Monday, August 31, 2015

Getting to where you want to go as a College Volleyball Coach

by Kelly Surrency, Assistant Coach, University of South Florida

Where do you see yourself in five years? Sometimes that isn't always an easy question. For me, I was single and on the interview trail. Five years later, I'm married, coaching at my third Division I school and have a happy and healthy eight-month-old little boy. So, needless to say, life isn't always predictable. But if you can start to imagine where you want your career in coaching to go, you can start to create a path that will bring you to your ultimate goal: being a collegiate head coach.

I spoke with USF Associate Director of Athletics, Jodie Libadisos, for some tips during the interview process.

•    What is your dream job? Having an understanding of where you want to be in the future, can help you build a pathway for the present. Do you want to be a head coach at a DI Top-25 program, or does the balance of academics and athletics at the Division II level appeal to you?
•    Strengthen your reference list. Who is calling for you? The most valuable references are those with experience themselves. Who can speak confidently about your skills on your behalf?
•    Do your homework. You’ve got the interview, now go get the job. What is the institution known for? What are the advantages/challenges of recruiting? Where is the closest airport for recruits to fly in/out of?
•    Know your voice. Oftentimes, assistant coaches don’t know their own voice. Be confident. Reveal how your experiences have put you in a position to do this on your own.
•    Network within the department. Does your neighbor’s friend’s sister work as a student-athlete academic advisor? Great! Use that to your advantage. Have them talk to the right people for you. Find out the mission of the athletics department as a whole.
•    Best advice. Ask the interviewer: What challenges do you have here at the University/College? Where would you like to see the program go in the next three seasons? You’ll gain some insight about the department which you might not learn otherwise.

It is important to identify jobs that are in line with your goals and go after them. Answer the question: What level of job has your skill set prepared you for? (i.e. a high school coach might have difficulty getting into the Division I ranks right away, so a volunteer position might be something to look for). But don’t be fearful to go beyond your reach for a job you’re really interested in… sometimes you might surprise yourself. Good luck on the job hunt!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five Teams that can Win the 2015 NCAA Championship

by Debbie Kniffin

It’s time for 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball. If you’ve followed this blog in the past, we’re glad to have you back. For those who are new, welcome.

My name is Debbie Kniffin, and this is my third season as the AVCA women’s volleyball blogger. Every week throughout the season, I post my top-five matches to watch and predict the winners.

The purpose of this blog is to generate buzz and facilitate conversation around our sport. As part of that attempt, you—the readers of this blog—will select one of the five matches I preview each week. To submit a match, tweet @AVCAVolleyball and hash tag #DebsTopFive by Sunday at 5 PM CT with the NCAA DI matchup you want me to break down.

All right. Enough small talk. Let the games begin.

In this first post, I will preview five teams that have a shot at hoisting the trophy in December. I’ve selected these teams using a super-scientific matrix that predicts top programs based on overall record, record against ranked opponents, percentage of wins in which returners contributed, ranking of the incoming class and the overall record of the head coach. Just kidding. I’m an English major—I don’t do the matrix (or science) thing. Regardless, these five teams are going to be beastly good and worth watching this season. 

No. 2 Stanford
PAC 12

I’m not the only one who thinks Stanford will be scary this season. The Cardinal earned a No. 2-ranking as they enter the 2015 slate—and for good reason. 

 Stanford returns a pair of First Team All-American seniors in Jordan Burgess (Sr., OH) and Madi Bugg (Sr., S) (Editor's Note: First-Team All-American Inky Ajanaku will be out due to injury). Add the 6-8, Second Team All American Meredith Lutz (RS So., MH) to that lineup, and you’ve got a recipe for PAC 12 (and national) domination. And that’s just the returning all-stars. Stanford adds No. 1-ranked recruit Hayley Hodson (Fr., OH) to the mix as well. I’d assume she sees court time immediately.   And so does everyone else.

You can check out Stanford in action on opening weekend as they host Texas A&M on August 28 at 6 PM PT (PAC 12 Network) and Minnesota on August 30 at 1 PM PT (Stanford Live Stream).

