DOC VOLLEYBALL: Finding their Fight (An Analysis of the UPWVT)
AJ Pareja on Feb 20, 2018 07:51 PM
Season 80 has been a nightmare for the UP Lady Maroons as they currently rank last for both service and receive overall.
Four matches into the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament and the UP Lady Maroons are nowhere near their spectacular start from last season. With a record of one win and three straight losses, UP is little by little trailing behind the middle of the pack as teams continue to best each other in perhaps the most unpredictable season so far. Despite having only a few key losses in Nicole Tiamzon and Kathy Bersola from last season, the Lady Maroons squad, which is now under new head coach Godfrey Okumu, has yet to find the answers to match last season’s scintillating start that boasted of a 4-0 run, highlighted by an upset over La Salle.
In terms of net play skills such as attacks and blocks, the Season 80 squad of UP is not too different from their former self. Given former Queen Maroon Bersola’s main contributions to the team last year are her blocks and attacks from the middle, the team’s current ranking in blocks is still similar from last year at 6th place overall. Likewise, the dip from 4th to 6th ranking in attacking percentage this season cannot be solely due to Bersola and Tiamzon’s exit, but more of the factors that lead up to a successful attack such as setting and more importantly, the first ball pass.
Undoubtedly, the team still possesses a significant threat to the top seeds of the current season given that they can do better executions. What made them a force to be reckoned with early on last Season 79 was their remarkable control of their service and receive aspect in which they were first and second, respectively at the similar juncture of four matches. Season 80 has been a nightmare for UP as they currently rank last for both service and receive overall.
Throughout all their losses so far against DLSU, ADU, and FEU, it is glaringly obvious that the lack of efficiency in UP’s passing especially when the seams between passers are targeted. Despite Ayel Estranero showing better mastery of her shoot sets that Tots Carlos can easily hammer down given a good pass, the Lady Maroons however have struggled with their first ball as passes are either too tight into the net or cause poor platform establishment, resulting to a lot of shank passes.
In their recent match against the FEU Lady Tamaraws, Coach Godfrey brought back Justine Dorog as libero to man the floor defense. In addition, he used a different passing pattern in which the back row middle passer was further into the attack line than pushed back near the end line resulting to an inverted triangle with its apex towards the net. The adjustment worked for UP early on in the first set as FEU wasn't too aggressive with their serve, most going to exact zones where the passers are positioned. Towards the mid to end game though, the Lady Tamaraws were able to squeeze in a few aces and tough serves when they targeted the seams between passers. FEU coach George Pascua was quick to notice this lapse and readily exploited these targets care of hard floaters from Chin Basas and Kyle Negrito to control the rest of the match.
Theoretically, the new passing pattern utilized by coach Godfrey is highly applicable given that the serving pattern by almost all teams in the league are heavy on targeting zone 6 spare for a number of players who can serve consistently hard on zones 1 and 5. UP’s Carlos was actually successful with both her forearm and overhead passes on short zone 6 balls on a few occasions while Justine Dorog chipped in a couple of excellent passes for corner serves. Where the team falls short however is the consistent execution of the pattern as the squad struggles with area designation and awareness. UP had a tough time redirecting the angle of hard driven serves upward causing some overpasses and broken plays. In addition, in the instances that the serve is targeted towards the seams, the UP passers can't seem to determine who’s responsible for the area leading to delayed forearm platform establishment, which again causes either overpasses or shanks.
Moving forward, the challenge for the team is undoubtedly just getting their rhythm and consistency with their passing as their digging and setting efficiency is still commendable ranking third and second overall, respectively. Coach Godfrey is definitely right in considering a passing pattern apt for the league’s general serving tendencies, but such pattern requires utmost consistency and discipline in defending the seams. With such a system, the Lady Maroons need to know who is responsible for what balls as well as better tracking of the serve to timely establish their forearm platform. Once the Lady Maroons get their passing groove in the soonest possible time, it wouldn't be too long until setter Estranero gets her middles involved in the pitch, making the team as threatening as their season 79 form.