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Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Pushing Forward - LaSalle & Duquesne Previews
Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Pushing Forward - LaSalle & Duquesne Previews
Published by BeckysTXA
Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Pushing Forward - LaSalle & Duquesne Previews

Dayton Volleyball went 1-1 last week. On Friday, they picked up a 3-1 win over St. Louis on their home court. After a slow first set, the Flyers dominated the Billikens to earn the victory. Earlier in the week they traveled south to Cincinnati to take on a Top 30 team with a powerful outside hitter that will be wearing Team USA’s uniform this summer at the Tokyo Olympics. Last year it took five sets to determine the Cincinnati match, but this year UD got off to a slow start and although they fought back to win the third set, the match was never in doubt as the Bearcats won the critical pass and serve game within the game.

“The biggest challenge for this year’s match was a mixture of belief and being ready to play right out of the gate,” said UD setter Bridget Doherty about Cincinnati. “We know they are a very talented team, but we had all the tools to compete with them and did not execute the way we know we can. We struggled to run our fast offense because they served us really well. They served at a high level and they also had a scrappy defensive line to back it up.

“We allowed them to go on too many runs without an immediate response on our side of the net,” she continued. “Serve and pass is always a focus of ours and we will continue to improve over the next couple weeks so that we can come out firing at all cylinders offensively and defensively.”

(For the record, the loss at Cincy cost me a chance to win figgie123’s Vespa. I really could have used a Vespa. It was a tough loss for me.)

Up next for the Flyers will be two road matches as they travel to take on LaSalle (Friday @ 7 pm) and Duquesne (Saturday @ 7:30 pm). Both teams are in the hunt for slots in the A10 Tournament with two weekends of play left. The path for the Explorers and Dukes is tough with UD and SLU this weekend, two of the top three teams. (Dayton, SLU and VCU have punched their tickets to the championship.) LaSalle enters the weekend sitting in 4th place and Duquesne is in 7th looking to slip into the six-team field.

“LaSalle is a high energy, gritty team that competes hard,” said head coach Tim Horsmon. “They have three seniors (setter Katie Wood, outside hitter Devin Corah and middle blocker Catherine Edgington) that helped lead them into the A10 tournament last year (for the first time ever), and I’m sure that experience and leadership has been valuable to their program this season. Duquesne also has a good mix of young, athletic talent with a few key seniors. They are in the hunt for a spot in the A10 tournament, so we expect their best shot this weekend.”

LaSalle’s Wood is looking to repeat as the A10 Setter of the Year and a First Team All-A10 player. Corah was also a First Team All-A10 selection in 2018. Duquesne will be led by returning Second Team setter Dani Suiter and All-Rookie Team outside hitter Summer Slade. Duquesne also has UD volleyball alum Jill Loiars (’16) in her second season on the bench serving as the Dukes Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator. While at Dayton, Jill was named the R.U.D.Y.S. award winner as the most improved female athlete for 2015-16 and served on UD’s leadership council as both a junior and senior. In her four years at UD, she played for three different head coaches with her last two years under Horsmon.

“Jill was strong-minded and very competitive. I think we would both agree we had to work at our relationship because we challenged each other,” said Horsmon. “Jill was a great competitor and teammate and really had a pulse on the team and worked hard at looking after her teammates. She was often called ‘Mama Jill’ in an endearing way and always showed maturity beyond her years. Jill had a great feel of the game and I’m sure that has really helped her as a coach. She is bright and I think will do well on the recruiting trail because of her eye for talent and fun personality. I get to see Jill at our camps (in the summer) and love spending time with her and think she does a really good job in working with young talented kids.”

The Flyers should beat both LaSalle and Duquesne this weekend, but after the Cincinnati match, it’s clear there is work to be done by the team to prepare for success in the A10 Tournament to secure the auto-bid to the NCAAs. Spreading the offense more evenly to all hitters during a match, especially the middle hitters, is something both setters are focused on.

“I’ve been working on placing my sets wide enough on the net and being deceptive as a front row setter to open up the court for slide hitters,” said sophomore setter Josie Vondran. “Different hitters need different placements and some will run a slide faster than others.”

Bridget is also looking to connect with the middles. “Before the end of the season, we are focusing on getting the ball to our middles more often,” she said. “They work hard in transition to be up and we as setters have to get them the ball in one-on-one situations at a fast clip. Our middles are great at communicating how the opponents’ middles are reacting to them, so I have to be aware of that and eye-check to put my hitters in the best situations.”

The most effective offenses “click” by using all of the hitters, and there is more work to do with the hitters out on the pins as well.

“We take pride in running a fast-tempo offense and that is something that takes a lot of feedback and connection with my pins,” said Bridget. “I hope to get our offense in full stride by the end of the season in setting our system and beating opponents with speed and smart decisions. As long as I set a hittable ball, I know my attackers will better my sets and figure out how to put the ball away.”

Setters also play a role in keeping the opponents guessing who will be executing the attack. The setter-dump, which comes on the second touch versus a third-touch attack by a hitter, is one of the weapons used to keep the opponents off-balance. Bridget only plays the three back row rotations, which means she is limited in her attacks because a player can not go above the net if she starts the rotation in the back row and is attacking in front of the 10’ line. However, Bridget has a solid hitting percentage of .289 in 83 attempts.

Josie plays the three front row setter rotations and can swing away when the defense gives her an opening. She’s played less than half the sets as Bridget, but has taken 89 swings and has an outstanding hitting percentage of .382. She is left-handed, just like former UD All-American setter Sam Selsky, which allows her to not only “dump” attack, but swing hard and fast when the opportunity is there.

“Being a left-handed setter is a huge advantage,” Josie said. “It makes my setter dumps easier, rangy and aggressive. When attempting a setter attack, I feel where the (opponents’) middle blockers or the outside blockers are, and if they’re committing with any of my hitters (I can attack). I also listen to my back row – Maura and House. They tell me where the other team’s back row is covering on good passes.”

Two weekends left in the regular season and the Flyers are working hard and getting better in areas of the game that will help them deliver key goals for this season. There is a lot of historical success within the Flyer Volleyball program. Former players have worked hard and improved their games and delivered championships. This year’s team understands they must collectively get better to finish strong, but it will take individual players focused on improving segments of their game for the team to move forward and to consistently play at the level they know they are capable of.

Prepare. Play. Learn. All goals are still in play.
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