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Improvements & URI and Fordham Previews
Improvements & URI and Fordham Previews
Published by BeckysTXA
10-02-2019
Improvements & URI and Fordham Previews

How much this year’s team can improve in the month of October will determine how long they play in November. When the A10 scheduling gods released this year’s conference schedule, October was interesting. Four weekends, playing four teams, twice each. Rhode IslandFordham – George Mason – George Washington – Fordham – Rhode Island – George Washington – George Mason. If you had a concussion, you'd think you were seeing double.

As Head Coach Tim Horsmon said last week, he expects to get everyone’s best shot. But reality is, pending injuries, no more than two of these teams will make the A10 Championship. By the time Dayton plays RV Cincinnati on October 30th, if we show up and take care of business, we should be riding a nine-match, sweep-streak. Red Scare can travel to Cincinnati dressed as brooms for Halloween. For that to happen, we have to not only show up prepared but also play well each match. The Flyers need to use this month to get better in key areas of the game.

“Offensively we want to continue to work on playing aggressive and low-error,” Horsmon said.

One of those aggressive offensive plays is the slide to both middle blockers. Dayton hasn’t run a lot of slides the past couple years, so I asked setter Brooke Westbeld what they are working on to get this attack going on a more consistent basis.

“We certainly have some athletic middle blockers who are great off of one foot for any slide attack behind,” Brooke said. “However, the first touch is super important to initiate the rhythm that we are going to be in for that type of attack. Although I can adjust the set for each attacker, there is only so much range of a first touch to work with before the rhythm of our system is broken.”

By now, it should come as no surprise to most fans that the first touch and pass play a critical part of what the setters can do offensively. Getting the ball to the correct placement along the net for any particular hitter is one thing, being able to deliver the ball at the right height and in the correct amount of time with each attackers’ leap is another consideration.

“As a setter taking the second ball, it is absolutely my job to better the first contact regardless (of how good or bad the pass is) and put, in this case, my middle in a great situation for them to get a solid swing,” she continued. “Along with that, we are taught to eye check and see the middle blocker on the other side (of the net) and what they are doing. For example, if they are one step towards our outside pin (cheating over to stop a left side attack, say from Jamie Peterson), it opens up the opportunity to set behind in hopes for a one-on-one (block) or big hole in the double block.”

And, remember, the setter is delivering the ball blindly to the attacker positioned behind her when running a slide. In the last couple matches, Brooke has also been deploying a setter dump attack behind her, on the second touch with success. Against SLU, she went 5-0-8 for a hitting percentage of .625, showing great judgment on the second touch attack. Several of these were dumped behind her for a point. Earlier in the year, she mostly placed these attacks at spots across the net, in front of her.

“Both Coach Horsmon and (Coach) Timothy Balice have been working with setters to expand our range with the setter dump,” she said. “For me specifically, I have been working behind as well as to deep corners, learning what situations are best to use each. My focus has been to improve each day with hopes of the skill translating to the game, and with time I should have some more tricks up my sleeve for the fans to see.”

Horsmon also commented on the quick set to the middles. This is a front set for the setters and has been very successful for UD in the past. Middles like Lindsay Fletemier perfected this attack and with her range, she could just hit over the block. Other shorter middles like Amber Erahon and Kendyll Brown beat the block with a low quick set. Several fans have noted that the timing of sets between the middles and setters has been a work-in-progress this season.

“I think it’s just a matter of consistency. It’s there—especially the past couple matches,” Horsmon said. “If you go back and look, we have at least one MB that hit for a high percentage with a good amount of kills. It’s also a matter of consistency with the setters, and making sure they are on the same page with each of the individual attackers and what they need to be successful. If it were as simple as just throwing it (the ball) up there and crushing it, it would be a very easy fix. We are working on it and definitely making strides in the right direction.”

Offense isn’t the only thing the team is working on this month. Brooke is playing three rotations, all in the front row, as a setter this year. That means she is also the right side blocker for all three of her rotations.

