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Aug. 9, 2012

The 2012 Virginia volleyball team has started preseason training and our student-athletes will be providing insight each day. The Cavaliers open the season Aug. 24-25 at the Colorado State Tournament in Fort. Collins, Colo.

Wednesday, August 22 – Freshman Manon Greskovics-Fuller

Fifteen days ago volleyball pre-season 2012 began, marking the next generation of University of Virginia Volleyball under a new staff and leadership. At our opening meeting on August 8, Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt made a point that pre-season 2012 would test us both physically and mentally. Looking back on every day since then, every girl would agree that pre-season was an emotional roller coaster, with many ups and down, not enough sleep, and soreness… everywhere. But through this process every girl grew both as a person and a player. We all became closer as a team and realized what it meant to work hard and put in full effort on the court and in the weight room.

On the last day of pre-season, we had a hard team lift with Bill (Miller) for an hour and then all the first-years had the whole afternoon to move into our new dorms in Watson-Webb and Balz-Dobie. The second-years were extremely helpful with driving us all around to pick up our dorm keys and luggage. We all settled into our dorms well and then all went out to dinner as a team and prepared for our last session before we leave for our season opener against Colorado State University. The last three hours of pre-season mainly consisted of competitive drills including 6 vs. 6 where the team fixed small things in preparation for the big match. We ended around 10, feeling prepared and excited for the Colorado State Tournament.

Tuesday, August 21 – Junior Hannah Coleman

Today, we had the morning off to do rehab and rest. It was an excellent chance to recover and get some of our injuries under control. The first session of the day was a short, but efficient practice that focused on serving and passing. It was similar to what our pregame serve and pass will be like. Although it was only an hour and a half, we accomplished a lot and definitely improved on our passing.

Our second practice focused more on competition. We started with rotating partner pepper, and then we switched to a favorite drill of ours, continuous triples, where two teams rotate after each hit, playing to 50. This drill is very competitive, and it can get very intense. After that, we worked on our side out percentage by competing six on six in specific game situations. The first side was able to side out at a very high percentage. All of us are getting very excited to leave for Colorado and to play our first match.

Monday, August 20 – Sophomore Abbey Welborn

Today in our first practice we worked a lot on serve recieve and defense. The coaches really stress the importance of serving and passing so we tend to do a lot of that throughout every practice. After we got a good amount of balls passed we moved on to team defense. We began with my favorite drill, coach on 5. Coaches (Dennis) Hohenshelt and (Aaron) Smith hit, tipped, threw, and occasionally kicked balls (Coach Smith’s go to) as we had to recover them and turn them into perfect sets for our hitters. The drill had a very high intensity and really kept us on our toes and ready to play any kind of ball.

In the next session, Coach Hohenshelt allowed Coach Smith and Coach (Stevie) Mussie to run the practice. We did some dig and set drills, 5 vs. 5, and lastly our 6 vs. 6. The night sessions are always fun because we get to take the skills we learn from previous practices and bring them into our game. I can see a lot of improvement from each individual player as everyone continues to buy into the new systems and new forms brought by the coaches. I cannot wait for the Colorado State tournament coming up in a few days.

Sunday, August 19 – Sophomore Tori Janowski

After a the night off and a good night’s rest, we all came to the gym into the gym ready to work. Both the players and coaches were pleased with our performance in the Blue and Orange Scrimmage, but we are all hungry to get better. We began our first practice of the day with our regular warm-ups and then began pepper drills with partners. While we peppered, Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt met with each of us individually and told us what we have been doing well and what we need to work on in this upcoming week. This helps all of us stay focused and productive in each practice.

With our first game against Colorado State right around the corner, we started scouting their offense while also working on our defense and hitting out of system balls…it was a pretty productive practice. We came back for our second and last session of the day well rested and fed (thanks to the AWESOME chefs at JPJ!). We spent a good deal of time working on our serving and passing game…everyone knows that you can’t succeed in volleyball unless you serve and pass well! We ended the session with a few controlled scrimmages; these are perfect for
trying out new rotations, switching players around and using skills practiced throughout the day.

All of us are excited for this upcoming week of practices and prepping for our first tournament this weekend…it should be a great week!

