Volleyball Wraps Up Spring Practice
May 13, 2003
CORVALLIS, Ore. - It's time for the changing of the guard for Oregon State volleyball, and the spring season was the perfect opportunity to begin the transition process.
The Beavers lost eight of the 16 players who were on the 2002 roster - including several seniors who had started for three or four years.
With just eight players during the spring training period, which ended last Friday, the Beavers were limited in numbers but not opportunities.
In fact, the smaller roster has its advantages, coach Nancy Somera said.
'With only eight players, the number of reps everyone has gotten has increased,' Somera said. 'Our practices have been about two hours, including a 20-minute warm-up and stretch, and I'm not leaving thinking we haven't gotten everything done.'
That's a good sign, considering the limited experience the group has. Of the eight, only two have full-time starting experience. Laura Collins has been the team's starting setter the last two years, and Allison Lawrence started every match as an outside hitter last season, but none of the other six has been a starter for a full season. Outside hitter Karah Rhoades and middle blockers Katelyn Healy and Amanda Eggert started several matches last year when injuries set in, so they do have some starting experience. In addition, Anne Watts-Roberts was a starting outside hitter at Montana State for two years, but she had to sit out last year because of transfer rules and hasn't yet competed at the Pac-10 level.
The smaller roster limited practices to drills since there weren't enough players to have six-on-six scrimmages, but again, Somera found there were advantages in the situation.
'Drills were much more more coach-controlled and initiated, and you sometimes forget how effective that can be in team training. When you have a gym full of players you want everyone to get as many touches on the ball as you can, so there is a tendency to run a more player-initiated practice,' Somera said. 'When they actually did get a chance to play six-on-six in the tournaments we played, they were eager and fired up. It was nice to see that attitude and spirit.'
OSU played its strongest spring competition this year. The Beavers faced four 2002 NCAA tournament teams (UC-Santa Barbara, Utah, Penn State and Stanford) in the 10 matches they played.
'We won some, and we lost some, but we were always competitive and playing hard,' Somera said of the spring matches. 'More importantly, we did a better job of making adjustments throughout games and matches, and I think the team understands better now that if you can do that while maintaining a certain level of play on your side, you can beat anybody.'
Overall, Somera was impressed with what she saw from the team in the spring.
'This was one of the most productive springs we've had. There has been significant improvement in all the players,' she said. 'Inevitably, the spring season is when you really start to see a difference in the players who are finishing up their second year here. You can really see a maturation in their game. Their understanding of the game of volleyball is at a higher level, and they can keep up with the pace of the game better. They took their game to a more sophisticated level this spring, and they're learning that this is a really fun game when you're in control.'
The team focused on several things throughout the spring, including a new floor defense that may be used in the fall. They've switched some things around on blocking, working on swing blocking to better utilize OSU's quickness and athleticism to make up for the team's lack of size.
Offensively, the team has been working more on its back-row attacking and has been running a 6-2 offense during the spring, with Collins and Desma Stovall sharing the setting duties.
It's hard to say what the lineup will look like during the regular season, since the team will have six freshmen in the mix this fall, but Somera said she may keep the 6-2 offense as opposed to the 5-1 offense the team has typically used.
'I do like how we look with both setters out there. Laura's a very good attacker who actually ran a 6-2 in high school and club. We had to teach her the 5-1 offense when she got here,' Somera said. 'Transition setting is really good with both setters on the floor, but our ball control will determine what we do.'
All in all, though, Somera feels the progress the team made this spring will carry over to the fall.
'We've laid a good foundation for the season. New leaders emerged and the maturity of the eight returners is really going to help make the transition for the six freshmen easier,' she said. 'A lot of our attention is going to be focused on getting our freshmen to learn our system. The self-discipline and self-correcting that the upperclassmen are showing is going to serve as good role-modeling for the freshmen.'