“Defensively, blocking is a skill we work on every day in practice whether it’s footwork, eye sequencing, or individual and group assignments on boxes,” said Brooke. “As a right side blocker, I am in charge of helping my middle out if the opposing middle is in my zone, as well as being able to get outside to the pin.

“The biggest factor that middles and right sides have been working on is trust in knowing that each person will do their job and get to where they need to be. My job is to set the rhythm and location of the block, while their (MB’s) job is to close to me,” she said. “I would say with being a tall and physical front row, what has helped us improve the most is the focus of pressing low with hands back to zone three, eliminating the amount of surface area off of our arms, for attackers to tool and abuse our block.”

“…pressing low” means the blocker is pressing their hands and arms over the net to stop any attack and knock it straight down on the other side. This is called a “roof” block because the blockers have put a roof on the net and the ball can’t get through.

“…with hands back to zone three” means the blockers’ hands are turned inward during the block so if the block is successful, the ball travels toward the floor within the court, versus landing out-of-bounds. Zone 3 on a volleyball court in the front middle position. So when a block is set out by either pin, the blockers hands are turned towards the middle of the court.

Horsmon’s mind was also on improving a defensive skill around blocks, but he’s looking to improve the Flyer’s defense when the block produces a block-touch and the ball is still live.

“Defensively we want to work on being able to adjust better to balls that are attacked off the block (block-touches) or, redirected in someway or another,” he said. “We think these two things (an aggressive, low-error offense and picking up block-touches to keep rallies going) can really help us going forward.”

The two matches at the Frericks Center this weekend will be a good chance to see how the work and skills in practice are translating to matches.

Rhode Island - Friday, October 4 @ 7 pm

Rhode Island battled with visiting Fordham last weekend and won in 5 sets. Sophomore Libero Ella Ratzloff shattered RI’s single-match record for digs, with 42 in the match. The previous record was 34. Ratzloff will have a bigger challenge against the Flyer’s offense as it continues to spread the ball around to take the pressure off Jamie. In the last few matches, as Horsmon noted, Dayton has been getting its middle blockers more active in the offense with some success. Expect to see more of that early in both matches this weekend.

Rhode Island is only hitting .182 as a team. Our block up front and our back row defense should be able to shut the Rams down. Offensively, UD has a huge advantage in height. Only two players are taller than 6’ for Rhode Island. A freshman and sophomore MB are 6’2”. Both will be in their rotation. Williams is the only ranked players on their roster. She was a Top 250 recruit. Dayton should pick up it’s second conference sweep.

Fordham – Sunday, October 6 @ Noon

I expect SLU to beat Fordham on Friday so the Rams will probably be winless in conference play at 0-2 when they arrive in Dayton. Against Rhode Island last weekend, Fordham had their own super-Libero performance, as senior Morgan Williams recorded 40 digs in that match. Earlier this year, Williams had a 42-dig match. Just like Ratzloff, Williams will have a bigger challenge against the Flyer’s offense.

The other player Dayton will need to contend with against Fordham is redshirt-junior right side OH Olivia Fairchild. In 2016, Fairchild was the A10 ROY and named to the A10 Second Team and All-Rookie team. In 2017, she repeated as an A10 Second Team player. In 2018, she sat out as an injury redshirt. If healthy, Fairchild is a great player that swings hard and quick from the right side, which means she will hit against our left OH block and cross court away from our best defender, Maura Collins. She has played all 53 sets so far this season, and is third on the team in points per set. Fordham has no ranked players, but Fairchild and Williams will challenge UD. However, the goal should be the same…a sweep.

For October, these should be two of our easier matches. The challenge is what we accomplish in these two matches that can help us in November. Are we playing a more diversified offense that starts by getting good passes off the first touch? Are we playing low-error matches? Is the block getting closed and set with hands over the net and turned in? Are the back row players getting to balls off block-touches? Prepare. Play. Learn. All goals are still in play.
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  #1  
By Chris R on 10-02-2019, 08:56 PM
Great stuff!
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