Monday, January 31, 2011

Long Beach St. to be taken seriously

By David Portney

A lot has been said about Stanford's "worst-to-first" campaign including me (Week 1 blog), but as far as this year goes, they still has some work to do if they want to repeat. Just a couple of days ago, No. 5 Long Beach State swept the No. 2 Cardinals out of the gym (25-21, 25-21, 25-13). For the match, the Cardinals hit just .021 against the 49ers.

But let's give some credit here to Long Beach State.

The win for the 49ers was their fourth of the season over a team ranked in the top five of our AVCA Division I-II Poll as then No. 2 UC Irvine, then No. 3 Pepperdine and then No. 5 UCLA all fell to the clutches of LB's grasp earlier this year.

Kyle Friend led the way with 11 kills on .500 hitting, a team-high eight digs and two blocks.

So what do we make of these fellas from Long Beach? Are they serious contenders? Right now their record stands at 6-3 overall (5-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation), and after starting the season at 2-3, are currently riding a four-game winning streak.

It wouldn't be fair to completely discount the poor start, but they have clearly found their stride. How many teams don't change and evolve at all from the beginning of the season to the end? Whatever it was that caused their early season struggles certainly hasn't bothered them lately. They clearly have the talent to upset anyone in the country (well, maybe not USC yet. They're still leaps and bounds above everyone), and to make a serious run to de-throne Stanford.

Shifting gears here, the University of California Santa Barbara ended their 10-game losing streak to Pepperdine. Here's a video recap:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More USC domination

By David Portney

I know I just did a blog about USC men's volleyball, but I don't think I'd be doing my job if I simply let this ridiculous run their currently on go by the way-side.

I'm just going to throw out some numbers for you to gain some perspective on their season:
Record: 5-0
Sets lost: USC: 1, #2 Stanford: 5
Kills: USC: 230, Opponents: 195
Attack Percentage (as of 1/22): USC: .404, OPP: .192
Assists: USC: 215, OPP: 188
Errors: USC: 52, OPP: 88
Blocks: USC: 42.5, OPP 25.5

Most recently in their match last night against #6 UC Santa Barbara, USC as a team hit .493 in a 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 sweep. AVCA Player of the Week Murphy Troy led the way hitting an astounding .632 with 12 kills.

The 5-0 start is their best since starting off 6-0 in 1994. Maybe to a lot of people, this start isn't as surprising compared to how they've been doing it in such dominating fashion. All of their matches have been conference games, so it's not like they've been plowing through DIII schools while putting up these lopsided numbers.

But there is one statistic that USC is trailing heavily in: home attendance. Granted, they've only had two home matches so far, they're only averaging 550 spectators while their opponents average 1,100. The Trojans however, do have an easy excuse: "But Dave, LA is a difficult place to get around." While I understand the logic in that, how can you explain the fact that cross-town rival UCLA averages nearly 2,000 fans at their matches?

I'm sure attendance at the Galen Pavilion Center will spike once they return home Feb 17th against Stanford, but how much is yet to be seen. I hope the USC student body and the people of Los Angeles truly understand that the Trojans has some of the greatest athletes in the country playing men's volleyball and they go support them as such.

Here's UCSB's recap from last night:



This are a couple of great plays by USC from their match against UCI. The one thing that sticks out is their athleticism:



Barring any unforeseen circumstance, I promise my next blog won't exclusively be about USC. As I said earlier, I just feel I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't spend at least a little extra time talking about what they've been able to accomplish in such a short time span.

Have any ideas for my next blog? Feel free to either post a comment here, on our Facebook page or shoot me an e-mail at David.Portney@avca.org!

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's still early, but Trojans making it look easy

By David Portney

There is little doubt the University of Southern California’s men’s volleyball team has been the most dominant team in the sport in 2011. Off to their first 4-0 start since 1995, they have lost just ONE set all season, which was to UC-Santa Barbara.

