Saturday, August 30, 2014

Links to Audio Interviews From Arkansas: Humphreys, Ivy, Bartlett

Click the link below to hear SFA Head Coach Debbie Humphreys discuss the Ladyjacks effort and progress against Michigan.  Also check out the post match comments by Senior right side hitter Jill Ivy and Freshman left side Kelsi Bartlett.  The interview with Ivy and Bartlett was done after the 'Jacks picked up their first win of the 2014 season against Tennessee State in their final match of the Arkansas Tournament.

Notes:  Setter Paige Holland finished the tournament on a high point with 17 assists in two-setter format vs. Tennessee State.  Holland also totalled 25 digs in her 10 sets over the weekend.  She was SFA's representative on the All-Tournament Team.

Home Opener (Shelton Gym):  Monday, September 1 at 6:30 vs. North Texas

Click Here For Humphreys Post-Match Comments vs. Michigan

Click Here For Ivy/Bartlett Interview After SFA Beats Tennessee State 3-0

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Focus On: Janet Hill

I guess when a lot of people watch volleyball, their eyes are naturally drawn to wherever the ball is.  That's probably true for all sports which use a ball.  However, when I am just casually watching volleyball - not calling a game, or describing the action - I find myself focusing on one position on the court and watching how that player moves regardless of whether the ball is near them or not.  This is particularly true of defensive specialists.  Typically, after I've obtained a loose feel for each team involved in the match, I'll start watching a DS and see how she positions herself, moves laterally, what her reactions are like, how accurately she receives serve, how many times she fills the lane of a shot and is in position to dig, etc, etc.  I do this for the other positions on the court as well, but more often that not, if I am watching a position, rather than the ball, it's a back row defender.  I've written here many times that back row defense is my favorite part of volleyball.

For all of the above reasons, I was a little sad when I heard that senior Janet Hill was making the transition to being a "setter only".  That was selfishly motivated, of course.  The last two seasons, Janet has been a huge complement to libero OJ Olson on the back row.  Just look at any roster.  Every team has a few girls that are 5'5", 5'6" listed at DS.  These role players - sometimes three rotation substitutes for a hitter - are the players I often focus on.  They are the unsung heroes of many teams, not getting the glamour of the front row players, setters or libero.

But with SFA bringing in DS and possible libero down-the-road Lexus Cain, it made sense to return Janet to a setter role.  Of course, versatility is what makes Janet so valuable.  You'll hear us talk about that in the interview that you can get to by clicking the link down below.  Janet is a fantastic story.  She worked so hard to first just gain a contributing role with the team.  Then, secondly, she was able to earn some scholarship support when originally that wasn't a part of the deal.  While it appears Holland and Connell will be the primary setters in our 6-2 offense here at the beginning of the year, Hill looking over both of their shoulders will be a good thing.  If either Paige or Shannon needs a breather, or is just having an off-night, it's a truly positive thing to have that third setter on the team - especially in a two-setter offense.

While I do anticipate Janet seeing the floor during the year, we have recent evidence of how influential seniors that are role players can be from the bench.  Les Jackson and Amanda Rister were not every-match starters and at times, barely played.  Yet, both provided solid veteran leadership and maturity.  And that's the great thing about Janet.  She can lead if she is on the court and she can lead if she is in reserve.  In my last post, I commented on how Sophomore Shannon Connell is fortunate to have someone like Holland as a friend and mentor.  Despite Janet not being penciled in as a DS, I have to imagine that she can aid someone like Cain in learning the ropes and providing a veteran helping hand as the freshman adjusts to the speed of the college game from the back row.

While we all know that teams need a good setter, smart and strong hitters as well as blocking strength, I've always believed good teams will have players like Janet Hill and Madison Martin.  In Janet's case, the need is for versatility - like a utility infielder in baseball.  Toward Martin's case, it is always good to have a ball-control OH that can play three rotations solidly, but can also swing if the situation warrants it.

This interview has a lot of great moments in it.  Overall, I enjoyed talking with all three of this years' seniors. Links to all three of the interviews are provided below.

In the near future, I am planing a video featuring Holland and Connell discussing play calling and types of sets.  I get asked questions about those two things a lot by casual fans, so it should be informative to let the experts explain it rather than me.  Additionally, fans ask a lot of questions about the libero, so I anticipate OJ featured in a video or series of videos that explain the role of her position.  Call them "educational videos" if you want. My hope is that if fans, students and people from the community understand volleyball and it's intricacies a little better, then they will become more committed followers of Ladyjack Volleyball.  Plus, they will understand and enjoy more of what they see when they come to a match.

Radio coverage from Arkansas begins Friday at 3:50 PM.  The radio will be streaming free, with no need to download anything, right here at this site.

