Day 5 in Italy: Tough Loss to Serbia

Aug. 29, 2009, 11:57 p.m. (ET)

Aug. 29, 2009

The joys of yesterday’s win was replaced by the bitter taste of defeat as a good Serbian team played very well and handled our young team and defeated us 25-17, 18, 18. We had trouble passing the jump floats and that put pressure on our siding out. Starters today were Micah Christenson (S),  Dylan Davis and Spencer Rowe (MB), Taylor Sander and Jeremy Dejno (OH), Josh Taylor (Opp) and Evan Mottram (L).  Taylor Crabb and Maurice Torres came into set two and both performed well.  

Our outside hitting, which was so good yesterday, was not solid today. Our middles connected better with Micah today, but we were running on about 3 1/2 of six cylinders and that was not good enough.  Serbia's hitters with their quick arms blasted around and through our block, which for the most part was getting beat all day.  Our confidence eroded and that was all she wrote.

We now play Japan at 10am tomorrow and face a MUST WIN situation. We have to be 2-1 to advance to the top eight AND we need this same Serbia team to defeat Iran. If we all end up 2-1, we will most likely be out as ties are broken by point differential (points for divided by points given up).  We beat Iran but scored fewer points overall as a result of our set two drubbing.

India upset Brazil today to push the latter into the bottom eight and that French team I spoke of yesterday was defeated by Spain and their fate was the same.

Weather was cooler today and it felt better to walk outside and not sweat.  The Italian version of the Blue Angels has been buzzing the skies here in Jesolo and it has added a different excitement.  

 It is hard for the layman to imagine (unless you have been there, done that) the amount of hours that goes into coaching a volleyball match. We can imagine the match itself because we have all seen a volleyball "match.”. But it is hard to imagine the amount of preparation hours that go into coaching one volleyball match.

This morning my roommate on this trip, Chris Birch (statistician) left for the gym with Assistant Coach Sean Byron at 8:30AM. Along with them, they carried a video camera, computer and several "scouting" charts - pieces of blank paper with courts printed on them next to several areas for notes. This sheet is blank when the match begins and looks like a bad case of Chinese hieroglyphics when complete. They will be there through our match at 12:30 and remain through the second pool this afternoon (two more matches) - 11 hours in the gym watching, coaching and charting. They did this yesterday as well and will do it again tomorrow. That will end the first round and then it begins again in the secondary pool and continues until the final match of the tournament.

After our match, Coach Read will watch highlights of our team and determine areas of weakness that could be worked on in practice or at least adjusted before game time. When they return to the hotel, Sean puts his charts together and Chris syncs the videos together and pulls up the stats from his computer and they combine it and give it all to Andy. Andy will probably watch the films at least twice, probably more and come up with a game plan. 

Sometimes the films are watched "raw" - real time game film. But mostly the films are spliced and broken down into each of the six rotations. Volleyball is a game of six rotations as the players must change positions subtly by rotating clockwise. Each is different and has its own personality and each needs to be analyzed with percentages, strengths and tendencies. Along with the films, players are given an in-depth scouting report. Before the match, more video is shown. This could be highlights of our good plays, the same film that was shown the night before, or a condensed version of attackers and servers.  And this goes on for EVERY match. 

The advances in technology have made this process much quicker. Gary Sato (an assistant coach with Marv Dunphy in the 84-88' quadrennium and, our current U.S. men’s assistant coach with Alan Knipe) tells stories of watching the sun come up morning after morning as films and scouting reports were getting done in the VHS and paper days. The digital age and computers have actually cut the preparation hours down. Heck, Dan Friend who is in charge of offense and game preparation had been in bed at least three hours before the sun came up this morning.  And he probably left Andy in front of a computer screen.

Our guest blogger today is Josh Taylor.  Josh is one of our opposites, lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and will be a junior at Punahou High School.

What an honor being able to represent a country like ours. Countless times we have been told and live by the motto, "We are USA!" This happens to be my first time playing for the United States and playing overseas. Coming from the little island of Oahu, like two of my other teammates, this is an amazing experience. Not many Americans get to say, "We just played Iran, the defending world champions," or "We got to go to Jesolo, Italy to play other countries in the World Championship."

A couple of things that make this experience unforgettable are the coaches and the guys that you play with. Our coaching staff could not be better this year. All three of our coaches work together to find ways to make it possible to win the world games. The countless hours scouting and putting together reports on the other teams and players is time they put forth to make this game fun for us. Don’t forget our stats guy Chris. He makes getting to learn the other teams tendencies possible.

Along with a great coaching staff our team couldn't have a better group of guys. Many if not all of these guys will be playing at high levels of the sport and excelling. Not only do they have the God-given skill to play the sport, they each have great character, which makes it very easy to play with them. Whether we are on or off the court, every moment is a memorable one. If we are not going all out on the court to win, we are hanging out having a good time with one another. This will be a team that I will always remember. GO USA!

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