Though the season is still very young, the Trojans do have a key victory already under their belt which could certainly help them down the road. On January 12, USC snapped a 17-match losing streak to Cal State Northridge with a clean sweep in Westwood. They will see them again on Feb. 23rd in Northridge, and there is no doubt the Matadors will have revenge on their mind. If nothing else, USC Head Coach Bill Ferguson was able to clear a mental hurdle with the win.

Meanwhile, the Trojans will continue to cruise along dominating their opponents thanks to players like senior co-captain Murphy Troy and Riley McKibbin. Troy, a National Player of the Year Candidate, has averaged 4.31 kills/set through the first four games playing all 13 sets. He hasn’t disappointed defensively either averaging 0.85 blocks/set to go along with his 2 digs/set.

McKibbin on the other hand has been their main setter this year averaging nearly 12 assists/set while tying Troy for the team-lead with 2 digs/set.


It seems the only way to slow down this Trojans squad is to limit the damage done by Troy and McKibbin. Obviously that is easier said than done, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where USC loses a match with those two players having a field day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Volleyball and NCAA Legislation

By Kathy DeBoer

There is reason to be cautious when taking credit for any NCAA legislative decision whether it is a favorable vote on a volleyball matter, or merely a defensive block of an unpopular proposal. The reason for caution is that the volleyball community is rarely unanimous in their support or opposition to any proposal, so ‘credit’ and ‘blame’ become commingled in evaluating the results of any vote.

There was one decision, however, at the NCAA Convention last week that had universal support from the volleyball community, and at an ever rarer occurrence, that same level of endorsement from the administrative community. On Saturday, January 15, in the Division III Business Session, almost $400,000 of NCAA money was earmarked to add a Men’s Volleyball Championship, the 28th championship for Division III, the 89th championship for the NCAA overall, and the first new men’s championship since 1985! (Click here for press release.)

Other Convention results didn’t rise to that level of significance, nor did they have the universal support, but nonetheless it is still apropos to state that the 2011 NCAA Convention was very successful for the sport of volleyball.

On the defensive front, the Division I women successfully blocked an attempt by the Big Ten Conference to reduce their pre-season training opportunities from 28 to 21. Both men and women in that division fought off a proposal to cut non-championship season playing dates from four to two. Plus, the opportunity to continue participating in foreign tours was spared from the budget-cutting ax. (Click here for DI Volleyball Legislative Results)

On the reform side of the agenda, the methods for counting financial aid in men’s volleyball were broadened to allow for volleyball scholarship money to be combined with other forms of aid. This will allow for the meager amount of volleyball aid afforded in men’s DI volleyball to be stretched to accommodate more players. (Click here for more on Financial Aid)

The most controversial results, yet those with the likelihood of having the most impact on volleyball over the long run, were the proposals that outlined the future of Sand Volleyball as a collegiate sport in Division I. Where Division II had passed similar rules with little fanfare over a year ago, the Division I vote had to be delayed due to an attempt by a number of schools to remove Sand Volleyball from the emerging sports list. Remember that credit-blame conundrum?

The rules passed for Sand Volleyball specify that six scholarships can be added over a period of four years, starting with three in 2011-12 and one each year for three years thereafter. Schools with a sand team can also add up to two new coaches and compete in a maximum of 16 sand volleyball events during the spring semester. The format for sand volleyball requires each school to field five doubles teams per competition, so there are actually 10 starters per squad. It is important to note that the numbers cited are maximums, and as is the practice in court volleyball, institutions will support what they can afford in terms of scholarships, additional staff and competitions. (Click here for DI Sand Volleyball Legislative Parameters)

It is hard to overstate the significance of these additional opportunities for scholarships and competition for young women. Court Volleyball and Sand Volleyball now have 12 head count and six equivalency scholarships between them. Since scholarship opportunities drive participation, this additional influx of aid pretty much guarantees that volleyball, counting court and beach together, will be the most popular sport for women in America in a matter of a few short years.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times


By David Portney

As we enter the beginning of the 2011 men’s season, we all know Stanford’s “worst to first” championship run from a year ago. Some other "worst to first" teams that immediately come to mind are the 1999 Super Bowl winning St. Louis Rams, the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics, and collegiality, the 2006 Wake Forest football team that went on to win the ACC.

