Volleyball season is back. Started out our coverage with the Vernon Hills/Barrington invite, one of the better early season tournaments in the entire state.
There were some very interesting results on the first day and although I don’t want to put too much stock into some of the first games of the year here are some takeaways from the evening.
Early season rust
It was always bound to happen. Teams are aways going to commit a few errors here and there, it’s a part of the game, but there was a little more sloppy play than I’m sure some coached would have liked.
Attacking errors were at the forefront of the errors, with connections between setters and hitters just being a bit off. Though on the bright side, serving looked pretty good and blocking errors were few and far between.
One coach had an interesting perspective on errors, saying that even though most of the players were on club teams throughout the winter, it’s hard to jump back into a high school setting right away when everyone is running different offenses with different players.
Changing of the guard
As mentioned in the intro, there were quite a few interesting results from Friday. Lake Zurich took care of Brother Rice, and Vernon Hills dominated Libertyville. That’s two teams from last year’s semifinals who wont even be in the winners bracket.
I do want to be a little careful before calling that Vernon Hills result surprising though. Yes they have had a few lean years recently, but let’s not forget Vernon Hills is a school that has made it to state twice in the past decade. That’s a really good program.
It’s also interesting to see how teams have adapted from season to season. Deerfield for example has had to change their style of play. They have moved from a super quick offense to compliment Jacob Shapiro last year, to a bit more methodical pace with the height they have now.
A couple of players caught my eye. Obviously Jack Howard is one of the most talented outside hitters in the state. If he can stay healthy, he can be downright dominant. Deerfield’s Jarion Hsieh has gotten noticeably stronger from last season and has improved as an attacker because of that. Vernon Hills has a talented freshman setter in Erik Giezycki whose one to keep an eye out for if he can grow a couple of more inches.
But perhaps the player I was most impressed with was Loyola setter John Hitt. Hitt has good size for a setter, moves extremely well, can get up for the block, and of course has good hands.
There are a couple of things he can improve on such as strengthening his serves and varying the pace of his sets, but he is only a junior and there is room to improve.
Undersized teams can be a matchup nightmare
A big fallacy in volleyball is that the taller team always has the advantage. While it does create matchup problems, usually in the middle and when blocking line on the outside a small but quick offense can do some damage as well.
Take Vernon Hills for example, they are extremely small by volleyball standards and have to work twice as hard to get the same looks as say a Loyola does on offense. But what they lack in size, they make up for in speed. They were able to keep up with the Ramblers by finding holes in the block and going off high hands when Loyola was a little slow to react.
Still a serve and pass game
Even with all the changes from last year, volleyball still boils down to a serve and pass game. Can you pass well enough in serve receive so you have all your attacking options, and can you serve aggressive enough to keep your opponent out of system.
It’s an extremely simple concept that is really difficult to execute. Even at the highest level, you still need to get a good pass to put your hitters in a position to succeed.