No. 3 Texas
Big 12

If physicality were quantifiable and comparable, I’d throw Texas in the mix for most physical team in the country. Every year. This season is no different as they add the No. 2 recruiting class and USC transfer Ebony Nwanebu (Jr., Opp)—a 2013 First Team All-American and Freshman of the Year—to an athletic roster featuring First Team All-American Chiaka Ogbogu (Jr., MH), Third Team All-American Molly McCage (Sr., MH) and Honorable Mention All-American Amy Neal (Sr., OH).

Talent-packed as they may be, I think teams like Stanford and Penn State still hold the volley IQ advantage over Texas (slightly). But that might not matter when it comes to winning it all. The chip on their shoulder should be significant. Why? After claiming the title in 2012, their 2013 and 2014 campaigns ended with losses (cough, upsets) to Wisconsin and BYU. I doubt the Longhorns get out-muscled or out-motivated by anyone this season.

The Longhorns kick off the 2015 season at home against Rice University on August 28 at 5 PM CT (Longhorn Network). They face UC Irvine on August 29 at 12:30 PM CT (Longhorn Network) and close out opening weekend against LSU on August 29 at 7:30 PM CT (Longhorn Network).

No. 8 Illinois

The Illini stormed onto the national radar during their 2011 title run, but fell to UCLA in the finals and failed to make the NCAA tournament the following season. Since slipping off the serious contender list, they have settled into that elite, awful category of teams that make the tourney but never advance past the Sweet 16.  

This season, Illinois is primed to change that story. Their No. 1-ranked recruiting class, headlined by setting standout Jordyn Poulter (Fr., S) and Oregon transfer Naya Crittenden (Jr., Opp), adds significant depth to several key positions and joins a seasoned lineup featuring Second Team All-American Jocelyn Birks (RS Sr., OH) and a slew of chomping-at-the-bit role players.

Illinois is one of several potential-packed Big Ten squads and will be tested early and often against the likes of Penn State and Wisconsin (both seriously considered for this list). First things first, Illinois hosts Louisville on August 28 at 7 PM CT (live stream) and Miami Ohio on August 29 at 10 AM CT (live stream). Check out their first matches to see how the newcomers hang in collegiate competition.

No. 7 North Carolina

North Carolina lost to Texas in the regional finals last season and will be on a mission to see how far they can push themselves in 2015. Returner for returner, North Carolina may not stack up with Stanford or Penn State. And newcomer for newcomer, the Tar Heels don’t compare with Illinois. So why are they on this list? A. Camrati

Winning a title is more just stat lines and should-be-greats. And I think North Carolina has the right mix of talent, intangibles and straight-up grit to be in the mix at the end of the year. Led by the Honorable Mention All-American, middle-hitting duo of Victoria McPherson (Sr., MH) and Paige Neuenfeldt (Sr., MH), teams will struggle to score against the Tar Heals. North Carolina will need a gamer on the pin to play with the big dogs, but returner Leigh Andrew (Sr., OH) should be up for the challenge.

North Carolina heads to Los Angeles on opening weekend. They face USC on August 28 at 11 PM ET (PAC 12 Network), BYU on August 29 at 3:30 PM ET (game tracker) and Chicago State (game tracker) on August 29 at 8 PM ET. So that’ll be a challenging weekend to test out their gumption. Go time.

The State of Florida: No. 4 Florida and No. 9 Florida State

With two teams in the top-10 preseason rankings, Florida is by far the most talent-concentrated state this season. You heard me, California.  The Gators and the Seminoles both posted deep runs in the NCAA tournament last season and have no reason to let off the gas in 2015.

Florida’s veteran squad returns dominant First Team All-American Alex Holston (RS Jr., Opp), Second Team All-American Rhamat Alhassan (So., MH) and Third Team All-American Mackenzie Dagostino (Sr., S). The Gators add just one true freshman—No. 38-ranked recruit and top-10 middle blocker Taelor Kellum (Fr., MH)—along with South Carolina transfer Allie Monserez (RS Fr., S)—to its incoming class.

