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Volleyball Flyby: The Grind Can Be More Mental than Physical
Volleyball Flyby: The Grind Can Be More Mental than Physical
Beckystxa
Published by BeckysTXA
10-05-2023
Volleyball Flyby: The Grind Can Be More Mental than Physical

The Flyers traveled to Pittsburgh earlier in the week and swept the Dukes 3-0. However, it wasn’t our best match against a team we expected to dominate. That’s how it’s going to be for a lot of A10 matches left to play. The mental grind will be the challenge. If we can conquer that part of the game, we are the more talented team on paper as evident by having six different players ranked as a Top 100 national stat leader in every one of the 16 individual categories on ncaa.com. Here is the link over on the UDPride Volleyball Forum if you haven’t read the list. It’s very impressive.

http://www.udpride.com/forums/showth...375#post743375

So how does the starting rotation of 9-10 players stay focused and playing at a high level every match? One way is to be pushed by their teammates. Some of those bench players have seen court time and performed well. Assistant Coach Tim Balice pointed out several this week starting with senior Middle Blocker Lindsey Winner.

“She hit .400 with three blocks this past weekend,” he noted. “Albeit an impressive performance, she has been diligent in her work and effort so it is not a surprise that it’s translating to the court.

“Brooke Nichols is also another one. Like Winner, simply comes to work every day and gives the program everything she's got day in and day out,” he continued. “She averaged three digs a set against Fordham and has been filling various roles as a defensive specialist and setter. Brooke did a good job (delivering the ball to) generate quality swings this weekend while she was on the court as a setter.”

Balice also pointed out not every player fills up the stat sheet during a match, but their contribution is critical in helping the Flyers win. This past week he pointed to Emily Young as doing a great job of serving and impacting the little things in the match.

Finally, he said Outside Hitter Kaitlyn McNeel is doing some nice things. Last year McNeel redshirted and it’s starting to pay off as she is seeing some court time this year as a backup.

“Kaitlyn hit .500 with 3 kills per set on 12 attempts,” Balice explained. “She did a good job coming in and doing her job. She even was in the serve receive pattern for a couple rotations and passed well in her small amount of opportunities. We think McNeel has a bright future with continued development and time.”

Both McNeel and the reining A10 POW - for the second week in a row - OH Taylor Russell, redshirted their freshmen years. So I asked Head Coach Tim Horsmon about his philosophy on using the redshirt as a developmental tool and for roster management.

“Redshirting is in consideration with all incoming players pending specific circumstances such as immediate impact that is deemed significant enough to outweigh utilizing a whole year of eligibility,” he explained.

Specifically I inquired about two freshmen, MB India Gantt and Setter Emory Hinckley, two 6’2” players from Texas.

“Both players are getting better every day and are adjusting to the speed, load, and expectations of our gym,” Horsmon said. "Both are redshirt candidates but we’ll see what our needs are this fall and how their progression goes. It really is dependent on those two factors."

If a redshirt year produces the production on the level of Taylor Russell in her sophomore season on the court, it’s a great thing for development and a tool UD Volleyball and a player should use whenever the opportunity allows.

Scheduling is an art so you receive an At-Large Bid if you need one. The UD Athletic Department and Horsmon do this very well. Roster Management is another art I think UD can use to help compete against the elite volleyball programs and conferences. Layer in the COVID extra year and it’s been a whole new ballgame they’ve had to balance with recruiting and scholarship limitations. Coach Balice provided an update.

“Roster management has changed significantly due to many variables, COVID being a major one,” he noted. “Allowing the opportunity for players to come back an additional season has many benefits for the program in regards to added depth, maturity, and oftentimes leadership.

“The other side of the coin is that no matter what facet you are considering you have to rob Peter to pay Paul. The added depth allows younger players more time to develop before needing to be meaningful contributors but it also sacrifices some opportunities for game experience. Being in the ‘spotlight’ can both boost and hinder development depending on the individual and if they are ready for that moment or not.”

He did confirm that next year will be the last season that should have COVID redshirts on roster unless a player has a season ending injury - on top of their COVID redshirt or a traditional redshirt.

You never know what coulda-woulda-shoulda happened with the roster if COVID had not happened. But right now it looks like the Flyer coaching staff have navigated the situation extremely well and it’s helped put the program back in the Top 25 rankings. To get us to the Sweet 16, every role-player and backup teammate needs to keep pushing the rotation to get better and more importantly, to help navigate the mental grind the A10 can become. You have to show up ready to play your best every match or you can get beat. Every team will be gunning for UD and our #20 ranking.

That’s just how it is and why the biggest role on this year’s team might come from the ladies standing at the end of the bench. Those two sets up in Pittsburgh only underscore this fact. Take care of both the mental and physical this weekend when we host George Mason who are 6-11 for the year, and the Flyers should still be at the top of the A10 standings before dinner is served again this Saturday night.
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