bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Jordan Interview :: 11/06/17

bleedCrimson.net: You picked up a pair of wins over the weekend and it was the best offensive performance you've had from your middles all season and I'm sure something you've been waiting to see for quite a while.
Mike Jordan: Yeah, we're working hard at point scoring in other spots besides Sasha and our outside hitters. When Brielle Sterns was in the lineup before she got hurt and obviously Jordan Abalos before she got hurt, we had five players right away that could score points. We knew Lia Mosher would eventually get to that point this season where she could score more for us and that's starting to happen. But obviously you want as many players in the lineup that can score as possible. It just makes life so much easier. To our players' credit, they're all working hard at adjusting their games and making themselves more available, especially in transition in the middle. We're finding them and they're doing good things.

bc.net: Megan Hart had arguably the best back-to-back games that she's had maybe in her entire time at NMSU. What allowed her to have, I don't know if you want to call it a breakout but certainly her best weekend overall?
MJ: It's been part of the goal of this group, to make everyone a little bit better offensively, to do a little bit more. She's working harder at attacking with more pace and she's put some heat on the ball and she's done very well. There's a reason we recruited her. She's 6-4, 6-5 and she has arm speed. She's just got to be more aggressive and make herself more available more often and she can score. We're happy to see some progress. I'm hopeful that it'll continue.

bc.net: What else stood out about your team's performance in the two matches last weekend?
MJ: Defensively we've been digging the ball pretty well. We had very few moments of people being in the wrong spots. I think people are following game plans a little better. We talked a few weeks back about how important that is and how we felt our team was struggling in that area. I think they're working a little bit harder at that as a group. I think those things, that and offensively we can come at you in so many different ways and we're doing that. I think those are the two things that stand out right now for me.

bc.net: Heading into these final two matches of conference play before the WAC tournament, do you feel like your team is hitting a stride?
MJ: I feel like we're getting better. It's small improvements but that's the way this game works. It's impossible to go from a below average attacker to an above average attacker in the span of a few weeks. You can't do that. For a lot of people it can take two years, it's a process but there's change and development and progress and confidence building and I think those things are starting to happen in some of our players. Juliana Salanoa for instance, the speed of the game was too great for her. Where she came from she only hit high balls in the middle of the floor. To attack all this quick stuff we do, it's been a tough change for her but even though she hasn't been playing much recently, in practice we're seeing some pretty significant improvements and she's scoring more. It's not just the Megan Harts of the work or Lia Moshers that you see the progress. It's some players behind the scenes and eventually they're going to hopefully have their own breakout game.

bc.net: This season has broken up into almost four different segments as opposed to having just a non-conference and a conference because of the various injures that your team has had to deal with. First playing without Jordan Abalos and then playing without Jordan Abalos and Brielle Sterns and adjusting to that. How difficult has that been for the coaching staff and the team?
MJ: Well, we all know injuries are part of the game and you just have to play the hand you're dealt. Our lineup in what we're doing isn't what I thought it would be in August obviously but that's part of the excitement of it too. A little bit of a chess match and the ability to adapt which I think really falls on the players' shoulders. Megan Hart spent all spring on the right and the first part of the season on the right and then we lose two middles in Brielle and Hannah for the season and she's back in the middle. So, it's not easy to do but our players and our team is coachable and they're willing to play where they're needed and that's a real positive. No one's fighting doing what's best for the team. I think we're seeing progress because of that and players are learning to develop their games and do the things necessary to win and we're winning and that's fun.

bc.net: This week you take on Grand Canyon and Bakersfield. You've got a chance to do what you set out from the start of the season, to win a regular season championship. What do you see from your team this week and the two matches against GCU and Bakersfield.
MJ: I think both of these road matches will be difficult. Grand Canyon is so much better than their record indicates. I think they don't have a lot of weapons but they play good volleyball. They don't hurt themselves. You never see seven, eight, nine attack errors in a set from them. They force you to play. I think they play good D, they serve it fairly well. They're not a bad blocking team. I wouldn't say they're good but they just don't hurt themselves. Teams that serve well and keep you in long rallies, they're always a threat to win.

Bakersfield is a little the same. They run on emotion. They're very good at home. They always have been. It's a difficult place to play. The lighting is dark and they've got a blue court. It's just so different in there than you normally see. Melo's teams are always prepared and compete hard and they've got some weapons. It's going to be two tough road matches.

