Lady Spikers: Tactical or Mental Crisis?

We didn’t see 2 bad losses in a row for a while, and the noble Green Fans now start wondering if this agony will last all season.

Originally posted by Coach Fabio Menta

Good question!

I think, but I might be wrong, that nobody in this Country has seen more Volleyball (from the court) than Coach Vip Asada, Coach Ramil De Jesus and this Blogger.
And we know that when a Team loses its “Identity”, belief and resiliency go to Hell too.
Is this what happened to DLSU?

Not only …

I mean, they were sloppy last time and totally lost this time. And, in my opinion, the Defensive System they applied last years is not working and cannot work this year for obvious reasons.

One thing is to go at block in 2 with Kim Dy and double with Baron to then have Macandili covering in 5, where most of the game develops, and one thing is having a couple of rookies dealing with this complicated moment.
You don’t need a Coach to tell you that.

So … what can a Coach tell you? What is the analysis that an Expert can make after 2 losses that dangerously look alike, tactically speaking …
And I specify tactically, because the DLSU that lost against UP was a hard fighting Team.
The one we have seen today was hardly a Team.

At one point, it almost looked like the players couldn’t wait to get out of that court … and losing was not an issue.
The minds had given up. And this is a very bad sign.

Though my Tagalog is bad … my reading of Coach Ramil’s face and tone of voice was the one of the old and expert mentor now frustrated by the lack of adaptation of his Players. Someone who was running out of ideas, convinced that, anyway, the actors on court could not really follow instructions.

A Coach would tell you, though, that if he prepares a game against a Team and a different Team shows up, all he can do is “chase”.
And UST, today, has showed up with a surprising S-O-M that shocked the World. And it wasn’t easy at all to find counter measures, at least for the first set.

But this is not the real problem of DLSU …

So … a Coach, today, needs to analyse the finest details in order to regain balance on court, first, and, slowly, faith in the System. A different one, possibly.

This one is not good for these Players, so, in the end, the Identity I mentioned lost at the beginning of this Post is not the DLSU Indentity anymore.

Let’s analyze these details, then:

The main problem, today, is Des Cheng!

Not her … her emotional state.
She is nervous, impatient, negative in her leading role.
It’s not a time out when all is lost that can support a Team, Des. It’s constant and diligent tactical behavior from the first ball, attention to the mechanical movements and the decision making when you go to spike, and also the psychological support (a continuous one) that the expert gives the rookie that can help the Team.

Today, Des is quicker in running to the Ref to protest a call, than to attack a shoot in 4. And I have been quietly looking at this Teams from Game 2 and had an idea in mind that I was waiting to express.
‘Cause I have no prove of what I say but … it looks like the legendary Physical Prep that always saw this Team starting slow and losing a couple of games to end triumphant in the Finals has been changed this year in Baguio City ‘cause the first match was against Ateneo.

This Team looks slow and non reactive! Has it finished the fuel of a briefer load of work and now needs another one?
Only the DLSU people can tell us if this is the case.

And it’s unfair to expect that Cheng’s job can be done by Dela Cruz, a rookie that has gained the respect of the crowds for her performances but still a rookie with all her limits in understanding the moment of the game and the tempos to adopt in each rotation.

The help cannot come from the Middle, already a Crisis Zone, with no Player totally satisfying the Coach.
The subs today became only a desperate attempt to find somebody who could put the heart over the obstacle and do the right thing.
Nobody showed up!

Miss Cheng is not a Leader, today, let’s be honest. She needs rest, mental rest. She needs to stay calm, take only her 7th of responsibility and go back to being that good spiker she has always been. Nobody is doubting her value for this Team but she is obviously not being herself!

And this brings us to the 1st solution to adopt:
May Luna 1st Open Spiker and Des Cheng 2nd Open Spiker.
This could be the Lifebelt!

May Luna is strong and consistent (today, she got lost too in the 3rd set but the Team wasn’t there anymore!) and can step up and take that difficult role of scoring those 20 points from 4 without which any win becomes extremely complicated.
Des can take a bit more space in receiving and coverage and help the Team in a different way.

Another problem is Michelle Cobb, not lucid and efficient like before. It is obvious that she felt more confident last year with the options in 3 but, Miss Cobb, when your Opens go under pressure you need to call in the game your Middles.
It’s unfair, again, to give Joline Dela Cruz all the stress when Luna makes a mistake and Cheng is not in the game.

And this is another change that should be considered by the bench. Ipac has satisfying movements behind the Setter, certainly better than Clemente and Ogunsanya. She’s got a smart arm that can variate the speed and a good personality to manage those important points.
She can make Cobb’s work easier.

Ipac should be the 1st Middle Hitter and open the game in 2 in the Rotations with Cobb in front. Aduke is more of a physical Player and should just work hard on blocking.
This would give more balance to the Team, while training Cheng and Ogunsanya as the defensive Players and Luna, Dela Cruz and Ipac as those ones (the famous Triangle of Attack) who bring the points.

And this is the Scientific Truth of the day: DLSU loses ‘cause it has no efficient Triangle of Attack and has to rely on naturally error prone Teams to win its games.

One more reason that makes me call for this change is that, in the Philippines, Blocks are understood as an attempt to score points, only.
When it comes to that, this is just a normal Team, and a big part of this lack comes from this obstinacy (in my opinion) to leave the line in 2 open, where Players like Carlos, Molde, Pancres and Laure have partied wildly with none or very few resistance.

Do not underestimate the importance of Blocking as a Tactical mean to win Games. We have discussed that many time. The Block / Defense Correlation is the key to success.
Remember I mentioned that as failing point of UP in the first games? They adjusted and defend better!

Blocking is not that obsessive one on one the DLSU Middles are attempting today. The importance of Blocking is in the “instructions” given to the Defense in search of the right positioning to protect the court.

And today, these Middles are so impatient that even jump on the 1st balls to interfere with the opponent Setter’s work. It happened 3 times today and it wasn’t just youthful errors.
It was tactical anarchy!

To summarize, DLSU today is what ADMU with Coach Tai was last year: a Team upside down.
I think that switching the order of the Opens and Middles will bring more points and also better “instructions” to the Libero. I think that Cheng will find more composure and efficiency and become more handy to a Team that has lost its Identity if she takes a step back on court and helps Luna.

And the proof of this is that we have never seen a Green Team that makes 8 to 12 unforced errors per set. That spikes 8 to 12 balls per game off the court. I said it at the beginning and I repeat it now: this is not a talented Team, when it comes to fundamentals. This is a muscular Team that needs to be in perfect physical and mental shape to perform.
It was against Ateneo … now it looks lost!

Today, DLSU’s weakness is not the force of the Opponents, but the lack of Mental and Tactical balance on court.

Something Coaches and Players will have to work together and soon, if they want “that” Dream to continue.

Good luck for a better tomorrow!