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Volleyball Flyby: It All Starts With a Pass
Volleyball Flyby: It All Starts With a Pass
Published by BeckysTXA
Volleyball Flyby: It All Starts With a Pass

There is a saying in volleyball, “It all starts with a pass.” You sit next to knowledgeable fans at a match and you will hear them say, “We need a good pass.” Its hands down the hardest skill on a volleyball court. Players that can take serve receive or dig up attacks and pass the ball perfectly to their setter are priceless to the success of a team and the Flyer’s opponent this weekend, Davidson, has the best one in the A10 the last two years.

Any discussion about playing Davidson begins with their 2-time A10 Libero of the Year, Senior Bella Brady. Assistant Coach Tim Balice described her like this, “Brady is an energizer bunny. She is relentless in her pursuit of the ball and does a great job digging the opponent’s offensive heat. She is, in many ways, Davidson’s heartbeat.”

We have a pretty good Libero too in Sophomore Karissa Kaminsky. I expected Wisconsin transfer Grad Student Anna MacDonald to come in and win the Libero job this fall. We had two freshmen holding down the back row last year and in true freshman form, they did an admirable job but struggled at times. I saw MacDonald play in high school. She was fantastic. She was two years in a row a regional Georgia Player of the Year which is dang hard to do as a backrow player. I did not see Kaminsky play in high school. She was recruited as a DS/L by Dayton, but all 5’8” of her was a hitter during her prep years. So for a year and a half she’s been concentrating on the Libero position and the girl has gotten a whole lot better since her freshman year. MacDonald has been a great addition for us on the court. We are very lucky to have her and I expect she will continue to push and battle for the Libero spot. But Kaminsky flat out won the Libero job so far.

“Karissa does a lot of things well for us,” Balice said. “She is the quintessential volleyball junkie who lives, sleeps, and breathes the game. She is also extremely bright and reads the game at a high level.

“Karissa has evolved her consistency from last year to this year in a significant way and that has been integral in keeping her on the court and in the libero jersey,” he explained. “Additionally, her ability to set the second ball when we are out of system is at an extremely high level and arguably as good, or better, than what we’ve had at Dayton in the last decade.”

So I wanted to know where Kaminsky, not even half way into her Flyer career, stands in comparison to some of the great Liberos that we have had in the past, many who were honored as A10 LOY.

“There have been many elite liberos over the years that have all had their individual strengths and weaknesses,” Balice continued. “The best of the best that have worn the jersey in our program over the years had an elite level of consistency in serve receive. Although Karissa has traveled a great distance in this department since last year, she still has some ground to cover. From an athleticism standpoint she is on par with some of the best but is still learning how to move efficiently.”

Looking at Davidson’s roster, in addition to Brady, they have three former A10 All-Rookie players (Isabel Decker, Kayla Davis, Emmo Slusser), a current freshman who is playing well and has won Player of the Week - not Rookie of the Week – already this year in Elena Garcia-Guerrios and Jackie Bordin who played extremely well against us last year and was awarded POW after those matches. Plus, one of their two setters is a senior. Davidson has a lot of balance in their rotation. It’s tough to beat a balanced team. Last year they beat the Flyers twice in the regular season, the first time they had ever defeated Dayton. So what should Flyers fans expect from the Wildcats this season?

“Davidson has committed to running a 6-2 system (two setters and six attackers) for several years,” Balice shared. “They have done a good job of finding young talent and developing them within that system. In regards to balance, you will see it the most from an offensive perspective on their pins. All of their hitters have unique strengths and they’ve created a balanced offense that highlights their signature strengths.”

And so it comes back around to, “It all starts with a pass.” If Davison’s strength is in a diversified, balanced offense, we will have to be able to dig attacks and make good passes to our setter so Alyssa Miller can deploy any and all of our balanced and diversified offensive weapons. After playing at such a high level during the first match of the season against Western Kentucky, Head Coach Tim Horsmon said it will be a work in progress this year to practice at a consistently high level and transfer that consistency on to the court during matches. So again this week I checked in with him on this quest .

“We challenge our team each day for growth and improvement,” Horsmon replied. “Complacency cannot be permitted to seep into our daily routine and our team understands this. A certain maturity is required to understand this and where we are in our season. Thankfully we have good leaders who are helping with this charge. Our MOB (Make Others Better) side is very good and sprinkled in with some of our Men’s Club practice players, we typically have a pretty competitive environment in practice that hopefully slows the matches down on the weekends.”

Balice added, “We are seeing improvement in specific facets like serve receive and serving. Our defensive discipline, such as where we need to align behind the block has also improved a lot. As a staff we continue to harp on the little things that add up to big things throughout the course of a season.”

Flyer fans will all agree there has been a big jump in our aggressive serving this season. Specifically, in the area of serving aces. Taylor Russell leads the A10 in aces per set. Lexie Almodovar is 2nd and freshman Gaby Arroyo is 8th. But we’ve all seen Ameila Moore, Emily Young, MacDonald, Kaminsky, Miller and others step up to the line and delivery aces at big times. Our entire serving corps is lethal this season. So why is it so difference this year?

“Statistically, we have had to dig a little bit deeper to truly answer this question because there are a few other variables we use to evaluate serving,” Balice explained. “In regards specifically to aces per set we are the highest Dayton team in the last decade. Currently we are averaging 2.22 aces per set - ranked sixth nationally. At the end of the 2020-2021 COVID season we averaged 2.11 aces per set - ranked fifth nationally. Our current team definitely has depth and variety in servers which contributes significantly to the team’s overall serving effectiveness.”

So once again, it all comes back around to “It starts with a pass”. Both Dayton and Davidson have talent, balance and diversity in their offensive hitters. Dayton has a lethal serving corps. Players will have to step up and take a serve or dig an attack and get a good ball delivered to the setters so their team has a chance to terminate and score. It’s the hardest skill on the volleyball court. This weekend you can see some of the best the A10 has in this area on both sides of the net.

Scheduling Note: The Friday 7 pm match will not be streamed, but Saturday at 2 pm the match is on ESPN+.
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