Both teams are fighting still for things. Grand Canyon needs two wins to stay in the conversation for the WAC tournament and Bakersfield is fighting for one of the top seeds. We expect both matches to be competitive.

From our standpoint, just continuing the growth and making everybody a viable offensive weapon, hopefully we'll go in there and compete hard. Obviously we're competing for another regular season title and that's exciting.

bc.net: We haven't talked at all about this but this is your 20th season as the head coach of New Mexico State. You are one of just 23 coaches at the Division I level who has coached 20 years or more and spent their entire coaching career at the same school. When you started out, did you imagine that you'd spend 20 years at the same school?
MJ: No, I wasn't sure what to expect. I love living here, I love the warm weather, the people, the job's a challenge all the time. Obviously my wife is from here, loves it here and has a great career. That's a huge part of it. We feel truly fortunate to do what I get to do for a living and have a lot of support here. It's home and I think it'll always be home. Chris Lamb the head coach at Wichita State and I go back a long time and we've talked about this. One of the things we say is, "why try to be happier than happy?"

bc.net: Obviously in 20 years you've seen a lot of change in the sport of volleyball. What are some things that really stand out to you about the way the sport has changed?
MJ: The scoring changes, going from side-out scoring and going from 15 points to 30 points back to 25. The advent of the libero, it's a much different game. I think the one thing that I constantly think about when we're playing is allowing the double contacts on the first contact of a rally. Back in the day, it was going to get called all the time and now you can pretty much do what you want on the first contact. I see it evolving into something else still. I think they'll allow double contacts on the second contact as well pretty soon. It'll take judgement out of the hands of the official which is a good thing and allow freedom of play. Someone who is a bit of traditionalist, I find myself, I can't believe I'm saying it but I think it's the right thing for the sport and I'm pretty excited to see where it keeps going.

bc.net: Obviously the conference affiliation has changed, from the Big West to the Sun Belt to the WAC and three different WACs. You've essentially been in five different conferences over your 20 years. What are some of the challenges with that that you've had to face?
MJ: The first obviously is the travel. Just the distance we have to cover and amount of time on the road. It's frustrating sometimes and it's tiring, especially as I get older, I want to be at home more but I think the other part is the recruiting aspect of it too. When Hawaii was in the conference it was such a name brand in the volleyball world, it was exciting for recruits and there were some really good geographical rivalries as well with Utah State and Fresno State and some of those teams. Not having that anymore changed recruiting a bit for, it made it more difficult in some ways. But you can't worry about what you can't control. I've said it before, I think the rest of the WAC, certainly in our sport, is improving and has a lot of room for growth and some of them are becoming good volleyball programs and good athletic programs.

bc.net: You mentioned the recruiting, what's been maybe one of the biggest changes you've seen in the type of players who are playing now versus the type of players who were playing 20 years ago?
MJ: I think there's a lot more skill out there. The club level and high school level is doing a much better job of preparing players from a skill standpoint. Unfortunately the rules haven't followed suit. They allow what seems like a million substitutions at the high school and club level and they have two liberos in club. It's sort of created all of these specializations. You have more and more players, that have never been in the back row positions before but could become very good back row players, they just haven't done it because it's easier to keep the small libero type players back there. So that's frustrating, I wish the rules would help create a little more versatile volleyball players. I think that's a big deal.

bc.net: You've had a lot of great wins over the 20 years. What are three or four of your favorite wins?
MJ: I think the first win over a ranked team back in 2003, we beat Santa Barbara. That was special. Santa Barbara, we had been in the Big West together when I first started and they were a tremendous program and beat the daylights out of us those first couple of years. Then we made the jump to the Sun Belt and were getting better and it was a good opportunity for us to make a statement that we had become a good program. That 2003 team was pretty special. They won that first conference championship and beat Western Kentucky, that was a big deal and that was at Western Kentucky as well. Those two stand out for sure. The two Hawaii wins, the one in '06, the one that ended their 10 year run of WAC wins, that was obviously a phenomenal night. Sweeping them at their place in '08 was a big deal. They obviously won a ton of matches against us but we did have some really good matches with them, quite a few of them went to five. I just thought it was a fun rivalry and it was competitive and it was good teams. We were good enough in a lot of those years to go to the NCAA tournament as an at-large which was a big deal. It hasn't happened much in a lot of the sports here at NMSU. I'm pretty proud of those teams. And also our first NCAA tournament win over Saint Mary's in 2008.