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