Saturday, August 18 – Freshman Kayla Sears

After a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast provided by the coaches, we had our Orange and Blue scrimmage. As a first year, it was exciting to see the whole set up of the gym for a match! We started off with serving and passing to get focused on the day’s game. Then we did our dynamic stretching followed by our pre-game warm up which included more serve recieve and hitting. We played five games to 25 points and I think we played very well. It was nice to see that all of our hard work had paid off as we were able to take what we had learned into these games.

Our team has really connected on the court which has made it easier for us all to play hard. After the match, Dennis took us all into the back room of the gym where Executive Associate Athletics Director Jon Oliver revealed to us that we were going to recieve our new locker room courtesy of (former UVa volleyball player) Amy Griffin. We were all really excited, but hesitant at the same time because Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt had told us we were not going to get our locker room until we won a match. As we walked down to the locker room, we went through a side entrance exclusivley for volleyball. When we walked in we were all speechless, it had exceeded all expectations. We now have a big room with movie theatre chairs for watching film, desks and computers for studying, another room with couches and a TV, a training room, and then of course our actual locker room. All of the lockers are much larger with storage space compared to what we had before! The bathroom has 4 showers and we each have our own personal cubby for our shower supplies. Overall, the locker room is so much larger than we thought we would have and the layout is so nice!

As a first year, I was really proud of how we all played and adapted to the next level. Even though us first-years had a tough time at the beginning of preseason, it was relieving to feel more comfortable on the court with the team as well as collegiate volleyball itself.

Friday, August 17 – Junior captain Emily Rottman

After coming off a great practice the night before, it was nice stepping into the gym this morning with a more confident attitude. Our first session was productive since we got some individual work done as well as some team defense at the end. But more importantly, this morning was great because we busted open the carrot cake Cliff Bars (Jess and Amanda’s new favorite) and also because the Gatorade was particularly refreshing today, courtesy of our fabulous trainer, Becca. We got a nice warm up by dynamic stretching and running through the ladder. I particularly like the ladder only because I enjoy seeing Coach (Stevie) Mussie and Coach (Aaron) Smith’s faces after I go through some of the ladder patterns…let’s just say I have no rhythm whatsoever. Anyways, we worked on team defense and blocking through all six rotations while hitters hit from the pins at us. At the end of the session we each had to make a serve in the specific area of the court that Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt called out. Our serving is definitely improving which is going to be a crucial part in our success this season.

Not only have we all been making great strides individually as volleyball players, but this is about that time when we are beginning to mesh as a team, and it is now easier to trust one another when playing 6 vs. 6 type drills. We are starting to communicate better and hitters are starting to be more aggressive. This definitely improves the fluidity of our practices and most importantly, I am sure this makes Coach Hohenshelt a happy man.

Later this evening, we scarfed down some dinner, then worked on serving and passing on center court, which was all set up for our scrimmage tomorrow. I think the first years were pretty pumped to see the court all decked out with the lights and bleachers out. We then all went to the women’s soccer game to cheer them on in their season opener. It was fun to get the whole team together somewhere other than the volleyball court. It was a little awkward and baffling when on the way to the soccer game someone asked if we played football, but I’ll just blame it on all our hard work in the weight room. Our spirits our high and we look forward to showing people how much we have improved in our scrimmage tomorrow! Go Hoos!

Thursday, August 16 – Senior captain Tobi Farrar

Last three-a-day!!! This preseason is flying by so quickly. This morning, we started out with a light serve and pass to help out our passers get more reps and consistency. We also did some individual work to help some people in certain areas. The outsides worked on arm swing and middles worked on their transition and block moves. It was a good practice to get our legs back and get ready to work hard in the afternoon sessions. During the afternoon sessions, we worked on team defense and got into some six on six. Our night practice consisted of a lot of playing and side out drills. Overall, it was a great way to end the last three-a-day.
Our team has to stay focused and keep working hard in the gym even though we will only have two practices a day from now until we head to our first tournament. The competitiveness and hard work in the gym this preseason is really impressive! I couldn’t be more proud of our team! I’m very excited for this upcoming season and to put all this hard work into action!