But how do these teams normally fair the season after winning their respective championship? The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl (albeit a loss to another "worst to first team," the New England Patriots), the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Wake Forest finished third in the ACC Atlantic Division.

One would think the emotional toll on the players and coaching staff alike to go from being the doormat to a champion would play a significant role the following year, but history has proven that’s not necessarily the case. So is Stanford more apt to come back very strong like the Rams, or fall back like those Demon Deacons?

If their first three matches (3-0) are any indicator, it looks like the Cardinals are going to be just fine. Currently ranked second in the latest AVCA Coaches Top 15 Poll, Stanford is coming off a weekend sweep led by junior Brad Lawson of then No. 2 BYU to increase their winning streak to nine matches. In those two weekend matches, Lawson combined for 39 kills, a .391 hitting percentage, nine digs, four assists, four blocks, and three aces.

His performance was good enough to be named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball Player of the Week.

However, their strong start doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy road for a “worst to back-to-back champions” scenario. USC currently sits atop the poll garnering all 16 of the first-place votes, and are certainly one of the favorites to win it all.

As we all know, it’s a long season with no way of knowing for sure if Stanford will emotionally tumble, or use their experiences through thick and thin to repeat as national champions. But what we do know is that those men from Palo Alto, California will give it their best shot.

A slide-show from last year's championship run...

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AVCA Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll (January 17, 2011):

Rank

School (First-Place Votes)

Total Points

2011 Record

Last Week

1

Southern California (16)

240

2-0

1

2

Stanford

224

3-0

4

3

UCLA

200

5-1

8

4

BYU

192

3-2

2

5

UC Santa Barbara

161

3-2

5

6

Pepperdine

146

2-2

3

7

UC Irvine

140

3-3

7

8

Long Beach State

130

2-3

11

9

Penn State

123

2-1

10

10

Ohio State

105

1-2

8

11

Cal State Northridge

84

2-3

12

12

Ball State

66

2-2

14

13

Hawai'i

54

0-3

5

14

Loyola-Chicago

27

1-0

13

15

UC San Diego

17

2-3

16


Here’s how other DIII teams made out this past week (rankings seen below are as of the match played, not current):


#1 Southern California (2-0, 2-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/12 def. #12 Cal State Northridge 3-0 (H); 1/14 def. #11 Long Beach State 3-0 (H)

#2 BYU (3-2, 0-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/14 lost to #4 Stanford 2-3 (A); 1/15 lost to #4 Stanford 1-3 (A)

#3 Pepperdine (2-2, 0-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/10 def. #8 Ohio State 3-2 (H); 1/12 lost to #11 Long Beach State 2-3 (H); 1/15 lost to #12 Cal

State Northridge 2-3 (H)

#4 Stanford (3-0, 2-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/14 def. #2 BYU 3-2 (H); 1/15 def. #2 BYU 3-1 (H)

#5 Hawai'i (0-3, 0-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/13 lost to #14 Ball State 0-3 (H); 1/14 lost to #10 Penn State 2-3 (H); 1/15 lost to #8 UCLA 0-3 (H)

#5 UC Santa Barbara (3-2, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/14 def. UC San Diego 3-0 (A); 1/15 lost to #7 UC Irvine 0-3 (A)

#7 UC Irvine (3-3, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/12 lost to UC San Diego 1-3 (H); 1/15 def. #5 UC Santa Barbara 3-0 (H)

#8 Ohio State (1-2, 0-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/10 lost to #3 Pepperdine 2-3 (A); 1/15 def. Saint Francis 3-0 (H)

#8 UCLA (5-1, 0-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/13 def. #10 Penn State 3-1 (N); 1/14 def. #14 Ball State 3-1 (N); 1/15 def. #5 Hawai'i 3-0 (A)

