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Fast Start Will Be Critical For Volleyball
Fast Start Will Be Critical For Volleyball
Published by BeckysTXA
Fast Start Will Be Critical For Volleyball

We’ve seen some slow starts the past couple seasons for the Flyer’s Volleyball program. It’s been for several reasons. We’ve struggled to find the starting rotation early, causing some sloppy play and results. Setter development has been a big part of that struggle. Player injuries, surgeries and illness have also thrown a wrench in plans. It cumulated last season with a runner up A10 Tournament performance and no bid to the dance. This team, this year will be looking to turn that around.

Flyer Volleyball is a proud and historically successful program. Coming out of the gate playing at a high level this season will be a key to returning to the top of the A10 and returning to the NCAA Tournament. It won’t be easy because in true-Flyer fashion, the coaching staff stacked the first 12 days of the season with top-level competition. This is a program that likes to schedule tough and challenges the team to raise their game. One advantage is the first 10 matches over three weeks will be at home in the friendly confines of Frericks on Hausfeld Court. The biggest advantage is the team won’t eat-up days and time traveling. The fun for the fans is you will see three ranked teams in 12 days, two of them this weekend.

The Flyers open the season against #24 ranked Western Kentucky on Friday night at 7 pm. They are expected to win the USA conference again this year. Red Scare should be out in force with no home soccer games splitting the student section. It will be a great atmosphere with two programs that expect to win this match.

On Saturday at 11 am we go up against Drake. This is a program on the rise. They were voted by the coaches to finish 2nd in the Missouri Valley conference…by only 2 points behind Northern Iowa who we will see in mid-September. Drake will come after us. With two ranked teams in the field this weekend, Drake will be looking to bank a win against the Flyers and surprise #24 WKY or #12 ranked Marquette. There will be no margin of error for the Flyers against Drake. There are no easy matches this weekend.

Finally at 6 pm on Saturday we face off against #12 Marquette who is the preseason favorite to win the Big East. We’ve seen Marquette in recent years in the NCAA Tournament. They were clearly the better team. Have we closed the gap?

We are older and more experienced than the past two seasons. That will help. It starts with our two returning First Team A10 players in Redshirt Senior Middle Blocker Amelia Moore and Left Outside Hitter, Redshirt Junior Lexie Almodovar. Both will be called on to score when we need a kill. Lexie will play 6-rotations, so she can swing out of the back row as well as from the left pin. In addition to her hitting for 3 rotations in the front row, Amelia will also be called on to close the block with our right side OH to stop the other teams’ best hitters. Both Lexie and Amelia served in the rotation last year. This will be Amelia’s 6th year in the program. It’s Lexie’s 4th.

The best Flyer teams of the past have had a lot of good hitters. They had a very good setter that could spread the ball around to multiple hitters and kept the opponent’s block guessing where the ball was going. We will need more than Amelia and Lexie playing well to return to the top of the A10. Last year a lot of freshmen were being used week-to-week just to fill out a rotation. That should not be the case this year. We have options and more experience this season. On the Outside that includes Redshirt Louisville transfer Brooke Smith in her 2nd year as a Flyer, Redshirt Sophomore Taylor Russell, 3rd year in the program, Sophomore Mia Otten, 2nd year, and Sophomore Liana Sarkissian, 2nd year. All those hitters were in the starting rotation for part of last year. And we have a Redshirt Freshman in her 2nd season with Kaitlyn McNeel. All of those hitters are 6’2” to 6’4”. This will be a very tall group of hitters. But all need to show a growth in execution as hitters and blockers over last year and we will need to see that starting this weekend to compete.

One area we should see a step up in performance is our back row defense. We return two sophomores that were “thrown to the wolves” right out of the gates last year as freshmen. Both Emily Young and Karissa Kaminski showed a lot of grit and had some great performances. But in true freshmen fashion, there were also some struggles. As freshmen there is no doubt they both played well and fought through the challenges. That will serve us very well this year. Both of these players are going to have great careers as Flyers. But in the biggest off-season move, Coach Horsmon landed an outstanding Libero/DS in Grad Transfer Anna MacDonald from Wisconsin. Anna was a very highly recruited Libero out of high school. She got lost in the “rich get richer” environment of Big 10 volleyball. This is her moment to define her collegiate career and I expect to see her in the colored jersey and all over the court keeping the ball off the floor. We’ve had some very good Liberos at Dayton. Many A10 LOY winners in our history. But I’m not sure we’ve had the quickness Anna brings to the court. She will be fun to watch. The talents of Karrissa, Emily, Lexie and Anna in the back row should be a thing of beauty to see and make our setter and hitters jobs so much easier.

Entering her 4th year in the program will be Redshirt Junior Alayna Yates who should be the second rotation Middle Blocker. This team needs a big year from Alayna. The great Flyer teams of the past have all had two very strong MBs - a pair of First Team A10 MBs. Alayna has shown flashes of greatness. This year she needs to put it all together on a consistent bases. She has the talent to do that. Will she have the drive to make this a breakout year?

Finally we come down to the setter position. Midway through last year, Junior Alyssa Miller won the starting setter job. She will be in her 3rd year in the program. She will need to continue improving her play. A more talented and experienced back row will help her by delivering a higher percentage of great passes. The increased depth and experience from our hitters should help her. But she will need to read defenses and send well-placed balls to open hitters. That’s on the setter. Additionally, with Freshman Emory Hinckley enrolling early last January, the 6’2” setter is a nice compliment to the 5’10” Miller. Horsmon may decide to use a 2-setter system. We’ve struggled to define the starting setter for the last couple seasons. I’m all for settling this competition early but we will see how it plays out. The difference between this season and the last few is even if setter becomes a week-to-week call, we are better, deeper and more experienced in all the other positions on the court.

Finally, we have some great role-players that help win matches as serving specialists and blocking specialists. Plus we have three additional first-semester freshmen. I’ll be taking a look at all of them before the conference season starts.

First serve is at 7 pm Friday against a ranked opponent. We need to come out of the gates clicking on all cylinders. There are no easy matches this weekend.
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