Florida State also boasts a stacked roster, which will make the annual Florida State-Florida match one for the record books (it’s September 20 if you like to plan ahead). Blockers beware: Second Team All-American Nicole Walsh (Sr., OH) along with Honorable Mention All Americans Sarah Burrington (RS Jr., MH) and Katie Horton (Jr., OH) make this Seminole squad a serious offensive threat.

Florida opens the season with a pair of road matches against James Madison on August 29 at 7 PM ET (live stream) and American on August 30 at 4 PM ET (live stats). Florida State hits the road to face Oklahoma on August 28 at 6 PM MT (live stats), Colorado on August 29 at 2 PM MT (live stats) and San Diego on August 29 at 7:30 PM MT (live stats). 

That’s all for now. Be sure to check out some matches this weekend—then decide what teams you think will be in the mix come December.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fours Days into Practice...

by Chris Hertel, Assistant Coach - Radford University

Welcome to the 2015 season! We are four days into practice as I write this.  First a thought on recruiting, then a couple of things we are doing to make practice better (and they didn’t cost our program a penny!).

What if we have an opening for a 2016 at the end of this season?

Our 2016 class has been completed, but unexpected things happen and you never know when you will have late opening. Along those lines, with under-18’s USAV Nationals moving to the end of April, national qualifiers for that age group have changed. 18’s national qualifiers start on MLK weekend this year. I’ve looked forward to escaping the Virginia winter to Florida for the last couple years, but if we do turn out to be in the market for a late 2016 I’ll need to be a little more agile with my January plans. Here is a link to the list of 18’s NQs:

Reducing the Impact of Jumps

One of the age old questions for volleyball coaches is “how do we get our work done without killing our players legs during double days?” There often seems to be more work to do than our players have capacity for at this time of the year. We retired our old roll-on-the-court net system this summer (three cheers for poles that slide into the floor!). That gives me a portable net system I can put anywhere in our arena (and we have a lot of space to play with) so I set it up with one of the mats our cheerleaders use when doing their acrobatics – the 6’ wide blue strips they roll onto the court at halftime. The mat is stiff enough that it doesn’t seem to change the way our players run & jump, but it is a much softer landing than hardwood. We have been using it during double days for blocking drills, and even occasional approach work. So far the feedback from our team has been very positive. In fact, I think if I let them they would cover the main court with gymnastic mats between the 3m lines!

Instant Video Feedback

Last year we started using our arena’s video boards to run delayed video during practice. Our athletic department’s video person helped us get it going. He showed me how to connect the video camera to the arena’s instant replay system and how to display the replay on the video board. Now our players can make a play in a drill, then look up on the video board and see the play just a few seconds later. It is a great tool that our players really love, and it didn’t cost our program a dime – everything was already built into the arena! You can also do the same sort of thing with a tablet, or even a smart phone for a minimal price. The website has a list of apps that can be used for similar purposes.

I hope you can use one of these ideas in your program, or at least get some inspiration to improve your program. Best wishes in 2015!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Few Resources to Help you this Season

by Matt Scott, Assistant Coach - Samford University

As preseason is in full swing for just about all of us across the country, some of us might be asking…where did my summer go? Whether it was filled with relaxing vacations or camp seasons, we are all thinking in the back of our mind one simple question. What do we need to complete before preseason? Team travel, practice times, hotel confirmation, rooming lists, equipment handout, binder setup, and the list can go on and on. To make this process a bit easier for us all, DYK wanted to find resources and tools that could help make your preseason flow as easily as possible. We discovered a few valuable resources that will be very beneficial when planning out your video exchange along with managing your team’s communication for this upcoming season and hopefully future ones to come.

Editor's note: The AVCA does not endorse the use of these products, and the products mentioned here are based solely on the opinions of Matt. The companies did not pay to be in this blog.

