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Hearing From the Coaches - NCAA Opening Weekend
Hearing From the Coaches - NCAA Opening Weekend
Published by BeckysTXA
Hearing From the Coaches - NCAA Opening Weekend

There are some very good teams headed to West Lafayette this weekend to compete in the first two rounds of the NCAA Volleyball Championship – Marquette, Dayton, Wright State and host Purdue. You don’t make the field of 64 without having a strong coaching staff and that starts at the top with your head coach. In this pod, there are three seasoned head coaches with years of tournament experience and one young head coach over at Wright State who might have done the best job of all the last two years in advancing her program.

The senior coach is Purdue’s Dave Shondell who has led the Boilermakers for 17 years and made the NCAAs 14 of those years including two Elite Eight appearances and seven Sweet 16s. Shondell is a product of the famed Ball State coaching tree and one of the best known families in American volleyball. He has brothers that have storied coaching careers and his younger brother John currently serves as Purdue’s associate head coach.

Dayton’s own Tim Horsmon is next. This is his 11th year at UD and he has taken the Flyers to the dance nine of those years, including last year. With a young team this season, that experience from 2018 could prove critical in pulling any upsets this weekend. Horsmon also spent four years at Robert Morris and took those squads to the NCAAs all four seasons. This is his “lucky” 13th NCAA appearance.

Marquette’s head coach Ryan Theis has been in Milwaukee for six years and has made the dance every year. Prior to that he was the head coach at Ohio University for six years and made the NCAA tournament four of those years. This is his 10th time dancing.

And across town Wright State hit the jackpot when they hired Allie Matters last year. Matters played collegiately as a Libero at Seton Hall and prior to accepting the head job at Wright State, she served as her alma mater’s top assistant coach the previous seven years. Wright State’s website only goes back to 2006, but for at least 12 seasons, before hiring Matters, they had losing seasons. Last year Matters’ team finished 15-14. This season they are 24-5 and dancing with an at-large bid. The most impressive thing about the 24-5 record is the top four Horizon conference teams all have RPIs between 41-52. It wasn’t a cake-walk to that record. This will be Matters first NCAA appearance.

Udpride.com caught up with three of the coaches earlier this week. Some had not spent a lot of time watching video of Dayton yet, but all had some general knowledge of the teams and key players on each team in their pod, starting with Marquette’s Theis who played Dayton five times in six years while at Ohio University. The Flyers’ coaching staff was different in those years, but UD went 3-2 against Theis’ Ohio teams.

“Did we really play five fall matches?” Theis pondered. “My memory isn’t great. I’m getting older. (Aren’t we all!) I remember (Dayton) always played hard. I do remember playing them at Iowa State in 2015 (Dayton vs. Marquette). I think that was Alaina Turner’s senior year (A10 POY). Alaina was great. I really liked her as a person and as a player.”

This year’s Dayton-Marquette match will feature two of the best outside hitters in the country in Allie Barber for the Golden Eagles and Jamie Peterson for the Flyers. Theis said they are two different types of hitters.

“Allie and Jamie are both very productive but are very different. The offenses are different. Even the spin they put on the ball is different. It should be a great match up.”

Those two players and teams also caught the attention of Purdue’s Shondell. “I think that’s going to be a real Donny brook (a brawl) between Dayton and Marquette,” he said. “Two really good teams. Dayton’s kind of flown under the radar. But, I know who they have. I’m familiar with the talent they have. They have one of thee very best players in the country on that team. As does Marquette. They both have a real go-to player. But, they’ve also got some other kids that can cause damage.”

Horsmon also noted Barber, who is a senior OH and won the Big East POY this season, will be a challenge.

“Marquette is a very well coached team and has shown the ability to win big matches for a number of years,” he said. “Allie Barber is a special player and if you aren’t focused on her or have the ability to slow her down, she can really make it hard for you to slow Marquette down. They have the ability to go on long point runs and offensively can side out quickly. They really play well both offensively and defensively and have no glaring weaknesses. I think you will have to consistently side out and put a lot of pressure on their serve receive to beat them.”

Shondell and Horsmon faced off three times during Horsmon’s first era at Dayton. Dayton won two of the three matches. In 2005, on the road, the Flyers won 3-0. In 2006, at home, Dayton pushed it to five sets before losing 2-3 to the #14 ranked Boilermakers. But in 2007, Purdue was ranked #17 when UD pulled off a huge upset winning 3-0 in West Lafayette.

“Tim is a tremendous coach, a coach that I have a lot of respect for,” Shondell said. “He has tremendous intensity. I know his teams always got fired up to play Purdue, and I remember those matches very well…unfortunately.

“Dayton has had a great volleyball program for a long time and Tim certainly had a lot to do with building that heritage in the early days,” he continued. “He’s done really well in bringing them back to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis.”

Talent plays a big part in getting to the NCAAs and Shondell says Dayton is right there with the bigger conferences and will contend.

“They have great talent. Tim’s a really good recruiter, so they have had Big 10 talent and they compete like their head coach,” he said. “I’ve known Dayton has some tremendous players, and I knew that there’d be a chance, if we hosted, that they might come this way. I have watched them a little bit, mostly just keeping track of their scores, the results and seeing who was playing for them. There are some players on that team that I had some interest in during their recruiting days.

“We have not begun to look at Dayton or Marquette a whole lot as far as on film, but I do think that’s going to be a really, really good match. Either team could win. Overall, I think that (the Flyers) are contenders (this weekend).”

Shondell also noted Wright State presented some different looks than Purdue sees in the Big 10 week-to-week.

“I’ve watched Wright State. They are a tough, scrappy, savvy outfit,” he said. “They’re fun to watch. A little under-sized for the Big 10, but have a talented setter, middle blocker, right side and outside hitters. Their speed of the game is quicker. They won’t hit over or through you, but Wright State has two real-good slide hitters that have all the shots.”

The venue at Purdue holds 2,400. It’s sold out. Each team is allotted 200 tickets by the NCAA, however fans from other teams could have purchased tickets direct from Purdue’s website earlier in the week. The last time Purdue hosted was in 2011, so this is a big deal for the Boilermakers and their fans. After checking with the Purdue ticket office on Wednesday, unofficially Purdue will have around 1800 of their fans in attendance, of which 400-500 will be students according to Shondell. He said there was a line out the door and down the street when they started selling them at 11 am on Monday. It will not be a friendly atmosphere for any of the visiting teams. Purdue has a fan base that knows the game of volleyball. However, UD should get support from the home crowd during the Marquette match. Winning that match would be considered an upset, unless of course you’re a Dayton fan or Shondell who expects it to be a Donny brook.

Note: I did not hear back from WSU's head coach. She has a much smaller staff than the other programs and this is their first NCAA, so her availability is probably less than the others above. If I get her comments, I will add them to the article.

Coming Friday: Marquette vs Dayton game within the game comparisons - over in the volleyball thread.
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By Chris R on 12-05-2019, 06:12 PM
Great stuff. A chance to really avenge some of those early season losses.
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