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There's No Place Like Home - Dayton invitational Preview
There's No Place Like Home - Dayton invitational Preview
Published by BeckysTXA
There's No Place Like Home - Dayton invitational Preview

Northern Illinois - Friday, September 6 @ 12:30 pm

When Dorothy ran into challenges in the Land of Oz, she clicked her ruby red slippers three times and returned to the friendly confines of the Kansas prairie homestead to a warm reception by those dear to her. The Flyers volleyball team will be counting on similar support from the All-Mighty Powerful Oz…I mean…Red Scare...standing in-front of the curtain at the Frericks Center this weekend, as well as overflow into the upper decks, especially for Friday night’s 7 pm contest against RV Missouri and in search of a record-breaking crowd Saturday night at 7 pm against #14 Michigan. But first the team needs to take care of business against the Northern Illinois Huskies.

The Flyers will be playing their fifth match in seven days, but so will NIU. UD took care of business at Miami (OH) on Tuesday sweeping the Redhawks 3-0. After the extreme highs of leading #7 Florida after two sets, and probably some very low lows starting the season 0-3, Head Coach Tim Horsmon gave his assessment of the team’s mental fortitude and preparation to battle this weekend.

“It was nice to see them bounce back (Tuesday) night with a win over a very solid Miami team,” he said. “Their ability to put that performance together after a very difficult weekend is something great to build on. We’re excited to get back home and play three more tough matches this weekend. We knew this would be a difficult schedule when we put it together but, we’re looking forward to seeing how they battle and grow.”

One thing fans will notice is that Dayton is using two setters in their offense again this season (Brooke Westbeld and Bridget Doherty). But, it should be pointed out we are running a 5-2 this year versus a 6-2. The change is allowing Horsmon to utilize more of his talent in the positions and skill sets they excel at.

“This year’s system allows us to better utilize our subs and personnel,” he said. “The contribution of Brooke and Bridget setting worked well for us last year and although this year’s system is a little different, we like what both of them bring to the table both in regards to volleyball and leadership in the setting position.”

From a fan’s perspective, the change does impact Westbeld’s ability to produce triple doubles. Almost all triple doubles are the combination of Assists-Digs-Kills. Last year, Westbeld played three rotations as a setter and three rotations as a hitter. Thus she could rack up both assists and kills at a level to produce a triple double. In the new offense, she goes three rotations as a setter only. Setters do get kills, but not usually at a rate to produce a triple double. The advantage to the team is for three rotations UD has a full stable of players with serve receive and passing skills in the back row. You also probably have a back row attacker in that mix of three. Last year, for all six rotations, the setter came out of the back row to set. You “hide” your setter on serve receive because you don’t want them taking the first touch, so they can run to the front row to get ready to take the pass and make the second touch. So last year we only had two serve receive players on the court at all times. They would have to “pass half the court”. We still have that when Bridget is our setter. But when Brooke is in the match, we have three players in the back row that are only performing back row skill, which can include attacking as well as defensive obligations.

Like the Miami (OH) match, the Flyers should sweep the Huskies, but you can never count this program out because once again, we are going up against a team with a good coach. Ray Gooden is in his 18th season at NIU with seven 20-win seasons. Gooden played volleyball at tOSU where he earned two varsity letters and was named the All-Big Ten Conference club performer three times. He is well respected in the collegiate volleyball community. The greatest testament to this reputation is Gooden very seldom has any ranked recruits in his program, yet he finds ways to get winning performances out of his squad. There are no ranked recruits on this year’s Huskie squad. Dayton should dominate this match with a 3-0 sweep, building confidence to take on Missouri later Friday night.

RV Missouri - Friday, September 6 @ 7:30 pm

Missouri has received votes just out-side of the Top 25 in both polls this season. Due to Hurricane Dorian, they only played Miami (FL) last weekend, and come into Dayton “undefeated” at 1-0. They will have to battle #14 Missouri at 10 am on Friday morning, which will be a great match to gage how good the Tigers are going to be this season. The biggest question is leadership. Missouri had a late-summer coaching turnover of their husband and wife duo, as announced on the athletic department’s website on July 18, 2019.

“Mizzou Volleyball legends Wayne Kreklow and Susan Kreklow have announced their retirement from coaching. (They) have been synonymous with Mizzou Volleyball for nearly two decades, and in that time established a championship culture that helped them build a perennial Top 25 program,” Athletic Driector Jim Sterk said.

Assistant Coach Joshua Taylor was promoted to interim head coach for the 2019 season. Taylor is in his third season with the program and is the son-in-law of the Kreklows. His wife Molly Kreklow-Taylor was promoted from volunteer coach to assistant coach. Molly is a former US National Team member and 2013 AVCA First Team All-American. The Missouri alum played from 2010-13. She is one of the top players in Missouri volleyball history playing setter. Her senior year she led the team to a perfect 34-0 record (Non-NCAA matches) and the program’s first SEC Championship. I remember that 2013 team and Molly Kreklow.

