Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Deb's Top-5 Matches: A B1G Time Showdown

by Debbie Kniffin

One of these matches takes place tonight. As in Wednesday, September 30, 2015. So don’t wait to read this preview. Unless you want to do that instant-historian thing where you watch the match, then come back and point out all the holes in my logic. That works too, so long as it gets you talking about volleyball.

Don’t forget to submit a match for me to preview by next Sunday. Tweet your pick @AVCAVolleyball and hash tag #DebsTop5. This week’s fan pick features a clash of the titans as No. 1 Penn State takes on No. 4 Nebraska. Grab the popcorn. It’ll be epic.

No.  23 Michigan vs. RV Michigan State
Wednesday, September 30 and Saturday, October 3

Record: 11-2 overall, 1-1 Big 10
Streak: W1
Last outing: lost to Purdue (0-3), defeated Indiana (3-1)

Potential weakness: serving aggressively and slowing down offenses with their block
Perceived strengths: every time Abby Cole (Jr., MH) touches the ball
Game changers: the dominant attacking and blocking of Cole

Michigan State
Record: 9-4 overall, 1-1 Big 10
Last outing: defeated Indiana (3-0), lost to Purdue (3-1)

Potential weakness: serving for points and playing strong back row defense
Perceived strengths: slowing down opponents with their block
Game changers: the could-be-scary offense of Brooke Kranda (RS So., MH/OPP)

Michigan Athletics

Michigan and Michigan State both defeated Indiana and fell to Purdue last weekend. Defense is a weakness for both these squads—Michigan at the net and Michigan State in the back row—and it can sometimes affect their offensive performance. Both teams have a nice selection of efficient hitters when they’re able to set them. For example: the Wolverines normally rely on standout Cole, who was quiet against Purdue due to poor passing and defense. And Michigan State has a slew of arms waiting to click, but their back row doesn’t give them a ton of opportunity to find their rhythm. What does all this mean? This match comes down to serve-and-pass and performance in long rallies. Whichever team can put the ball near target, stay low-error and grind out long rallies should take the cake. Michigan holds the slight advantage based on back-row play.

My Pick: Michigan in three (round 1), Michigan State in five (round 2)

No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 4 Nebraska (FAN PICK)
Friday, October 2

Penn State
Record: 13-0 overall, 2-0 Big 10
Streak: W13
Last outing: defeated Wisconsin (3-0) and Minnesota (3-2)

Potential weakness: getting rattled and struggling to find offensive rhythm
Perceived strengths: using four big-time hitters in their offensive system
Game changers: the never-mess-up play of Haleigh Washington (So., MH)

Record: 11-1 overall, 2-1 Big 10
Last outing: defeated Iowa in back-to-back matches (3-0)

Potential weakness: staying low-error at the service line
Perceived strengths: blocking for points and running an efficient offense
Game changers: the relentless defensive pursuit of Justine Wong-Orantes (Jr., DS)

The Nittany Lions found themselves in their first extra-sets match of the season against a sporadically good Minnesota squad. In the two sets they lost, Penn State couldn’t find their offensive rhythm and posted .000 and .139 hitting efficiencies. They looked unnerved, clumsy and scared but got over it by the fifth set. Nebraska could force Penn State into a similar situation with their offense-thwarting blocks and get-in-your-head defense. This match will be all about getting into a rhythm, making the serve-and-pass game vitally important. Serving edge: Penn State. Passing edge: Nebraska. But when you take into account the bounce-back factor—that key skill of having a short memory and getting over things quickly—Penn State is on another level. They’re a team full of Dory’s (just keep swimming). Dory wins. 

Haleigh Washington/PSU Athletics

My Pick: Penn State in five

No. 24 Long Beach State @ Cal Poly
Friday, October 2

Long Beach State
Record: 12-3 overall, 2-0 Big West
Streak: W3
Last outing: defeated UC Davis (3-0) and UC Irvine (3-1)

Potential weakness: blocking and defending at a high level
Perceived strengths: running a smooth offense
Game changers: the stud-like offense of transfer Nele Barber (Jr., OH)

LBSU Head Coach Brian Gimmillaro/LBSU Athletics

Cal Poly
Record: 8-4 overall, 0-1 Big West
Last outing: lost to Loyola Marymount (0-3) and Hawaii (0-3)

Potential weakness: letting errors snowball and making smart shots under pressure
Perceived strengths: keeping balls alive in the back row
Game changers: the stabilizing offense of Raeann Greisen (So., OH)

Cal Poly has a loose cannon in Adlee Van Winden (Fr., OH). She’s on pace to break single-season kills records and carries most of the offensive load, but posts a dismal .184 hitting efficiency.  Cal Poly’s other hitters stabilize the collective offensive performance, and I have to wonder if getting them more looks would help Van Winden hit her stride. It’s worth a try against Long Beach State as the 49ers play pretty average defense and may be thrown off by a distributed offense. Even if Cal Poly throws a few curve balls and disrupts the 49er’s defense, they’ll still have no answer for Barber’s offensive prowess. She takes almost every swing for the 49ers and hits .382.

