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Check-Off Sunday - VCU Preview
Check-Off Sunday - VCU Preview
Published by BeckysTXA
Check-Off Sunday - VCU Preview

Many moons ago, we all knew it was going to come down to Dayton and VCU. In recent years both the regular season championship and the NCAA auto-bid have been determined between these two teams, usually in 5-set battles. The only twist this season is the regular season championship is a one-match opportunity. The Flyers and the Rams meet at 1 pm on Sunday in the Frericks Center with championship hardware on the line. It’s time to check off the first goal of every Flyer volleyball team, every year. It’s time to win the A10 regular season championship.

Both teams enter the match with an undefeated conference record at 13-0. They don’t play the same schedule, but it’s the closest “comparison” we have between the teams. At the set-level, the Flyers went 39-3…10 sweeps and three 4-set wins. The Rams went 39-4…11 sweeps and two 5-set wins. EVEN.

At the points-scored level, VCU was 1040-785. The Rams won sets by an average of 5.9 points per set. The Flyers were 1041-723, a difference of +7.6 points per set. Volleyball is a game you have to win by 2 points or more. UD’s points-margin is 1.7 per set better than VCU’s. ADVANTAGE UD.

Experience could play a difference in this match. Both teams use a 2-setter offense. VCU goes with mostly 10-players within that rotation. They use 1 grad student, 7 seniors, 1 junior and 1 sophomore. If they go deeper into their bench, it will be a sophomore DS or a junior serving specialist. VCU’s rotation has basically been set the entire season.

UD is young, but at this point in the season, it’s hard to say we aren’t experienced. Injuries have played a factor in our rotation from week-to-week, but based on recent matches, our 10-player rotation would be 2 seniors, 2 juniors, 5 sophomores and 1 freshman. Next-up would be a grad student MB/ROH and a junior setter. After that a sophomore DS and a freshman OH could see playing time. The experience factor is ADVANTAGE VCU.

Drilling down to the games within the game, it’s just as close between the two teams. UD and VCU are first and second in almost every conference team stat category.

Hitting Percentage – (1) VCU .325 / (2) UD .301

Opponent Hitting Percentage – (1) UD .097 / (2) VCU .135

Assists – (1) VCU 13.42 / (2) UD 13.12

Opponent Assists – (1) UD 8.90 / (2) VCU 9.49

Kills – (1) UD 14.48 / (2) VCU 14.33

Opponent Kills – (1) UD 9.43 / (2) VCU 10.37

Blocks – (1) VCU 3.05 / (2) UD 2.77

Opponent Blocks – (1) VCU 1.19 / (2) UD 1.60

Aces – (1) UD 1.90 / (4) VCU 1.47

Opponent Aces – (1) UD 0.95 / (3) VCU 1.12

Digs – (6) UD 15.07 / (10) VCU 13.16
(Strong blocking teams, don’t have as many dig opportunities.)

Opponent Digs – (1) VCU 11.77 / (2) UD 13.26

VCU leads the nation in blocks per set at 3.27. (Ironically, they haven’t blocked as well within the conference.) Second place sits at 3.04 – not even close – and only two teams average over 3.0. Dayton is a Top 50 blocking team at 2.44, but the Flyers have improved their blocking as the season as progressed. There was a time this season when we averaged less than 2.0 per set. We’ve closed the block gap, but it’s still ADVANTGE VCU.

VCU is led by two great middle blockers. Grad student transfer Jaelyn Jackson is ranked 10th nationally in blocks. She was not with VCU last year and will be a first-time challenge for the Flyers. The player UD is very familiar with is VCU senior MB Jasmin Sneed. Sneed, who is only 6’0”, is the best blocker in the nation and by adding Jackson this season, you can’t just arrange your offense to avoid Sneed. You have to find a way to beat both players, especially Sneed. UDPride went to the current A10 Defensive Player of the Week, Olivia Dubay for insight. Olivia was injured and did not play in the first VCU match last year. Sneed put up 7 blocks in four sets. In the second match, VCU won in five sets. Sneed had seven blocks and Olivia had six of her own. VCU won both of those matches. In the A10 tournament championship match, which UD won in five sets, Olivia had five blocks and Sneed put up nine. Olivia knows the Sneed-factor first hand.

“Sneed is a really dynamic athlete who does a good job executing the prep work you do for blocking, like tracking the ball and your attackers,” said Olivia. “Her natural athleticism and jump makes her a formidable blocker who I really look forward to playing.”

Sneed is athletic, quick off her feet, can jump and has long arms and huge hands. One way to beat those skills is to set short-fast sets (shoot-sets), to both outside hitters and the middle blockers.

“I love attacking fast sets close to the setter,” Olivia said. “Sometimes with fast sets you can hit before the blocker jumps which is an awesome advantage. Faster sets require a lot of precision from the setter and I’m blessed to be able to work with our really talented setters.”

