When the 2015 volleyball season ended it was easy to predict that 2016 would be a rebuilding year.
On offense they lost:
Alaina Turner 497 kills
Jill Loiars 288 kills
Jenna Jendryk 213 kills
Angel Agu 140 kills
A total of 1138 kills out of 1712 kills were lost to graduation
in addition to the loss on offense they also lost Janna Krafka a tremendous libero.
After watching the team in the spring I was impressed. It seemed that Jessica Sloan and Lauren Bruns had improved significantly. You had returning middles with a lot of experience as well as Margo ready to become the libero. There was also a tremendous freshman class coming in but nobody knew if they would have an impact this season. I predicted that UD would again challenge for an ncaa berth and the A10 coaches voted UD as the preseason favorite.
Of course it isn't going to be smooth sailing when you lose that much talent and leadership. With no returning seniors they were PLAYING WITH HOUSE MONEY because you would expect them to be even better next year.
The Flyers started the season playing at Wright State's tournament and won three matches. It really showed how far the Flyers had to go but it also showed they had the potential to improve a great deal. In one match Jessica had 15 kills and margo had 25 digs, a hint at what was going to come from both of these players.
The early season schedule was perfect for the Flyers. They played against teams which were good enough to punish them for mistakes. But, if the Flyers played relatively error free they were solid favorites.
There was a perfect schedule difficulty ramp up for a young and inexperienced team.
Here are my thoughts previously posted on the Dayton Invitational which provided some significant improvements in the level of competition. In their first match of the tournament UD played Xavier
"On Friday night the Flyers squared off against Xavier which was a very good match. The Flyers won the first two sets but after intermission they had trouble just keeping the ball within the court. It wasn't one player, it was a team effort. But, toward the end of set 3 they began to play much better and gained momentum which would allow them to dominate set 4 25-19".
In the 2nd match of the tournament UD played against Northwestern. This was expected to be a tough match and it didn't disappoint.
"On Saturday afternoon the Flyers played against Northwestern which was expected to be a very tough match. They have a very good mix of talent at multiple positions. This was a great, close match, the best I have seen in a while.
The Flyers lost the first set before winning sets 2 and 3. Northwestern won set four and UD was victorious in set 5 15-11. This was a great match with runs by both teams. UD served really well in this match causing Northwestern to struggle out of system many times"
For the most part the Flyers were passing the ball well but they also had periods where this wasn't the case. This Flyer's team doesn't have a 6'6" banger on the outside to save you when passing is bad and that became apparent when the Flyers played Loyola Marymount
The Flyers entered the LMU game with fans concerned that this might be a must win in order to get into the ncaa tournament. The gradually improving schedule was perfect for this inexperienced team but it could hurt the Flyers on selection sunday.
LMU swept the Flyers in three sets. UD had 9 aces to LMU's 8 aces but this didn't tell the true story. The Flyers struggled the entire match to return serve as LMU served the ball with great pace and location. If the servers hit the ball hard and can also make you move your feet things can get tough in a hurry. This was the first match where UD looked like a young team that might not make the ncaa tournament
But, the team continued to improve and began to establish themselves as the best team in the A10 and the A10 season started with George Washington
coming to UD. UD won the match against GW 3-1 but it wasn't pretty and here are some board comments following this match:
"GW wins the 3rd 19-25. I don't think we have passed well at all tonight. It's hard to say because the stats don't give us the passing grades, but just seems to be a lot of Jane running all over the court to get to the 2nd touch.
I will say I have seen Maggie dive for a lot of balls tonight to kept the in play -- so I think she is playing good defense. But as a team I don't think we are passing to the setter very well.
I also feel GW is more athletic than UD. They seem to cover the court better and are more "in control". We are more scrappy -- which isn't a bad thing. Just an observation".
Freshman Jamie Peterson was establishing herself as a big time offensive threat and the Flyers beat George Mason 3-1 while playing a lot of freshmen. At this point the Flyers were continuing to improve and looked like they could be far and away the class of the A10.
The Flyers were now faced with a litmus test playing long term rival St Louis
and their stud left side hitter Rygelski. UD dominated this match and had now beaten every perceived threat in the A10.
What seemed to happen after this is that the team reached a plateau which is understandable. They continued to win but didn't show improvement for several weeks. Tim Horsmon has previously said that they take great pride in their improvement and they once again began to show improvement in blocking and other skills. Without this the season might not have ended well.
The Flyers continued to win convincingly by 3-0 or 3-1 scores and again faced St Louis, this time at the wonderful Hausfeld Court. UD dominated this match and when it ended I truely felt that unless St Louis completely changed their strategy UD would beat them again in the A10 tournament.
As the season winds down before tournament play you want to dominate any team that is a potential challenger in the A10 tournament. In the final match of the regular season UD beat VCU 3-1, the first sets were close but UD dominated the final two sets.
In the A10 tournament the Flyers would again face VCU who had just won a set against them. The Flyers lost sets 2 and 3 but rallied to dominate sets 4 and 5. So much for hoping VCU was afraid of them, lol
In the A10 finals the Flyers would again face St Louis and their tremendous left side hitter Rygelski. Rygelski was much more aware of the block in this match and continualy hit the ball off UD hands for winners. This still wasn't enough as UD won in five sets. The Flyer fans could breathe a sigh of relief as all of the angst about getting an ncaa at large bid was now gone.
The Flyers received what looked like a good first round draw against Pittsburgh. After further review it was obvious that this was the toughest team they had faced this year. Pittsburgh served the ball extremely well and kept UD out of system too often. UD's offense needs good passing to be successful, just as the women's olympic team did. The Flyers fell in four sets.
Let's make no mistake, this was a great season. It showed that the program is on the right trajectory.
So where do they go now? Upwards. Megan G graduates this year but she is the only loss.
The improvements seen by Jessica Sloan, Lauren Bruns, Kendyll Brown, Amber Erhahon, Maggie Shuter, Jane Emmenecker and Margo Wolf were tremendous. Freshman Jamie Peterson established herself as a future beast which will keep everyone working hard to hold onto their positions. She could be playing left or right side next year. The Flyers should have no major weaknesses next year because you know that the players will return better than they were at the end of this season.
I would hope that the back row and outside hitters continue to improve their passing skills as this is definitely a weakness against great serving teams. This also means that the team needs to improve their power serving skills because it takes practice returning serve against great servers to do this in a match.
The Flyers will probably lose more than two matches next year but could make it into the sweet sixteen. The goal should be to host in the ncaa tournament first round and win those matches.
Thanks for an enjoyable seeing in watching and discussing ud volleyball
Here are a couple of links showing vball tools which are available to schools/coaches:
Volleyball attack machine, can serve at 60 mph
Noah device helps setters improve consistency