My Pick: Long Beach State in four

Louisville vs. Syracuse
Friday, October 2

Record: 8-4 overall, 2-0 ACC
Streak: W2
Last outing: defeated Notre Dame (3-0) and Miami Florida (3-1)

Potential weakness: contributing defensively at net
Perceived strengths: scoring from the pins and serving tough
Game changers: the team-carrying offense of Erin Fairs (Sr., OH)

Record: 11-2 overall, 2-0 ACC
Last outing:
defeated Boston College (3-1) and Clemson (3-1)

Potential weakness: staying in long rallies due to sometimes-sloppy back court play
Perceived strengths: using middles to block for points
Game changers: the craft performance of veterans Silvi Uattara (Sr., OH) and Monika Salkute (Sr., OH)

Syracuse Athletics


Earlier this season, Syracuse showed glimpses of their potential as they pushed ranked Arizona and Ohio State to four sets. Syracuse can falter when pushed to long rallies as their back row isn’t great at scooping up junk—at least not consistently.  Lucky for them, Louisville isn’t particularly great in that category either, making the serve/pass and first-ball-side-out games super important in this matchup. Louisville runs a pretty traditional offense—lot of sets to the pins, middles has a few good hitters, the most influential being hot-and-cold kills leader Fairs. When she’s cold, she’s good. When she’s hot, watch out.  Blocking tips the scale in the Orange’s favor. 

My Pick: Syracuse in five

No. 15 BYU vs. RV San Diego

Friday, October 2

Record: 12-2 overall, 2-1 West Coast
Streak: WI
Last outing: lost to Santa Clara (1-3), defeated LMU (3-1)

Potential weakness: allowing teams to rattle off consecutive points
Perceived strengths: scoring points efficiently from the service line and on offense
Game changers: the monster blocking of Whitney Howard (Jr., MH) and Amy Boswell (Jr., MH)

BYU Photo

San Diego
Record: 8-5 overall, 2-0 West Coast
Last outing: defeated Santa Clara (3-1), San Francisco (3-0) and Pepperdine (3-2)

Potential weakness: making smart shots and staying low-error on offense
Perceived strengths: playing super-scrappy defense
Game changers: the distributed setting of current starter Kriste Gengenbacher (So., S)

San Diego dropped out of the top-25 rankings after falling to an unranked UC Irvine squad. The Toreros buckled down and took care of business in their first conference matches, and will push to re-enter the top-25 with an upset of BYU. They’ll need to set lots of balls to stud hitter Lisa Kramer (RS Jr., MH), which also means incredible defense and serve receive. This will keep other hitters available and able to swing away. BYU will likely slow them down with their ridiculous blocking and lights-out serving. They’ve also got some heavy hitting of their own with Alexa Gray (Sr., OH), who can absolutely take over matches.

My Pick: BYU in four

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Social Media Recruiting Guidelines for Current Athletes

by Kyrsten Becker, Assistant Coach - Morehead State University

Disclaimer: This is the information given to me by Morehead State University, an NCAA Division I institution.  If you disagree or feel that your division has different rules, please communicate with the compliance office on your own campus.

In most programs, current-student athletes play a major role in recruiting.  While the coaching staff may get a recruit interested, their interactions with current players provide the best window into your program.  Most recruits leave a campus talking about how much they love the team.  As our athletes start to border the line between recruiters and players, what are they allowed to do?

Question- Can a current athlete wish a verbally committed athlete a "Happy Birthday" using social media?
Answer- Yes, as long as it does not indicate her commitment to the school.
Violation: “Happy Birthday @Recruit, can’t wait for you to be an Eagle!”
Permissible- “Happy Birthday @Recruit!”

Question- A recruit posts a picture of herself on social media with the caption “Had a great time this weekend at MSU!” Can a student athlete like or comment on the post?
Answer- Yes, as long as the comment does not confirm her visit
Violation- “It was great meeting you this weekend!”
Permissible- Liking the post, or commenting “Go Eagles”

Question- A commit posts that she was named All State.  Can an athlete respond?
Answer- Yes, as long as it does not indicate commitment to the school
Violation- “@Recruit, Congrats, can’t wait for you to get here!”
Permissible- “@Recruit, that’s awesome, congrats!”

Question- Your athlete was high school teammates with a recruit.  May she call the recruit and talk about volleyball?’
Answer- Yes, provided it was not at the direction of the institution
Violation- Telling your athlete that the recruit is big time, and she needs to reach out to her.
Permissible- The athlete calling on her own accord to talk about a big rivalry game.

General Guidelines

Student-athletes and recruits may publicly communicate, provided it does not relate to recruitment and not at the direction of the institution

There are no restrictions on publicity after the recruit officially commits

It is the job of the coaching staff to make sure no violations are committed by student-athletes.