Monday, September 30, 2013

An Ode to the Libero

by Meggie Gradel, AVCA  Intern

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How to use Social Media to Grow your Personal Brand

by Abby M Groth, Volleyball Athlete Class of 2015 – Driven to play NCAA Division I Indoor and Sand Volleyball

USA HPV Beach Player | Empire Volleyball Club | Analy HS

Female indoor players are currently focused on their fall season, and for high school players it’s a fun time to compete and represent their schools.  It is also an important time to make contact or keep in touch with your prospective collegiate coaches.  Since joining my local volleyball club, all I can think about is becoming a college student-athlete.  I am 5-7, joined the game later than most, and am one of many in a competitive recruiting class in Northern California – so how can I get noticed?

During my freshman year, I realized social media could assist my recruiting process.  Instead of building a website, I created a Facebook page to provide information to coaches, and also linked my YouTube channel, Pinterest boards, and a Google Calendar to this page. The goal for my page is to build an awareness of my indoor and sand play that will allow coaches or programs that liked my page to be updated with my events in their news feed.  By reviewing my page, they can also get insight to the person as well as the athlete.

Staying informed and reaching out to learn from others has been a positive experience.  At the U17 High Performance Beach Championship 2012 I reached out to Kaitlin Sather, who is from my hometown and was playing in the Hermosa Beach AVP event with her partner, Michelle Moriarity.  Kaitlin messaged me and provided information that allowed me to watch them play and talk about their professional experiences.  I was also able to catch up with Michelle this summer during a beach event in Santa Cruz where we talked about recruiting and the latest with her career.

My Facebook page has not received the number of likes that I envisioned, but I have gained a lot of unexpected benefits. I reached out to other athletes, coaches, organizations, and universities and ‘liked’ their pages.  By doing so, I have a personalized news feed to all things volleyball.  Rox Volleyball beach event updates (my favorite beach suits), rankings updates from AVCA, USA Volleyball coverage of teams, and schools announcing they have added sand to their programs are just a few of the features that hit my feed.  I feel very informed of what is happening in this sport that I love.

You are the president of your own personal brand so choose your posts, pictures, videos and comments carefully.  If you do not want a potential employer or school to see your posts, then don’t post it.  There is a lot that goes into becoming the complete package for a college program, and two core components are the academics and athletic skills.  The wrapping is your brand, so be sure you are presenting a nicely wrapped package to be noticed in the process. 

Thanks for your time, like my page to keep in touch:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Deb's Top-5: This week is all about in-state rivalries

by Deb Stadick, Program Director, Badger Region Volleyball Association

This is Deb's first season as the chief women's volleyball blogger for the AVCA, and all season long she will do more than just give us the top matches to watch this week...she will predict the outcome.  After playing at Iowa State University from 2008-2011, Stadick is now the Program Director for the Badger Region Volleyball Association.

Notable News: BYU defeated No. 2 San Diego in three sets last week. That’s a sweep. From a team that was quite frankly only sort of on my radar. Maybe we will have to pay attention to the Cougars this season.

Not-So-Notable News: I really like not having to come up with a single IMD for my wrong picks. That’s right, I picked all five right last week and, don’t mind me, I’m still gloating.

Top-Five Recap: This week I batted 1.000 and drastically improved my overall prediction record. Thank goodness. I’ve now correctly picked the winner in nine of fifteen matches.

My Pick: Texas def. Nebraska in four.

Reality: Texas def. Nebraska in five.
Recap: Texas was close to winning in three, but totally lost control of the match. Props, Nebraska.

My Pick:
Florida def. Florida State in four.
Reality: Florida def. Florida State in three.
Recap: Florida State gave Florida headaches, but errors at critical points kept them from tallying the upset.

My Pick: Creighton def. Wichita State in four.
Reality: Creighton def. Wichita State in five.
Recap:  Creighton absolutely owned the net.

My Pick: BYU def. Utah in five.
Reality: BYU def. Utah in five.
Recap:  Holy ping pong. BYU barely won the opening set, got smoked in the second, dealt out a smoking in the third, barely lost the fourth, and squeaked out the fifth for the W.   