Wednesday, August 15 – Freshman Amanda Barnes

Three-a-days have returned! Over the past couple of days, the team has been having two-a-days or days off to regain our legs, but today we had three sessions. Throughout the first half of preseason, the team has been working on a lot of individual skills, but today was also the day that we put all the pieces together into team oriented situations.

In the first session in the morning, we worked on our team offenses. Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt really focused on learning and practicing faster and quicker tempo sets for our outsides and for the middles. By having a quicker offense we can become more successful in getting past our opponents block and defense. In the second session, we worked on the other part of the game, defense. Defense is the most important part of the volleyball game. Without a solid defense, there is no way a team can be successful. In this session, we practiced on defending as many balls as we could. Any ball that we can dig is just another chance for us to win the point, and one step closer to winning the game.

Our final practice of the day was the most difficult. We spent four hours scrimmaging each other and playing many game-like scenarios. These game-like scenarios are very helpful because they are the most realistic and closest to matches. Overall even tough today’s practices were tough, we used the time we had in the gym to improve ourselves and our game. Even though three-a-days can be extremely challenging and difficult on our bodies, they are just what we need in the preseason to have a successful season in the future.

Tuesday, August 14 – Sophomore Sydney Shelton

SURPRISE!!! Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt called the captains last night and decided to give us the whole day off! Today was a day of rest, rehab, and recovery. It was much needed as our bodies were pretty worn out. I believe the entire team spent the whole day in bed or on the couch! This is not considered lazy because of the three-a-days ahead! We has a light team lift at 4:30 followed by a delicious team dinner of salad, spaghetti, chicken, and bread from Fabio’s. Coach Hohenshelt talked for a few minutes after dinner about coming back hard for the next few days, stepping up, and getting better as a team. I am excited and rested for this week of hard work and look forward to the Blue and Orange Scrimmage this weekend!

Monday, August 13 – Freshman Vivian Burcescu

Day 5 of my first college preseason and although I never thought it would happen, the soreness has started to subside. During the morning and afternoon sessions, we split up for some time according to position. It was nice to focus on what you knew the team would be counting on you during matches. I worked on blocking, transition, and hitting. We also did a few team drills to bring out the competitiveness in us all. I can already tell how good the team chemistry is. Everyone shares the common goal of winning and wants each other to improve. Having such a supportive team is key to success.

After the morning session we took team pictures in our jerseys. We took our team picture (and may I say we are a good-looking bunch), head shots, then first-years stayed for a few extra pictures.

During the third session, Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt had us scrimmage each other multiple times with different line-ups. This was a great opportunity to see how all the practice we do in drills will show in games, and where it counts. It also gave us the opportunity to see what we really need to work on.

With all the new information being thrown at me from all directions it was hard to follow the most recent advice: don’t think, just go. The UVa and collegiate volleyball game seems to be a whole different game than what I played back in New York. I knew the tempo would be much faster, but what I was not entirely ready for was to be asked to change so much of my technique. It is definitely frustrating at times, but I can already see an improvement in my skills and I have the wonderful, patient, yet tough coaching staff and upperclassmen to thank for that.

Sunday, August 12 – Senior captain Rachel Gray

After having the night session off yesterday my legs felt surprisingly fresh for today’s two practices which was a great feeling. I’m finally getting past some of the soreness that had developed over the past few days of my last preseason as a Virginia volleyball player. It is crazy to think that this is my last season, but so far the team has had a great start and we are getting a lot done in the gym. I have already seen so many improvements in just the past few days of preseason which is awesome.

We went for about three hours this morning. We primarily worked on defense this morning and at the end we did a drill defending the attack from the left side hitter and the right side hitter. For the second session, we primarily worked on serving and passing. It was a shorter session because we had lift right after. We only had two practices today, which was nice to give our legs even more rest so they will be fresh and ready for tomorrow’s three practices. I know everyone is feeling a lot less sore which is good and we will all be ready to work hard all day tomorrow!