#10 Penn State (2-1, 0-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/13 lost to #8 UCLA 1-3 (N); 1/14 def. #5 Hawai'i 3-2 (A); 1/15 def. #14 Ball State 3-0 (N)

#11 Long Beach State (2-3, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/12 def. #3 Pepperdine 3-2 (A); 1/14 lost to #1 Southern California 0-3 (A)

#12 Cal State Northridge (2-3, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/12 lost to #1 Southern California 0-3 (A); 1/15 def. #3 Pepperdine 3-2 (A)

#13 Loyola-Chicago (1-0, 0-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/12 def. Carthage 3-0 (H)

#14 Ball State (2-2, 0-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/13 def. #5 Hawai'i 3-0 (A); 1/14 lost to #8 UCLA 1-3 (N); 1/15 lost to #10 Penn State 0-3 (N)

#14 Lewis (3-0, 0-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/14 def. King 3-1 (A); 1/14 def. Mount Olive 3-0 (N); 1/15 def. Lees-McRae 3-1 (A)


Schools not in the Top 15:


UC San Diego (2-3, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/12 def. #7 UC Irvine 3-1 (A); 1/14 lost to #5 UC Santa Barbara 0-3 (H)

George Mason (1-0, 0-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/14 def. NJIT 3-1 (H); 1/15 vs. Juniata (H)

IPFW (3-1, 0-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/13 lost to Pacific 1-3 (H); 1/14 def. Pacific 3-0 (H)

King (0-1, 0-0 )

1/14 lost to #14 Lewis 1-3 (H)

Lees-McRae (0-1, 0-0 Independent)

1/15 lost to #14 Lewis 1-3 (H)

Mount Olive (0-1, 0-0 Independent)

1/14 lost to #14 Lewis 0-3 (N)

NJIT (0-3, 0-0 Eastern Intercollegiate

Volleyball Association)

1/14 lost to George Mason 1-3 (A)

Pacific (3-1, 0-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

1/13 def. IPFW 3-1 (A); 1/14 lost to IPFW 0-3 (A)

Saint Francis (0-1, 0-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association)

1/15 lost to #8 Ohio State 0-3 (A)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Division III Men's Volleyball to Begin Hosting it's Own NCAA Tournament

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 15, 2011) – USA Volleyball and the AVCA applaud the NCAA for voting on Saturday to create a new men’s volleyball Division III (DIII) National Championship tournament. This is the first men’s NCAA National Championship that has been added since 1985.

The vote was taken at the Division III business session at the NCAA’s annual convention in San Antonio, Texas. When the results were posted a round of applause erupted from the delegation. The proposal passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 439 to 2. Overall, it is the 89th NCAA championship.

The legislation was jointly presented by Zak Ivkovic the commissioner of the CUNY Conference and Joe Walsh the commissioner of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.

Until now, the only NCAA national championship tournament for which men’s DIII schools were eligible was the same one in which Division I and II schools compete.

“There are many who deserve credit for this very significant moment,” said AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer. “Gerry Matacotta and the late Mike Ricciardi, who worked tirelessly on developing new college programs, Molten USA who consistently provided corporate support, former AVCA executive director, Sandy Vivas, and the other visionaries who dared to dream this could happen, staff at the NCAA who unwaveringly pushed the process, and USA Volleyball, who put years of staff time and organizational resources into the development of new opportunities for men and boys to play volleyball in the United States, to name a few. The result: the 89th NCAA Championship is Division III Men’s Volleyball! How good is that?!”

“USA Volleyball is thrilled that the NCAA has approved this new men’s national championship tournament,” USAV CEO Doug Beal said. “We are proud of the role USAV has played and will continue to play in encouraging schools to establish men’s volleyball programs.

“Volleyball is a vibrant, growing sport for boys and men and this will have a positive impact on high school and club programs that are already strong in many parts of the country.”

Fifty-seven colleges and universities around the country now have or are planning to have DIII men’s volleyball teams. Fifty were required for the creation of a DIII National Championship.

