FullertonTitans.com caught up with women's volleyball head coach Carolyn Zimmerman for a quick interview about the upcoming spring season.
The Titans finished the 2012 campaign with a record of 15-16 and tied for fifth in the Big West Conference standings with a mark of 9-9.
Fullerton will begin its spring competition schedule on Saturday at San Diego State playing the Aztecs, Hawai'i, Loyola Marymount, and UC Riverside.
FullertonTitans.com: Can you describe to Fullerton volleyball fans what spring competition is like, and how it differs from the fall?
Zimmerman: Spring is obviously about developing some of the younger players for greater roles in the fall. What we find during spring competition is that the rules are pretty light, teams are usually without their seniors so rosters can be slim, and sometimes certain players will be playing full-time assignments in the front or back rows. We'll also play high-level competition, potentially back-to-back-to-back, with no breaks.
What we hope to accomplish during spring play is obviously to be competitive and play to win, but what we are really focusing on is to see a transfer from what we have been doing in practice as it relates to individual skill development, and see our players bring that into the competitive arena.
With this being our first weekend of competition, what we are expecting is to be a good serving and passing team in order to allow our offense the best opportunity to score. At the same time, we will be taking looks at some of our newcomers who have transferred. Kristen Brandsma will have her first opportunity to play Division I volleyball, and additionally Alyse Hensley, will have her first chance to play on the right side for us. We will also be watching the rest of the team's growth and development.
FullertonTitans.com: What has the team been focusing on in spring practice?
Zimmerman: There are a lot of different areas we've been tending to. We are certainly trying to develop our setter, and working with Julie (Consani) on a different touch on the ball, a different level of strategy, release point and making our hitters better. For other players, it's about developing their skills that they haven't had an opportunity to work on.
For example, Ariana Salazar was playing middle, and we are not only continuing to work her in the middle, but also are developing her as a right-side hitter which will require her to be a primary passer as time goes on. With the defensive players and passers, we've been working a lot on movement and body posture – the technical aspect of the game that enables players to pass and dig good balls.
As we get ready for this weekend, we are going to be mindful of trying to capitalize on the dysfunctional balls that our opponents are going to be giving us, because a lot of the game is about emergency moments.
FullertonTitans.com: What are your goals for the spring season?
Zimmerman: Spring is difficult to judge outcome. For example, this weekend at San Diego State will be our first weekend of competition, and for other teams, it's their last weekend of play.
We try not to be outcome-oriented, and we focus more on the process. We'll be happy if we see that the team is continuing to get better and improve every weekend we play. There are the tangibles, for example, hitting for good percentages, serving for good percentages, scoring with our block, but there are also the intangibles: what is our competitive spirit and are we coming together as a team. The spring is going to be a progression, and a lot of different things will be evaluated.
We are also going to be trying to identify what we can expect in certain players when the fall arrives. I think there will definitely be some defining moments for these players, and for others, we already know what they are capable of doing, so it's about their game improving and handling a heavier load. We can want a lot of things to happen, but whether or not a player can handle it is a great thing for us to experiment with in the spring.
FullertonTitans.com: What does this team look like without Kayla Neto and Gabrielle Dewberry?
Zimmerman: There is never going another Kayla Neto just as there wasn't another, Erin Saddler, Brittany Moore or Andrea Ragan, and the list goes on and on. My point is, we don't expect anyone this spring to be Kayla, and handle the load that Kayla handled. What we'd like to see, because Kayla did handle such a large portion of the scoring for our team, is our scoring spread out amongst our players.
Potentially we need four to five players scoring. Last year it was predominantly Bre (Moreland) and Kayla, so now we will be looking for (Alyse) Hensley to do more, and we will be looking for (Leah) Best and (Holland) Crenshaw to reach the double digits in kills regularly. Kayla will play with us this spring, and that's due to a few injuries. We obviously want to put our team in the best position possible to continue to move forward, and her playing with us this spring will not only position us for success, but I think it will protect our players from overuse.
As far as Gabby, we've toyed with the idea of just playing with defensive specialists. We don't want to put anyone into a situation that just because they are a defensive player, it doesn't mean that they are prepared to be a five-rotation defender-passer. We are looking at having two players share that responsibility as defensive substitutes and potentially having Gabby back to do some work for us because we are mindful that we need quality touches in order for us to develop our middle attack.