Saturday, August 11 – Sophomore Morgan Blair

You’d think after three straight days of working out for 10 hours our bodies would get used to it! But as we all woke up this morning and rolled out of bed, the soreness seemed at an all-time high. Once we got to the gym, Coach (Dennis) Hohenshelt had us run to the end of the gym and back at different speed intervals to warm up our legs. As hard as the running was, it seemed to do the trick; our legs felt good as new!! Coach (Stevie) Mussie took over and had us work on ball control drills. Hitting at our partners, making them dive to the left and right, and eventually working into 100% pepper. We had a minute with our partners to go as hard as we could, but at the same time never letting the ball hit the floor. We rotated partners until everyone had peppered with everyone.

Coach Hohenshelt wanted us to get into the mentality of not only going for every ball, which as Jessica (O’Shoney) pointed out seems to be the theme of this year’s preseason, but also to challenge our partners and make them better. After ball handling drills, we split up by position. Middles and right sides worked with Coach (Aaron) Smith on blocking while the passers and outsides working on passing and transition out to hit. The second session primarily focused on defense, ball control, and competitive games of 5-on-5.

Dinner was delivered to Mem today and as all of us ate our meals, Coach Hohenshelt spoke to us about how far we had come in the last three days. He believed that after just 8 sessions of practice, we had changed the entire culture of UVa Volleyball. There hasn’t been a ball gone uncontested or a point easily won or lost the entire week. It seems as if we have become an entirely new team in just 3 days. When Coach Hohenshelt asked Coach Smith what he would put on our scouting report, he said he’d write, “a team that goes for every ball and fights for every single point.” It feels great knowing that we can be considered a team with that kind of fighting spirit. After our meeting, Coach Hohenshelt announced that we would have the night session off because we had been playing so well. It was a much needed break and tomorrow we should feel well rested and ready to play more volleyball!

Friday, August 10 – Freshman Natalie Bausback

We started off this morning’s practice by doing ladder work and shuffling drills to warm up our legs, to get our minds off of how sore we all were and to get our blood flowing. We then went into our main focus of the morning which was serving and serve receive. Passers were graded on how well they serve received and the servers’ main focus was to serve into seams and try and get the passers out of system. Then in the afternoon, we were split up into two groups where blockers were working on blocking with Coaches (Aaron) Smith and (Dennis) Hohenshelt and defenders were working on defense with Coach (Stevie) Mussie. From there, we played some competitive game-like drills. In our last session, we did more serve receive, blocking and defense. Then outsides and middles were split up to work on hitting and timing. We ended the night with competitive game-like drills to wrap everything together.

It has definitely been a challenge as a first year to get use to how fast the game is played at a college level and the fact that you have to move that much faster to get to the ball, especially on defense. The girls are way stronger and more athletic at the collegiate level. It is hard getting use to new technique styles because you are use to your old habits but the coaches are awesome and are just trying to make us better. I believe they give really good advice and they push us to work harder. The main focus for us as a team is to go for every ball even if you can’t get it. Each session, we have gotten better at it and I know by the end of the season we will be a very scrappy team if we have that mentality. Preseason so far is both mentally and physically exhausting because you are going full speed at every practice and getting a lot of information thrown at you. I have never been this sore in my life but ice works magic (especially ice baths) and will be my best friend all of preseason! Go ‘Hoos!

Thursday, August 9 – Senior captain Jessica O’Shoney

Preseason jitters, you’d think by my fourth year I would have kicked them, but my lack of sleep from last night would say otherwise. After my first day of three-a-days EVER, I realized that although the entire sport of volleyball had in fact not changed overnight, the entire culture of UVa Volleyball had.

Lesson of the day: go for the ball. It seems so simple, an all out mentality, yet it is something that we have been lacking for so long I didn’t even realize it was missing. Coaches (Dennis) Hohenshelt, (Aaron) Smith, and (Stevie) Mussie, bless their souls, are now trying their hardest to get 15 girls all on the same page with it. Do you know how hard it is to get two girls on the same page about anything, let alone 15? Now you see why I said bless their souls.

Maybe it’s too soon to tell, or maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but the future is looking bright for the team, this season and beyond. We all have another year of experience under our belts and five talented first-years joining the ranks. Although there is a lot of work yet to be done, I feel confident that we have the necessary pieces in place to become a powerhouse in the ACC. I think the girls and myself would agree that the remainder of this preseason and the season to follow will go off without a hitch if we take Coach Hohenshelt’s advice and simply “Go for the ball!”

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