Currently in the second week of volleyball team practice, the Sacramento State media relations office had a chance to sit down with fifth-year head coach Ruben Volta and ask him a series of questions. Below are some excerpts from the interview. The team begins the 2012 season next Friday, Aug. 24, in South Carolina against the College of Charleston.
Q: First off, how is summer camp going thus far, and have you been pleased with the team's performance?
A: Summer camp is going well, and I really like our depth this year. We have plenty of bodies at every position, and the players have come into camp in very good condition. The newcomers are adjusting and showing big signs of improvement already. In addition, I've been pleased with the returners, and they've carried over a well-played spring into the summer.
Q: You lost three starters (two middle blockers, one outside hitter) and the libero from a year ago. Who replaces their contributions in the lineup this season?
A: Sydney Kordic is going to start the year at libero. She has a lot of experience, and has played at defensive specialist the last three years. Sydney really understand our system, is an excellent defender and probably the best server in the Big Sky. Jessie Genger was so versatile for us last year in that she could play on the left and right side. This year, she will play much more on the left, and has looked very good this summer and going back to last spring. We have a good competition right now between Chelcy Motes, Olivia Moss and Ashley Newcomb for the two starting middle spots. Regardless of who we start, we will likely use all three players throughout the year. They bring more size than our middle blockers from a year ago, so I think we could block even better than we did last season (after finishing 13th in the nation in blocks per set).
Q: Fourth-year senior Janelle Currey enters her final season with the team. She has already surpassed the 1,000 kills/1,000 digs plateau, has a 4.0 grade point average and you've named her a team co-captain. Talk about what she has meant to the program both on and off the floor.
A: Janelle is a pretty amazing player. She does a lot for the team that I don't think the casual fan notices. She is in serve receive every rotation, is an excellent passer, a tremendous defender and probably the most underrated blocker in the Big Sky Conference. She knows the game so well and does so much for the team. Janelle will be a tough player to replace down the road. She is extremely competitive and works so hard, and that mentality rubs off on her teammates because they see how serious she takes the game and how hard she works.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the style of play you will showcase to Hornets fans this fall?
A: We will be the same type of team with our good ball control, defense and serving. I hope to get more out our offense this season. We will be running a 6-2 offense, and with the addition of our new players and how well they are playing, we have options to move some people around. I feel like we will be a better offensive team that previous years.
Q: The Big Sky added Southern Utah and North Dakota this year, giving the league 11 teams and expanding the postseason conference tournament to six teams. Talk about what you expect to see in league play this year.
A: The league is going to be very challenging. Most of the teams in the conference return a good majority of their players. In fact, I think we were one of the teams that lost the most starters. The returning conference members will all be tough, and the addition of both North Dakota and Southern Utah will strengthen the league even more.
Q: Defense and passing have been a longtime staples of Sacramento State volleyball. Last year, you were the only team in the nation to rank among the top 35 squads in both digs (9th) and blocks (13th) per set. Is that a trend you see continuing in 2012?
A: We were also a very good serving team last year (43rd in the nation in aces per set). Traditionally we have been a solid defensive team, and over the last five years, we've become very good at blocking. In my opinion, we are also the toughest serving team in the conference, and I think that really helps feed our blocking and our defense.
Q: What are some of the keys to success for this year's squad?
A: We led in almost every defensive and serving category in the conference. Essentially, if we improve our offense, I think we will surprise some teams.
Q: You've spent 17 years on this campus as either a Sacramento State player or coach. What has attracted you to the program to show that type of loyalty?
A: There is definitely some loyalty to the campus as an alumnus. Becoming a part of the program, I've leaned a lot from (former Hornet head coach) Debby Colberg and she has helped me immensely. She has been a mentor, and I talk to her on a regular basis. Obviously, the program has been extremely successful over the years, and I like the challenge of getting us back to that level. I really like it here.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories as a coach?
A: I have several fond memories. Going back to my time as an assistant, I really enjoyed beating Eastern Washington on their home floor three straight years (2002-04) in the Big Sky Tournament championship match. Those were all special because of the big rivalry between the two schools. Going to the NCAA Tournament and beating a Big Ten team in Minnesota in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament was also a big moment. I also particularly enjoyed making the 2008 Big Sky Tournament after losing five starters and the libero from the previous season.