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Plenty of Talent & Height in the Middle. How Is It Going to Be Used? - Part 2 of 4
Plenty of Talent & Height in the Middle. How Is It Going to Be Used? - Part 2 of 4
Published by BeckysTXA
Plenty of Talent & Height in the Middle. How Is It Going to Be Used? - Part 2 of 4

The second part of the Flyer Volleyball season preview focuses on the Middle Blockers. The Flyers are very deep in the middle this year. A quick look at past rosters and you will find most years Dayton carried three or four MBs. This year we have five. Some years we didn’t have an MB taller than 6’2”. This year we only have one MB under 6’2”. Our roster features 6’6’, 6’5’, 6’4”, 6’2” and 6’1”.

“I love tall athletic players,” said Flyer Head Coach Tim Horsmon. “Years ago it was Faye (Barhorst), Lindsey (Fletemier) and Bethany (Akerhielm). It now continues with Amelia (Moore), Laney (Yates) and (freshman) Katie Gale.

“I like the physicality they bring and of course I think they are fun to play behind as defenders with the amount of space they take away as blockers,” he explained. “I do think players are getting longer and more athletic. This is becoming more of the norm rather than an outlier. But, just because you’re tall doesn’t mean you won’t have your challenges. This group will still have to work hard to become good players. The game keeps evolving and becoming faster and more physical. I believe you will continue to see taller more athletic players dominate.”

With the depth at the position, Horsmon is looking at spreading that height and talent around in hopes of creating the best combination of talent on the court at all times.

“We have a great group of middles and attackers in general” he continued. “I think ‘Meals’ (Amelia) could slide over some on the right side if our middles are playing well and she gives us some depth at the left pin as well.

“Ameilia has become really versatile for us and we could see her play on the right side this year and she’s also spent some time on the left when we’ve needed her. She could be an All-Conference player in all three front row positions,” Horsmon revealed. “She specifically worked on her range last year and seeing the block and how she could use her “toolbox” when an opposing block was in front of her. She’s got a great arm and just made less errors last season. We’re excited to have Meals for three more years. (Over the summer) we challenged her to be versatile as an attacker and to be ready to play different positions. She is really smart and keeps learning and has continued to grow and we expect her to do the same this year.”

Amelia on the right pin could be a huge key to this season’s success. Players are getting taller and athletic all along the net. We have 6’4” Jamie Peterson playing left outside hitter. Ten years ago you never saw that. JPete would have been in the middles. Like Horsmon said, it’s becoming the norm especially on elite teams. You have to have a strong blocker on your right pin to stop tall hitters. Amelia can put up a huge block. At 6’5” she can anchor Flyer Volleyball’s own version of Coach Grant’s famous “Havoc Defense”. Additionally, she has an opportunity to attack offensively. The right side position as a hitter is also changing. Ten years ago it was the 3rd hitting option. It’s fast becoming the go-to hitter. At the recent Olympics, Team USA’s right side lead the team in kills/points in almost every match. At the collegiate level the left OHs are still taking the most of swings, but going right to score is increasing. VCU has done it for years. Having Amelia on the right pin could be a lethal defensive and offensive option.

This is only possible because the roster is deep with talent in the middle starting with Redshirt Freshman 6’6” Laney Yates. Yates had a great freshman season receiving All-Conference honors while leading the Flyers in blocks per set (1.24) and hitting percentage (.367).

“Laney is so long and I think will only get better as a blocker and attacker,” Horsmon said. “She grew so much from the beginning to end of the season last year and we could see her confidence grow daily. When she is explosive and really focuses on pressing over the net, there isn’t a lot of room to attack the ball around her. I look for Laney to get into the mid-one blocks per set (average) this season.”

To accomplish that, the coaching staff sent Laney off with objectives to accomplish over the summer. “We really wanted to see Laney get stronger,” Horsmon explained. “Plus, we have challenged her since she arrived to work on attacking behind the setter. Laney is very comfortable in front of the setter and I think will become one of the most terminal and efficient attackers in the country when she improves on that phrase (attacking behind the setter) of the game.”

The other two returning players in the middle are Senior Molly Asmus and Redshirt Freshman Lindsey Winner. Both were used at the end of sets last year as Blocking Specialists. Not a lot of teams use blocking specialists because you have to pull your setter to bring in the extra blocker. But the Flyers did it well and most time it resulted in a block because Winner and Asmus embraced the role.

“There were moments we wanted to be the most physical team that we could to win a point or two at the end of the set and both of these players are high level blockers,” Horsmon said. “ We trusted either Anna (Wuensch) or Maura (Collins) to set a hittable ball for us if we controlled the ball well enough and knew we had outside hitters who could score.

"Blocking is always a priority for us,” he continued. “I think our overall team defense continues to get stronger and we of course want to start with great serving and to own the space around the net.”

Horsmon expects both Molly and Lindsey to compete for playing time in the middle and to continue to be available as Blocking Specialists.

“Both are really good blockers who have great vision and move laterally really well,” continued Horsmon. “I think both players also improved a great deal attacking (last year) and will be in the mix for time. I think both will impact our team in one way or another this Fall.”

The final MB on the roster is incoming freshman Katie Gale. I’ve seen her listed at both 6’4’ and 6’5”…another tall and athletic player that Horsmon loves bringing into the program.

“Katie has a lot of natural size and ability and we just want to see her stay healthy and get better each day. If those things happen she could have a really good career here,” declared Horsmon. “Katie could be a shutdown blocker and she attacks at a very high point with good heat.”

With the depth and talent available, there will be plenty of competition for playing time in the middle and that always makes a team better. This team has to get better as Chris R says, “To flip those Ls to Ws against Top 10 teams.”

At the end of last year, MB looked like a settled position with both starters receiving post-season awards and returning. But a lot of Top 10 teams like Wisconsin, Louisville and Washington are returning basically their entire team because of COVID. Everyone should be better. So the Flyers have to get better too, including all three positions along the net. Horsmon & Co are looking at every option to make that happen including how to best use the talent and height we have from our five Middle Blockers.
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By Chris R on 08-12-2021, 09:16 PM
We have lots of trees and lots of options. Good thing to have when you're going up against Top-10 teams because they have a lot of both too!
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