My Pick: Western Kentucky def. Dayton in four.
Reality: Western Kentucky def. Dayton in four.
Recap: Western Kentucky’s Paige Wessel was unstoppable blasting 21 kills on 30 attempts.

Moving on. We’ve added a new element to the blog. Each Sunday, you will have the opportunity to submit a match for me to preview. Tweet your selection to @AVCAVolleyball and use the hashtag  #DebsPicks. One submission will be used in the next blog.

Arizona @ No. 16 Arizona State
Tuesday, September 24

This match is lovingly referred to as the Territorial Cup Series. Arizona State has emerged as a team to beat this season. See their 11-1 record including a win over then-No. 2 Texas. Arizona has also strung together a nice season to date, posting a 10-2 record and wins over strong Butler and Northwestern programs.

Similar team composition and play style will make this match a battle of consistency and execution. Both the Sun Devils and Wildcats play low-error volleyball and run a 5-1 offense characterized by dominant pin hitters and efficient middles. 

The Sun Devils are led by veteran setter Bianca Arellano--a viable second-ball attack option and scrappy defenders. Add the defense of Stephanie Preach and six-rotation outside Macey Gardner to the back court, along with the huge block of defensive-minded middle Mercedes Binns, and Arizona State generally doesn’t let much hit the court without effort.

Arellano likes to get the ball to pin hitters Gardner, McKenzie Willey and BreElle Bailey, but also uses the efficient middle play of Whitney Follete (right) to  keep opposing blockers honest.

Arizona plays smart, low-error volleyball. They rely on standout outside Madison Kindgon to generate the majority of offense, but run quick plays and combos to neutralize opposing blockers. Kingdon was named PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Week, and I think we can look for another standout performance in this match.

Freshman setter Penina Snuka has adjusted well to the college game, continuing to improve set location and decision-making throughout pre-conference play.  

Because both teams are so similar in their pin-heavy offense, I think a lot of this match will come down to defense and establishing the middle/opposite attack. There, I think Arizona State holds the edge. They dig a lot of balls. And Binns is huge at the net. And how cool of a name is Mercedes Binns?

My Pick: Arizona State in four.

No. 21 Oregon @ Oregon State
Wednesday, September 25

Our second in-state battle keeps us in the Pac-12 with the Ducks and Beavers. Oregon, fresh off an NCAA Finals appearance, is experiencing mild growing pains this season as players acclimate to their unorthodox play system. Oregon State might not be as lauded as Oregon, but their only two losses came to the same teams Oregon fell to: Michigan and Michigan State.
Oregon Athletics
Oregon’s Lauren Plum (left) is back to run their insanely dynamic offense. Seriously, that team flicks the ball around, forces the middle and runs one of the quickest outside balls I’ve seen. Liz Brenner (OH) and Ariana Williams (MH) are leading the team in kills, and Martenne Bettendorf (OH) is coming along nicely in her first year as a go-to player.

Freshman libero Amanda Benson will be a critical part of this team’s success as ball-handling and defense will allow Plum to set up her offense and get her hitters clicking.  

The Beavers’ rely on their efficient offense, big block and defense to score points. Becky Defoe (L) is 47th in the nation with 4.94 digs per set, while Sydney Francis (DS) and Darby Reeder (DS) add further serve receive and defensive skill to the back court.

Notable newcomer for Oregon State is freshman pin hitter Lila Toner, while Arica Nassar (MH) has returned to the lineup as a dominant net force. As a team, the Beavers frequently out-block opponents (62-56.5 on the season).

I think this match will be about the serve/pass game. If the Ducks are able to pass well and stay in system, their offense is hard to defend because of its tempo and multiple options. On the flip side, if the Beavers serve aggressively and test Oregon’s passing, they might be able to funnel the offense and give themselves opportunity to commit block.

My Pick: Oregon in four.

North Carolina State @ No. 14 North Carolina
Wednesday, September 25

Our next in-state match takes us to North Carolina where the Tar Heels will battle the Wolfpack. North Carolina is off to the team’s best start in program history (10-0), while North Carolina State has posted a 9-3 record this season.

