Saturday, September 14, 2013

Volleyball Struggles Continue

The second UTA-hosted tournament, this one the Hilton Maverick Classic, is completed and in the books. Like the last tournament in Waco, it ends the same, UTA wins one and loses two. The win was a against a SWAC team, one of, if not the worst volleyball conferences in Division I where there is little seperation between the teams.

Its the two losses and how they happened that are a little hard to take.

UTSA is expected to be a contender for the Conference USA championship. They received first place votes in the preseason poll. Losing to them, (25-16, 25-23, 25-25, 25-20) a really good team, not elite, but solid, isn't that bad. UTA won a set versus the 'Runners. But here's my problem, and its one I keep going back to when talking Mav volleyball results: There are too many mental lapses, mistakes that a seasoned team shouldn't make. Sometimes a good opponent can make you make mistakes. However, all the losses and some sets in wins have had the same trend.

In their one set win over San Antonio, UTA was clearly firing on all cylinders. Their attack percentage was fantastic at .406. In the other sets, all losses, they hit .071, .125 and .028. Meanwhile, UTSA in all sets hit pretty consistently, all but one at or above .250.

I'll explain what attack percentage is. The formula is (kills minus errors) divided by chances. Here is an example: After a serve, the ball is dug out by the libero, the setter gets underneath it and sets it to the outside hitter, who hits it over the net. That is an attack chance. If the ball falls to the court in bounds or is touched by an opposing player and hits the ground anywhere, it is a kill. If the ball hits out-of-bounds and isn't touched by an opposing player or hits the net, it is an attack error. If the opposing team digs out the ball, it is nothing but a chance. Two kills and one error in four chances equals a .250 attack percentage.

It is a bit more complicated than this simplistic explanation, but I think it is enough to cover the basics.

So the fact that UTA hit .406 and won by only two while UTSA'a attack percentage was still even with their other wins really illustrates the up and down of this team. Good teams like UTSA can still attack consistently, whether they win or lose. Their fluctuations will be small. For UTA, whent hey win, their attack percentage is above average and when they lose it is below.

That's the problem, there is no average with UTA. If they could find that consistency and play average, they would have success. The streakiness this team plays with has to be figured out and corrected.

For UTA, the opposing teams really seem to control whether the Mavs hit well or not. I'm not going to speculate why, I really don't know. It could be their blockers dictate how we hit, the team can't handle the better teams pace or players, not being well prepared, a combo of those or some other reason. Regardless, it is an issue.

A straight set sweep of a SWAC school was nice, but completely expected. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, on the other hand, really shows how the UTA program has fallen.

It wasn't the fact that they were swept at home, though that hurts. It wasn't because the Islanders were picked seventh of 12 teams in a below average SLC, though that obviously festers too.

The biggest reason this loss shows our downward spiral is the series history. UTA has now played the Islanders 17 times. We have won a total of 14 of those matches. They, however have won the last three. In 2011, they swept the season series and, with a 3-6 record, won the match today. Not only won it, but swept UTA in the process of winning.

Same song different verse. UTA was competitive, as they tallied 20 or points in all three sets, but every set featured a large Corpus Christi run that ultimately doomed UTA. Corpus hit while .275, .220 and .190UTA's were .179, .152 and ,053. It is very hard to win when a team attacks so poorly.

It is just really frustrating knowing UTA, once a volleyball powerhouse in the state, has been reduced to losing to middle of the pack SLC teams. I would say that even if we were still in the SLC. I just hope there is a remedy to fix the downward spiral.

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