While watching the Sweet 16 last fall, I was amazed how many players I also knew. I’ve been out-of-the loop on the prep volleyball club scene for more than a decade. I still hear about the highly talented players coming out of high school year-in and year-out, but I was surprised at how many each team had. This is the basis for tracking match-by-match the level of elite-talent on UD’s opponents this season. The team’s goal is to reach the Sweet 16, so I was curious to what degree players that have been long-time talent (ie junior high- high school-college) played in making the Sweet 16, and if UD, in fact, had a real chance of making the second weekend with our current roster. Being the first time around the block looking at this factor, I learned last weekend you have to somehow account for the foreign players who are never ranked coming out of high school, but more and more top teams have overseas players. So, going forward, if a foreign player is contributing to their team by playing 50% or more of the team’s sets, I’m counting them in the total elite-player count. I’m sure some would have been Top 100s, some Top 125s and others Top 250s. I’m not making that call, just adding a fourth subtotal of foreign players to the total count.

On the court, MO and UD will showcase an equal amount of elite-talent. Both total 10. UD has #23, #66, #73, one 125, and six Top 250s. MO has #36, #48, #51, five Top 250s and two foreign. TXAM also had a similar level of talent, #17, #34, #84, #94, 97, one Top 125, two Top 250s and one foreign player for a total of nine. The Flyers lost the TXAM match in 5-sets and it’s one I’m sure they would like to have back. You don’t get a re-do, but this MO match will be a good indicator if the team has moved forward from the disappointments of last weekend and learned to close out talented teams. We almost did that a day after the TXAM match when we gave #7 Florida everything they could handle. (Added Comment: See edit note at the end of article regarding talent comparisons.)

“Going into the match with Texas A&M, we had an idea that they would be a very tough serving team,” Horsmon said. “After the (TXAM match) we addressed our passing and made it a focus going forward in to the (Florida) match. We did a great job of bouncing back and making the adjustments (the next day). In regards to our youth, I think while we are young, quite a few of the (back row players) played big roles for us last year. They have been in the trenches so-to-speak, and we have high expectations for them going forward.”

After UD jumped out to a two set lead against #7 Florida, the Gator’s head coach, Mary Wise, made two lineup adjustments to slow the Flyers down. Wise changed her Libero, going with a player she said during the post-match interview, that was quicker to dig out Dayton’s successful hitting attack that was putting down kills at a rate over 300%. Wise also made an offensive change, inserting a sophomore right side OH (Warner) that was the #25 recruit, but didn’t play a lot last season, only accumulating 33 kills in 2018. The OH came in and burned UD with 9 kills in three sets to lead Florida’s comeback. UD would not have had much video on Warner ahead of the match. Horsmon addressed the impact on the match’s outcome these two changes made.

“Florida is a great program and is very well coached. In tough five-set matches, you have to expect both sides to make adjustments and those were certainly two adjustments that made a difference for them. While our staff does a great job scouting opponents before the match, it is important for our athletes to be able to follow that game plan and make adjustments in the match as the opponent does the same. Their ability to learn and do so going forward will only make us better.”

The obvious question is, “What did we do so well to go up 2-0 against #7 Florida?”

“We played very aggressive the first two sets. We were in control of the serve and pass game and that helped us run a very effective offense,” Horsmon explained. “We were able to take some big punches from Florida and bounce back quickly (in the first two sets).”

On Tuesday, the Flyers came out very aggressive against Miami (OH) in the first set, dominating 25-14. Expect the Flyers to get off to fast starts in all the matches at Frericks this weekend. If they can do that it will show they are building and moving forward. This Flyer team is highly talented. They have to learn to play at a level no other Flyer team has ever played and to do it on a consistent basis.

Towards the end of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has to jump out of the balloon so she doesn’t leave her trusted dog Toto behind, but in doing so she appears to forfeit her return to Kansas because the balloon floats away. Glenda the Good Witch encourages Dorothy to believe in herself and to remember she has always had the power to reach her goal of returning to Kansas. All she has to do is close her eyes to focus. Click the Ruby Red slippers three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

The Flyers will beat NIU and I predict it will be a sweep. The MO match will be a challenge, but one the team can prevail in especially if they use the lessons and experiences of last weekend as motivation. The journey remains the same. Prepare. Play. Learn.

This Flyer team needs to take Dorothy’s advice from Glenda the Good Witch. Stick together. Believe in yourself and your talents. Believe in your teammates’ talents. Focus while executing the game plan, and know if you have to change plans mid-match to rescue Toto, you can still execute the new plan and secure the win. But just in case, we have some ruby-red magic in our back pocket. In addition to the sea of Flyer fans decked out in red, I’d like to report that Associate Head Coach Alyssa D’Errico has this awesome pair of bright red heels she sometimes wears to matches. Three clicks and repeat after me, “There’s no place like home….”

MO Update after upset over MI: The ranked players project is a work in progress this year. And it’s a manual look up that covers around 80 web pages to compile the information. MO has a player listed on their roster page as Kylie DeBerg. I could not find her on the ranked recruit look up search on Rich Kern. She just led her teams dismantling of MI. So I went back and double checked. Still nothing. Then I noticed her last name on the stat page is Kuyava-DeBerg. I sorted by last name “D” and then I found her under “K”. She is a #15 recruit which explains her performance. It also means MO and UD are no longer on an equal playing field when you compare elite talent. MO has more.

The #14 Michigan preview will be posted after Friday’s matches.
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