There are six conferences that support men’s DIII volleyball, with more conferences expected to join. The North East Collegiate Volleyball Association has been instrumental in efforts to help grow men’s division III collegiate volleyball, led by the commissioner, the late Mike Ricciardi of Ramapo College, and the conference executive director, Gerry Matacotta. Their efforts combined with those from the AVCA and USAV have helped expand opportunities for boys to be able to continue to compete in the sport they love at the collegiate level.

Since 1997, USA Volleyball and the AVCA have co-hosted the Molten Division III Men’s Invitational Volleyball Championship, which will be held this year on April 15-16 at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

USA Volleyball has supported and encouraged DIII schools to add men’s volleyball teams with its grant program, which started in 1991. Since that time, and continuing in 2011, more than $276,000 in grant money has been awarded to more than 40 schools to help them implement new DIII men’s volleyball programs.

“The creation of this new NCAA championship is a historic event for volleyball and benefits current and future student-athletes,” said Jeff Mosher, USAV coordinator for boys’ and men’s development. “It represents the continued efforts of the NCAA to expand opportunities for Olympic sports to thrive in colleges across the country. It provides an incentive for both Division III colleges and high schools to increase opportunities for men to play varsity volleyball and enhance the pipeline of athletes eligible for our national and Olympic teams.”

Other quotes about the creation of a new men’s volleyball Division III (DIII) National Championship tournament:

John Williams, the Director of NCAA Division III Championship: “We are very excited to start our 89th NCAA championship with DIII Men’s Volleyball. This is another opportunity for more student-athletes to compete for a national championship in a sport they specialize in and achieve a DIII education.”

Zak Ivkovic the commissioner of the CUNY Conference: “We are thrilled for all the student-athletes that are going to be able to compete on a level playing field and glad that all our efforts have paid off.”

North East Collegiate Volleyball Association Commissioner Gerry Matacotta: “The creation of this tournament secures a place for men’s Division III volleyball in the NCAA.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Volleyball and New Beginnings

By Kathy DeBoer

Thank goodness we could come back to work on Monday! I mean this only slightly tongue in cheek: even those who enjoyed every minute of the Christmas to New Year break reported being ready for a return to the routine.

So, now that we are safely back in our comfort zone, we probably still have weeks of relative calm. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I do recommend taking time for reflection and assessment. Simple settling into the same familiar patterns with your training, your recruiting and your program management will likely mean that next fall’s weaknesses will look a lot like last fall's – it’s the definition of insanity schtick.

I was reading a blog from a marketing guy last week - yes, last week, I couldn’t help it, I like this stuff. His advice for starting the evaluation process is to focus on the area where you are, what he calls, the "mostest behindest." Beyond the grammatically-challenged wording you can see what he is talking about is the area of your program’s greatest weakness.

You may settle on a statistical measure like your serving efficiency, your kill percentage, or your passing average. You may focus on psychological problems like team chemistry, your communication patterns, or leadership development. You may decide your biggest problem is environment-based in that you have no home court advantage, your administrators aren’t invested in your program, or your marketing ideas are dying somewhere between the planning and implementation stage.

Just a quick note here: what we are talking about is a change YOU can make, not a problem that will go away or a situation that will be easier if someone else changes how they behave. Inevitably, others' behavior will adjust, but it will be a response to or result of your new behavior.

You will know when you have hit on something that has potential to create significant change when you get uncomfortable thinking about it, feel powerless to solve it and fear that you will lose some control in trying. If you are afraid of failing at it, you have hit on a problem or situation that will take real work to fix. Risk gives change a chance.

A final thought: Pick only one or a very small number of "mostest behindest" problems regardless of the number you can list. We know that all teams, even the very successful, have multiple challenges each year, but, as a genus, we coaches are very change-resistant. Trying to fix many bad habits or ineffective situations all at once will guarantee failure.

Both the beauty and the curse of seasonal work is, once it’s over, whether good or bad, the last season doesn’t matter. The job is how to make the next one better.
Best wishes for success in 2011!