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Volleyball Flyby: Been There. Done That. There’s No Crying in Volleyball.
Volleyball Flyby: Been There. Done That. There’s No Crying in Volleyball.
Published by BeckysTXA
Volleyball Flyby: Been There. Done That. There’s No Crying in Volleyball.

My what a difference a year makes. We had to use a 5’8” freshman DS/L as an Outside Hitter for a weekend last year because we had so many players sidelined with illness and injury. We struggled all year to find a cohesive chemistry even when some of the players returned to the rotation. Nobody was calling us a well-oiled machine. Nobody felt sorry for us as injuries piled up instead of victories.

Our opponent this weekend, Loyola Chicago, on the other hand was enjoying a fun ride through the A10 in their first season. Everything looked easy and their wins piled up. They almost had a perfect conference record until the Flyers derailed that by winning one of the three matches last year. However, the Ramblers cruised to both the regular season and conference tournament championships.

This year, the circumstances are almost reversed. There are ten Flyers who have played 80% or more of the sets so far this season. They are Gaby Arroyo, Anna MacDonald, Lexie Almodovar, Amelia Moore, Alyssa Miller, Taylor Russell, Liana Sarkissian, Alayna Yates, Karissa Kaminsky and Emily Young. I consider these players our “standard rotation”. Coach Tim Horsmon reported there are no health concerns and overall health has been good with this group right now. But, he added, “Knock on wood.”

Loyola has had two of their rotation players out with health issues. The first is Senior Libero Grace Hinchman. She missed the three matches two weekends ago, but appeared in all of last weekend’s matches. They only have one other DS/L listed on their roster, who is a freshman. That means most, if not all of their Outside Hitters have to play all six rotations and they probably had a reserve OH playing the defensive specialist or libero spot. There is a reason coaches use DS substitutions. These specialists are just flat out better serve receivers and back row defenders. Loyola has been very thin in this area all year, even with their Senior Libero available, they still only have a freshman DS.

Now remember last year for the Flyers? Our Redshirt Sophomore Libero, Anna Wuensch, did not return this season due to an injury retirement. She wasn’t available much of last season due to injury. We had to use two freshmen, Karissa Kaminsky and Emily Young, to anchor our backrow for the entire year.

Additionally, Loyola’s Graduate Student Middle Blocker Taylor Venuto has been out since the second week of the season. She only played in the first three matches on opening weekend. She was Second Team All-Conference last year. Horsmon did not know the status Venuto for this weekend or the extent of her injury. We were fortunate to have both of our rotation Middle Blockers and two backups available every match last year, but every one of our outside hitters except Grace Dynda missed weeks of matches – Lexie, Brooke Smith, Taylor and Mia Otten.

As defending A10 Champions, Loyola does return several key players that are healthy, starting with Player of the Year Senior OH Karlie McNabb and Junior Setter of the Year Bree Borum. Both will be playing to defend their status as the best in the A10.

“They are both really good competitors.” Horsmon said. “McNabb is a really aggressive, smart outside hitter who point-scores at a high level. Borum is a really well-rounded player who can set, attack, and is a good defender as well. With some of their attackers being out, she does a great job of scoring even as a setter.”

As mentioned, Dayton had our DS/L retire because of injury and we graduated an OH. Last year our roster had 16 players. This season we have 18. Loyola had four players graduate last season, they lost one player to the portal and had another not return. They had 18 players last year and only 15 this season of which five are freshmen. Dayton has four first year freshmen, of which it appears two will be redshirt candidates, one is starting and one is a walk-on setter. Dayton is not only healthy this season, but much deeper in experienced players than last season. In the North Dakota match last weekend, we showed some of that depth. Horsmon said the coaching staff was impressed with both Brooke Smith and Lindsey Winner.

“Brooke Smith obviously had a really good offensive match on Saturday,” Horsmon noted. “It was fun to watch her compete and play. I thought her scoring decisions were impressive to our staff.

“Lindsey Winner is always ready to play and showed that she makes us a better team,” he said. “She’s had a really good fall and offensively is much improved over even a year ago.”

Lindsey hit .333 on 9 swings and had 2 blocks for a solid performance at MB. Brooke was off-the-charts good at OH. She took 15 swings with only one error and hit .533 with 9 kills and 3 digs in 2 sets played. That is just outstanding.

Last year the conference went to scheduling two matches in two days with the same team for 8 of the 9 conference opponents. (The 9th opponent is the closest, so we play Duquesne twice in a mid-week showdown during the season.) Horsmon said they only have to prepare for one opponent for the weekend, but there are always adjustments for the second match.

“We prepare for the weekend playing only one opponent, and then after the first match we are able to go back, watch (video) and make adjustments and tweaks as needed,” he explained.

We go in not knowing if Venuto will play. The Flyers have never played in Loyola’s gym. We can bet McNabb and Borum will be ready to defend their home court and their championship status. I’d say there will be a very vocal student section. But we are a deeper team with more experience player-for-player and we are healthy. Then there is that little thing called being ranked #23 in the nation. I expect a dog-fight both days. But I like our chances a lot more than last year at this time and we gave them our own dog-fight derailing their perfect conference season. We are a heck of a lot better team today than last year. Nobody felt sorry for the Flyers last year as the injuries piled up instead of the wins. Same this year for Loyola. We’ve been there, done that and lived to fight another day. There’s no crying in volleyball. It’s time to take back control of the A10.
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By Chris R on 09-20-2023, 09:15 PM
Loyolas injuries have hurt them but they should not be on a 8 game losing streak no matter what. We need to not slip up here and take our foot off the gas.
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By BeckysTXA on 09-21-2023, 02:10 PM
Chris I agree. No one is more shocked than I to find LOY at the bottom of the A10 with a 2-9 record. And I have not seen one point if their matches this season. But when I dug into it and found they have total of 2 DS/Liberos on the roster and one is a freshman and the other has missed matches it drives home 2 points for me. First is if you can’t pass the ball and serve receive you are out if system way too often and the defense knows where you are going with those balls. It doesn’t matter if you have the returning SOY and POY to terminate…if you can’t pass, it’s very hard to terminate points. Second is my long standing pet peeve with volleyball. Passing is so important. Every coach will tell you that. Every team scores passing stats on a 0 to 3 point system. Sure it’s somewhat subjective but so is a “team” receiving error and those percentages are in the stats. I have no idea what a good or bad passing score is because I have never seen one. But if it was part of the Box Score it would sure as heck help fans understand the game better. And in this case, fans would know and understand if LOY’s passing grade was low what the issue is with their team this year. Hypothetically, they have no one that can get the ball to the setter. It’s not like publishing this stat is going to tip off the next opponent. Dayton (And vice-versa) has already broken down every Loyola players passing score. That’s how they figure out who to serve to - those that have problems passing, etc. it’s the fans that are left out in the cold. If you want to grow the game, help the fans understand it.
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