In matches between two talented teams, and this will be a match between two Top 50 teams, it comes down to the serve and pass game. Can you pass your opponent’s serve and can you serve aggressive so they can’t pass yours?

“Volleyball games almost always come down to serve and pass because no one can execute an offense with any attackers, much less middles, without a good first touch,” said Olivia. “So aggressive serving will definitely be a focus.”

Based on Aces and Opponent Aces, which is not the entire equation, but all we have, it’s ADVANTAGE UD.

If you’ve been paying attention, the entire conference season UD has been working on improving our block, getting better in the serve and pass game and expanding our outside hitter’s shot capabilities by adding powerful down-the-line swings and cut shots. OH Jamie Peterson will get her swings. She’s executed 35% of our offensive attacks this year. It’s between her and Sneed for A10 POY. But what’s going on – or not - in the middle will be big in this match. And, what goes on in the middle – or not – depends on what happens with the first and second touch – the pass and the set.

Between these two teams, the four middle blockers are all Top 5 middles in conference-only stats. Jackson and Sneed are 1-2 in Hitting Percentage. Dubay and UD freshman Amelia Moore are 4-5. Sneed and Jackson are 1-3 in Blocks. Moore and Dubay are 4-5. Our middles have to play big for UD to win.

Finally, VCU is loaded with seniors, but its how our two seniors and grad student play today that could determine the match. Sierra Pla on the right outside has raised her game since returning from an injury sustained during the Dayton Invitational back in early September. She is swinging better and blocking a lot better. Sierra has put up 12 blocks in the last four matches. You should also know that last year Sierra moved from MB to right OH for the team. During her first two seasons at UD, Sierra played very well as a back-up MB behind our two All-Conference MBs. But UD needed a right side OH and Sierra made the personal sacrifice for the good of the team. I know first hand it’s not easy. My niece made the same move her sophomore year at UD. I think it’s safe to say she hated it. Not only is it an adjustment in skill sets, but as MB you are basically in on every defensive play at the net and your hitting percentage is high, meaning you are scoring on a lot of swings. All that changes when you move to the outside and it’s both a physical and a mental adjustment. Sierra is coming into her own on the right and finishing her career at UD playing her best ball.

Additionally, the last three matches, Jordan Albarran has worked her way into the rotation as a DS after playing OH as a prep player. She is digging and passing well, but her biggest contribution is scoring from the back row. It’s clear she has been working on this and the results have been nothing but good…really good. The last two matches, she has only played in the back row. She has taken 10 swings and only had ONE error…and SIX kills. That’s a hitting percentage of .500, which is exceptional for a middle blocker hitting at the net. Doing it with all of your swings from the back row is off-the-charts. Jordan is coming into her own playing in the back and finishing her career at UD playing her best ball.

Last night against Davidson, Rachael played one set in the middle and one set on the right side. Rachael has played some of her best matches against our biggest competition this season. VCU will be another big match.

Sunday is Senior Day for Sierra, Jordan and Rachel. Sierra and Jordan set aside personal preferences for the good of the team. When was the last time UD honored a class of players who played their entire collegiate career at a UD with no post-season honors within the class? It’s been many moons ago. We will also honor transfer grad student Rachael Fara who has been a key role player for this team this season. Rachael has started matches at both right OH and MB when needed and has helped this team win matches. Her role has been critical.

So here we are, on Senior Day, with opportunities for all three to play big roles in checking-off a team goal – winning the regular season A10 Championship. What Sierra, Jordan and Rachel have contributed to the program...all the hard work and time and effort…to put this team in a position to go undefeated in conference play is ALWAYS worth honoring. Many moons ago we knew this match would have hardware on the line. We didn’t know Sierra, Jordan and Rachel would be such a big part of the equation. Go to honor these outstanding young women and stay for a championship match. In the end, home court will come into play. The seniors’ gotta show up play big. The team’s gotta show up and play big. The fans and Red Scare’s gotta show up and be LOWD. ADVANTAGE UD.
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By Lifelong Flyer Fan on 11-16-2019, 12:43 PM
Thanks for the great preview
Jordan was so excited to get the kill to win one of the sets last night.Looked like she had a large cheering section upstairs.
Sunday afternoons are not usually good for student attendance. Hope tomorrow is an exception. I'll be cheering in the front row, getting hit by balls during warm-ups. lol
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By BeckysTXA on 11-16-2019, 05:17 PM
Lifelong Flyer Fan posted that Olivia Dubay may be honored Sunday. She is a redshirt junior and is probably done with her undergrad degree this year. If that is the case, my sincere apologies for not including her in the Senior Day notes above. And I got really lucky she was who I got quotes from this week so she’s at least part of the preview.
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