Click Here For the Interview with Janet Hill

Click Here for the previous interview with Paige Holland

Click Here for the previous interview with Jill Ivy

Monday, August 25, 2014

Focus On: Paige Holland

In the Math & Stat Department at SFA, I teach with a colleague named Roy Joe Harris. He's both a mathematician and a chicken farmer, which while odd enough, isn't close to what he's known for.  What he's known for is his amazing personality.  See, Dr. Harris is a sort of litmus test for whether I should invest time in others.  By this I mean that if you can't get along with Dr. Harris, then there must be something wrong with you.  He can get along with anyone and everyone always loves to be around him.  You are a true curmudgeon if you can't mesh with his personality.  I can get why some people don't like me.  I can reflect back on my actions and words at various times and calculate that other people would have been very put off.  Not, Dr. Harris.   He's just so incredibly likable.

This describes senior Paige Holland as well.  I  just can't imagine Paige developing an enemy or someone not being able to get along with her.  If I heard someone say that they didn't find Paige friendly and warm, then that would be my cue:  Mark that person off your list of wanna-be friends.  Can't get along with Paige?  Probably not going to be worth my effort.  You're probably a mean person.

Pleasant is an understatement. She'll go down in my mind as one of the most mature, courteous, grounded, and humble players I will have interacted with.  Paige is meek in the positive sense of the word.  It's cliche for someone my age with a teenage son to say, but Paige is the kind of person I hope my kid hangs out with in a few years when he gets to college.  I know Paige tries to make her teammates around her better, but regardless of when and how she is able to do that, she does something far more important.  Paige makes PEOPLE around her better.

If I'm Shannon Connell, I'm blessed to have Holland to work with.  With Connell seemingly integrated into the offense for this year and two more following, I can't think of a better mentor to coordinate with than Paige.

Click on the link below to watch the interview done with Paige after last Saturday's scrimmage.  On Wednesday, we'll hear from Janet Hill and on Thursday we will shine some light on the seven juniors that form the other part of the upperclassmen core.

You'll see more about this in days to come, but I did get the final OK from the group at Arkansas to do radio broadcasts from Fayetteville.  For now, all three matches this weekend are scheduled to be covered live on SFA VolleyBlog Radio, right here in this very space that you are reading.  All you have to do is point your browser to my site and click on the radio icon in Friday's post and the audio will start streaming over your phone, tablet, or computer.

Click Here For the Interview with Paige Holland

From Monday:  Click Here for the Interview with Jill Ivy

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Focus On: Jill Ivy

When people prepare to play SFA, one of the first names they become familiar with is Jill Ivy. She is as key to team success as anyone in 2014. At this point, Jill is a decorated veteran having earned many all-conference and all-tournament honors during her first three years in purple.

In recent memory, I struggle to remember a player who improved as much as Jill did after her freshman year. During Jill's first year, I recall talking to the parents of a player who is no longer at SFA at a Saturday cookout before a match.  The focus of the conversation were the 2011 freshman and what their projected impact would be across their four years at SFA. During the chat with the parents, I was gushing about Katzy Randall.  One of the parents mentioned Jill's name as a possible big-time contributor as she gained experience. Now, while appreciative of Jill's abilities, it's safe to say that in 2011, I vastly under predicted the total impact she has had at SFA the last three years. I walked away from that conversation and just sort of shrugged my shoulders.

Now, if Randall's shoulder had held up, I might have been right.  But, one thing is for sure.  Jill Ivy is one of the best players in the Southland Conference.  It doesn't take five minute analysis over a chili dog at a game day party to know that.  Everyone. Knows. It.

Leading up to the first serve of the season we will follow the schedule below.  Each day will feature a new interview or post! Volleyball is back.  It's time to Get On Board.

Click on Jill's name in the link below to go to our new YouTube Channel!!

Monday:  Interview with Jill Ivy 

Tuesday:  Interview with Paige Holland

Wednesday:  Interview with Janet Hill

Thursday:  Preview of our seven Juniors:  Allen, Bates, Evans, Kainer, McArdle, Martin & Olson

Monday, August 4, 2014

Coming Soon: SFA Volleyblog 2014

College Volleyball season is just around the corner.  Initial interviews with SFA coaches and players are being scheduled.  Practices begin Saturday, August 9.  I will be on vacation from the 10th to the 15th, but look for regular Fall 2014 articles to begin during the middle of August when I return.  I expect to observe practice at least twice during the week of the 18th through the 22nd.  Several player interviews will be done during that week as well.

As always, SFA Volleyblog will keep you in touch with all things SFA and SLC Volleyball.  This year is shaping up to be a great one at Shelton Gym.  Make plans now to be with us on Labor Day for our home opener!