While in preseason, everyone faces the challenge of exchanging video for scouting purposes. Exchanging through one another’s program can be a hassle sometimes as you have to send invites causing more work of having to create an account, all in all to just receive some film. DYK has found several options out there which can make your preseason film exchange a breeze. There are two websites that allow for FREE & EASY sending of files. You can utilize either or to send these files. No registration is needed for either website. Simply fill in the required information, add your files and click the send button. comes with a 2 GB transfer limit. has just recently removed its file size limitations allowing us to send any video to anyone.

If file size becomes an issue, you can easily download programs to compress and change file types. One of the easiest out there to use is Freemake Video Converter ( ). Freemake Video Converter allows you to change several components within the video file which in turn affects video size. Each video that you have is unique and the settings can change the size drastically. The Frame Size (minimum 852x480) , the Frame Rate (minimum 30 Frames/Second) and the Audio (eliminating audio) are all things to keep in mind when compressing.



Teamsynced is a program that allows you to have seamless communication throughout your athletic program.  Using your smart phone or computer you can send schedules, text messages, videos, and pdfs to program with just one click in real time. Being a coach it is nice using one program that accomplishes many tasks. There are other handy features that Teamsynced offers, which are automatic schedule reminders and team, check in. With the automatic reminders a text message is sent to your players or staff in the morning to remind them of the events of the day. The check-in feature allows the players to check-in via the app to inform us coaches if they have made it home safe or if they made it to class on time. If you are a team on a budget the Teamsynced application is in the middle of the road.  For Teamsynced it runs about $900 per program.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pepper Pros and Cons

by Tom Mendoza, Associate Head Coach - Creighton University

Some in the volleyball community have weighed in with their thoughts of our game’s most popular drill.  An advantage basketball has over volleyball is the simplicity of a ball, a hoop, and any number from zero to nine friends.   Pepper is our version of shooting hoops on the playground, and from elementary school to the Grand Prix in Omaha, pepper is everywhere and it isn’t going away… it’s just too darn convenient.  By looking at some of the pros and cons of this basic drill, we can make a couple tweaks to improve our love/hate relationship with pepper.   For the sake of brevity, I will only focus on two person pepper. 

Pros of pepper

  • You are practicing three major skills of volleyball in succession (defense, setting, and attacking arm swing).   Hard to beat pepper here.
  • You are contacting 50% of the reps.  Have two minutes to warm up before practice or in between sets? Pepper is the drill for you. 
  •  It’s an efficient use of space (assuming some ball control).  A whole team can warm up at the same time on half of a court.

  • Not practicing getting the ball over the net (which is the main point of volleyball). Very valid point, and maybe as coaches we choose pepper drills too often while leaving the nets unused.  However, you don’t dig to yourself in a game either.   Four person over the net pepper is a good warm up if you have the time and space, but you’ve also just cut your reps from every other ball to every 4th contact. No quick fix for this one, just some stuff to think about.  
  • Playing the ball all the way back to your partner, especially in defense is practicing bad habits of overpassing digs.  We can fix this.

Simple fix:  Many coaches want hard digs kept off the net in order to prevent overpasses and allow a back row setter to safely and legally get to the ball.  In our gym we call this concept “the well” because it’s the hole in the middle of the court that it’s fun to put things. Thus “dig-to-the-well-pepper” -which means that our digger tries to dig half to ¾ of the way back to the attacker which makes the defender get in a lower position.  This also forces the setter to come into the court to set, then work on pushing back into defensive position for the next dig.  

  • Only performing linear direction of the ball.  Within a game the ball is rarely ever passed, set, or attacked directly where it came from.  We can fix this too.

Simple fix:  For this we have “angled-well-pepper” where we have our defensive player dig to “the well” but this time 5’ left/right of their partner.  This also forces the setter to move forward at angle and get square to set, then push back at an angle for defense.  It also makes the attacker turn the ball off the angle of the set.

Pepper is by no means my favorite drill, but since it is not going away we might as well learn to get more out of it.  Hopefully these quick tweaks can help with your teams as well.   You will be surprised how much movement this creates, and forces players to control their body and the ball.