North Carolina relies on standout ball-control to win matches, while North Carolina State’s block has thwarted offensive efforts this season.

Ece Taner (L) along with six-rotation outside Leigh Andrew (inset) are a frustrating duo for opposing
hitters. Their ball control and scrappy, relentless defense is a key component of the Tar Heels 6-2 system. They are in system so often it’s hard to play defense against them.

Pit them against the Wolfpack’s block, and we might have an interesting match. Paced by the middle-hitting duo of Brie Merriwether and Alesha Wilson, North Carolina State has a very physical net presence. They force opponents to change shots and find alternate ways to score.

If North Carolina’s defense is on, they should be able to set their primary offensive options (outsides Andrew and Jovana Bjelica and opposite Kayla Berringer). Setting to the pins should help the Tar Heels spread out North Carolina State’s block and create scoring opportunities.

My Pick: North Carolina in four.

No. 2 Washington @ Washington State
Wednesday, September 25

Both teams head into this state battle with undefeated records. Washington State is 13-0 with notable wins over Alabama, South Dakota and Idaho. Washington is 8-0 with wins over Illinois and Cal State Northridge.

Washington has faced bigger tests, but there is something to be said for an error-free season and the mental/physical consistency it takes to make that happen. Regardless of opponent.
Washington Athletics

Washington is one of my “Teams to Watch” right now. They have nine returners from last season, the No. 10 recruiting class and Krista Vansant (right).  A six-rotation outside with the ability to score from either the front or back row, Vansant is a game-changer. Ball control (libero Jenna Orlandini), a 6-2 offense with plenty of contributors and consistent setting (Katy Beals and Jenni Nogueras) makes this team hard to beat.

Washington State has three six-rotation players -- outsides
Jaicee Harris and Kyra Holt along with setter Camryn Irwin--that bring a lot of consistency to the court. The Cougars authoritatively out-blocked opponents so far this season 113.5-65 (middle blocker Marcelina Glab owns the net).

I think that Washington’s serve receive and defense should be able to handle Washington State’s point-scoring attempts. Plus, I think Washington’s big blocking numbers may be due in part to their competition to date. It’ll be interesting to see how Glab and her front line stack up against Washington’s more physical hitters.

My Pick: Washington in three. Yes, I just predicted a sweep.

No. 12 Nebraska @ No. 24 Illinois
Saturday, September 28

Our fan pick match of the week, @kjvod suggested this Big Ten showdown. If you have a match you want me to preview, tweet your suggestion to @AVCAVolleyball and use the hash tag #DebsPicks. It might just appear in my next blog. Alright, enough of that.

Nebraska is a young, young team that hasn’t faced much competition until their showdown with No. 2 Texas last weekend. They lost. But they showed me flashes of their potential.

Transfer Kelsey Robinson (left) has emerged as a capable leader and developed into a dominant pin hitter for the Huskers. She absolutely tore it up against Texas. Freshman pin hitters Amber and Kadie Rolfzen are athletic, talented and raw. If they are able to develop into consistent offensive options, this team will get harder and harder to beat.

Illinois has weathered a tough pre-conference schedule with decent success, but are coming off a disappointing 0-2 weekend in North Carolina. It seems like the Illini are still searching for that magical mix on the court.

Their deep bench gives them flexibility, and they’ve experimented with the best way to use the 6-6 frame of Liz McMahon (she plays outside and opposite). Morganne Criswell (OH) has stepped up as a nice offensive option when McMahon switches to opposite, while Julia Conard (DS) can go in for McMahon in the back row when the Illini need a defensive boost.

This match will come down to battle-tested vs. young and talented. I think that Nebraska will emerge as a team to beat down the line, but haven’t shown they can excel in a high-pressure setting just yet. If the Illini can contain Robinson and force the Rolfzens to carry the offense, they could steal the upset.

My Pick: Illinois in five.

Alright. That’s all I’ve got for you this week. If you have thoughts about the matches or want to talk volleyball, feel free to tweet @debstadick or @AVCAVolleyball.