Michelin or Goodyear, ‘cause these people probably need new tires just after driving – literally all over the country to watch their daughter play volleyball. North Dakota? Check. Illinois? Check. The swamps of Louisiana? Of course. Wherever SFA Volleyball goes, one of – and often both – Anita and Tim Burns go. What’s insane to think about is that Sabrina has brothers that have played collegiate tennis and they get this kind of support as well.

Oh, and finally, we can’t forget the calls… you know the “Sasquatch” calls of “hooooooo” after a Burns block or kill. I seriously wish we had a Burns highlight film where there was an audio delay of about two seconds after each play so that the video would include the audio portion of “hoooooo” after every Burns’ moment. By my count there have over 1000 “hooooos” in honor of Burns during the years as her kills plus blocks exceed that number. My bet is that an occasional assist or dig – hey, she’s got a couple dozen of the former and over a 100 of the latter – have also been “hooooooo’d”.

Six foot three and on the front row. Five foot six and on the back row. What they do on the court couldn’t be more opposite. What they’ve meant to SFA Volleyball couldn’t be more similar:

Quality players who are quality people from quality families.

Thank you. I am more of a volleyball fan for having watched you play.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

LIVE CHAT: SFA vs. Northwestern State