LUBBOCK, Texas - After picking up its first win of the season, Texas Tech (1-5) heads to Tulsa for its final non-conference matches of the 2009 season at the Tulsa Radisson Airport Invitational, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11-12.
At the second consecutive tournament named for a Radisson Airport hotel venue, Tech will face Gonzaga (2-4), Stephen F. Austin (5-4) and Tulsa (6-1) before returning home to prepare for Big 12 play. (Links to each team are active and are available at the "Volleyball Information Central" site from the main Volleyball page of this Web site.)
Playing the Squads Alphabetically
Tech will face Gonzaga on Friday, Sept. 11 as the first match of the event at 4:30 p.m., then will play Stephen F. Austin on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and will conclude with the final match of the tournament versus host, Tulsa, on Saturday at 7 p.m. Whether or not the tournament organizers intended for Tech to face the opponents alphabetically is unclear, nor is it clear if folks place SFA alphabetically under "Stephen" or "Austin" but, these issues are not at all important, but they are fun to notice.
Gonzaga (which is pronounced Gon ZAG uh -- zag, like goes with zig) is coached by Dave Gantt in his first season at the Spokane-based institution. Tech is 1-2 all-time versus the Bulldogs, but the teams haven't met since 1993 when each of the competitors in the 2009 versions of both squads where only toddlers.
Gonzaga is led offensively by Layne Brosky whose 3.41 kills-per-set averages also boasts a .342 hitting efficiency mark. Deni Van de Mortel guides the attack and has 195 assists on the season.
Stephen F. Austin (which is named after the person who is called the "Father of Texas") is coached by Debbie Humphreys in her 22nd season at the Nacogdoches-based institution. (For those of you who guessed it was located in Austin, tsk tsk.) Tech holds an 11-1 all-time advantage with the Lady jacks. The Red Raiders only loss to SFA was on Sept. 19 last season.
Madison Hanlan anchors the defense for SFA with 120 digs through nine matches for the Lady jacks, good for a 4.00 digs-per-set average. Paloma Buckner (197 assists, 6.57 per set) and Laurel Kuepker (123 assists, 4.10 per set) spread the ball around for the offense.
The University of Tulsa (which was originally founded in Muskogee, Okla. in 1882, moved to Tulsa in 1907) is coached by Ed Allen in his fourth season with the Golden Hurricane. Tech never has lost to Tulsa and is 4-0 all-time, however, the last meeting of the two teams was in 1990 when some of the members of each team weren't even born, so that hardly seems relevant.
Jennifer Eichler has 100 kills thus far this season (which is very nicely round), good for a 4.17 kills-per-set average and sports a .333 hitting efficiency as well. Setter duties for the Golden Hurrican are split by Rachel Vukson (5.17 assists-per-set) and Jordan Clampitt (6.12 assists-per-set).
What About Tech?
Texas Tech's Amanda Dowdy has 55 kills (2.89 per set) and Barbara Conceicao has 45 (2.37 per set) to lead the squad offensively. Karlyn Meyers has a 7.05 assist-per-set average in guiding the offense and currently ranks 8th in the Big 12 in block assists with a 1.11 per set average. Defensively, freshman libero Tory Vaughan has 43 digs on the season, good for a 2.26 digs-per-set average. Thus far, Tech strongest tool is its blocking game as the team ranks third-best in the Big 12 in putting up their arms at the net with solid timing. Conceicao's 1.47 actually leads the Big 12 and someone ought to write about that.
I Was Told There Would Be No Math
Statistically, it can be difficult to explain volleyball stats and coaches have been trying to make it easier for lay-folks to understand by implementing a points per game average which shows only positive numbers (i.e., things like kills, blocks, digs having a point value). However, it still has fractions and thus hasn't caught on yet. The key thing to remember about Volleyball is that because all scoring is now rally-type, everything a player does, good or bad, has a consequence on the score. A kill is worth a point and an error is worth a point to the opponent. Hitting efficiencies are calculated by subtracting the error from the kills and then dividing by the attempts, which seems easy enough to understand, but hard to compare. For example, the straightforward batting average in baseball has no counterpart to the error in volleyball.
So when reading statistics, it's important to keep the concept of mistakes in mind, because those errors result in a point against the team. The fact, then, that the Red Raiders have 28 aces to only 48 service errors, compared to 28 service aces and 60 service errors by opponents, means that Tech has achieved 12 points more than their opponents have in the serving game, which makes that a highlight of the 2009 team heading into week three.
Finding the Six Who Can Dance Together
Volleyball is a funny sport. It's a sport that is so dependent on timing and "choreography" that a coach has to find that right combination of six people who can move together in a sort of dance. Ask anyone who's watched "Dancing with the Stars" it can be tough enough to find two people who can dance in unison, try getting six of them to move with unity and you begin to understand why Texas Tech head coach Trish Kissiar-Knight hasn't had the same exact lineup twice. But the dance is improving and the squad is competing in nearly every point regardless of which six is on the floor.
I've Clicked My Heels, When Do I Get to Come Home?
The 2009 Tech Volleyball team begins Big 12 competition next week on the road on Wednesday at Nebraska. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 2 p.m., the team gets to play on its home floor at the United Spirit Arena.