bleedCrimson.net: You had a very successful opening weekend going 3-0 in a very competitive tournament. Your thoughts on the overall weekend?
Mike Jordan: I was excited that we finished 3-0 and we played three good teams. We did enough to win and when you're playing good teams early anything can happen. I think every coach in the tournament from having talked to them, felt like they could go 0-3. Again, it's a nice start for us for sure against some quality competition and hopefully we'll keep it going.
bc.net: In the first match against Wichita State and second match against North Dakota State your team got down by six points late in the fourth and first sets respectively and came back to win those sets. You talked last week about wanting to see how your team competed when they were faced with adversity. You have to be pretty pleased with your team's ability to come back and win both of those sets and eventually those matches.
MJ: We kept competing which was great, that was one of the things we wanted to see and early season teams struggle with certain things. We played bad enough and made some mistakes to get us down but we are also capable of playing at a higher level and we turned it up a notch here and there and managed to say in some games which was great. I think some of that too is we're a very, very physical team so in transition if we play defense well enough and get a quality enough swing we're going to put a lot of pressure on people and we were able to do that late in games.
bc.net: The third match against Northern Illinois started off pretty rough losing the first set 25-12 but your team shook off the bad set and you have to be really thrilled with the way your team finished winning 25-19, 25-16 and 25-10.
MJ: Yeah, NIU played really well in the first set. They really out served and passed us. They played very fast and we were clueless blocking. And when I say clueless, I mean clueless. We got our act together a little bit in between games and settled down a little bit and we were able to physically take over the match from there. Once we figured out what we were doing blocking-wise and started playing good defense against, served it a little tougher, we physically had them outmatched and it shows in the score. Especially with the 19 blocks we had.
bc.net: One of the other things that really stood out is that in all three of the matches you played well in set three and set three is a critical set in the match.
MJ: Yeah we did play well for the most part and one of the things I liked about us is we were patient when things weren't going well. No one hit the panic button, we just kept working to get the ball back and play better defense all the time. I think a lot of our early season issues revolve around ball control. If we're able to take care of the volleyball we've got a whole load of arms we can go to and hopefully we'll be able to do that.
bc.net: Over the course of the three matches your serving was very dominant at times and you had some pretty good runs on serve from a few people, Bradley Nash in the first match against WSU and Ciara Brown had two different long runs on serve in the other two matches.
MJ: Yeah we've been fairly consistent from the line, not always as tough as I'd like but our ace to error ratio is good. I don't know that we out-served anyone. I think other teams put as many aces on the board as we did to them but we certainly didn't serve poorly and coming into the weekend we didn't feel like it was something that was cause for concern. I feel like we're going to be a pretty solid serving team. We stressed it a lot in the summer especially when we went to Europe and saw how tough they serve there. We needed to do a better job individually at the line and players have stepped up and we're seeing some progress from them. I think Bradley's jump serve was really a pleasant surprise for us coming into the season that she's able to jump up again and do that. Then Ciara, we backed her up and we're trying to get her to hit a tough floater and she came up with some key serves for us.
bc.net: What was your overall impression of the new players that you had playing significant minutes for you?
MJ: They're all good athletes and they made plays at times. Hannah Walker gave us some good stability with the ball control which is great. Preslie Alexander gives us a versatile hitter. We've got a couple freshmen, Taylor Livoti and Nathalie Castellanos, that stepped up and made some key plays for us. I think there's a couple more, Jordan Reifsteck in particular, that I think can help us and will help us as we go along.
bc.net: Specifically in terms of the setters what were things that you saw that you were really happy with and what were things that you saw that you want to see improvement in this weekend?
MJ: For the most part they located the ball pretty well. I said one time that if we went through a match and we really didn't notice our setters then they were probably doing a good job. They've got hitters that they can get the ball to and as long as they don't try to do things that they're not capable of doing then we're going to put some pressure on teams and we did that for the most part. I was happy with all three of them.
bc.net: Was there anything that you walked away from the weekend that you were surprised that maybe you were a little ahead of schedule in terms of the team's play?
MJ: Not really, I think I was happy that we were low error offensively. We've struggled with that the last couple of years. When we attacked the ball we attacked it really well and when we needed to just kind of make a shot or keep the ball in play we did that as well. From that standpoint I was happy to see that.
bc.net: What are some things that you've had the team working on this week as you prepare for the home opener?
MJ: We've got to pass it and block better. I think with our size we can be a dominant blocking team if the technique is a little bit better and we pay attention to what's going on on the other side of the net a little bit better. Then the serve receive, trying to find that third and fourth receiver we can depend on. I think everyone improving there is a big deal for us.
bc.net: Opening your home schedule you get Cincinnati, Drake and Northwestern. Three very competitive teams.
MJ: Yeah, Cincinnati is a great team. They lost all three matches the first weekend but they played teams that were all in the Top 15. I think they're the best 0-3 team in the country. They're loaded with good talent and they're all good athletes and they know how to win. They won a lot last year and they're going to be a contender in the Big East and it's going to be a tough match.
Drake is rebuilding and we don't know much about them yet but I'm sure they're going to come in here and compete.
Northwestern is loaded with Big Ten athletes and they play a really efficient, quality style of volleyball. I think they're very well coached and they do a lot of things that can give you problems. It'll be a tough match as well.
bc.net: Do you feel like with the team you have and the players you have this year that you can out-physical any of these three teams?
MJ: I don't know about that. I don't think so. I think Cincinnati and Northwestern are both going to come in here with as many good athletes as we have. They've both very good teams and I don't think we can out-physical them. I think we're going to have to find ways to score and hope our transition game can hold up over the course of an entire match. As far as Drake is concerned, they're rebuilding so they're maybe not going to have as many big, physical athletes as we have but all it takes is two or three of them to play really well and they're be in the game. We can't count on being physically better we've got to count on playing better.
bc.net: What's the most important thing you want to see from your team this weekend?
MJ: Just hopefully we're a little bit better at everything we do. Overnight you're not suddenly going to be a lot more successful and better at certain skills. If we see gradual improvement, if we're a little bit smarter, if we miss fewer assignments, particularly blocking I'll be happy and continue to serve tough and play hard defensively then that's all I can ask for.