Hows this sound for a dream job? Im the person who turns in the lineup and the person who calls time-outs and the person who gives the team advice, says U of M volleyball coach Carrie Yerty. Yep, thats the life, aint it? Just sit back, relax, suck on a cafe mocha, and watch as your squad improves to 11-1, as it did when it beat conference rival St. Louis 3-1 on Tuesday. Thats how she makes it sound sitting in her office, which is filled with pictures and mementos. Yerty, still dressed in work-out clothes from her morning exercise, seems completely laid-back. Her conversational tone is quiet and affable. She has a reason to look relaxed. At the mid-point of the season, the Tigers squad is in the thick of both conference races and tournament contention. Its a team built around five starting seniors and a coach who knows when to back off and let the players take over the game. Our strength is our leadership, Yerty says. Our team very much runs itself. I come into practice and direct them in terms of what I want them to do and what drills I want them to do. And then they get on the ball and run it themselves. Its been a pleasure for me to wake up every day and see my team. Theyre motivated and excited. The team is pretty good, too. The teams only loss is to a CUSA and national powerhouse. Houston has gone to the NCAA tournament the last 11 or 12 years, Yerty says. And so, for us, to beat Houston in our only second conference game would be a big win. And according to Yerty, the reason the Tigers lost had little to do with ability. The difference between beating Houston and not beating Houston was that they expect to win, because thats what theyve done [in the past]. Like any up-and-coming team, the players have to learn to win. Its a lot like sky-diving. It looks impossible until the first chute opens. Then its pretty easy to go with the wind. Just dont break your leg or neck, and all is well. Our girls are learning to beat the top teams, Yerty says. Still, despite the disappointment of losing early in conference play, Yerty says that the squad just wants to keep playing. I think our team is focused on competing, she says. Our girls know that, yeah, weve won ten in a row. But we still have to get the job done so we can get into the conference championships. So how does the coach with the dream job of coaching an experienced and motivated squad do such a thing I think we prepare and practice, Yerty says. We watch a lot of video. We do a lot of scouting. However, that preparation only takes them so far. After that, its experience and guile that pulls the team through for a win. We always start the game off strong, she says. If the other team runs the game plan we thought they were going to run, were good. Its when they throw something different that we have to make an adjustment. We have to trust our adjustment was the right move. So having experience on the court makes Yertys life easier to a point. When game plans turn sour and the game is at full pitch with the other team making a run, theres no other solution but cool heads and determination. But heres a question: If a team needs to learn to win and the team learns to win by being prepared - where does intimidation come in? You know, that quiet moment when Rocky sits next to a sleeping Adrian and says, I just cant beat him. Lets face it, if Rocky gets intimidated, wont the volleyball team? My team isnt intimidated by anybody, Yerty snaps in response to the question. Her voice is suddenly hard, like granite but without the give. Maybe shes not as laid-back as she wants this writer to believe. Then the moment is gone and the coach relaxes again. She continues, I think theyre surprised by how good they are, she says. And theyre learning that they are good. Translation: My team isnt intimidated by anybody. Yes, the Memphis volleyball squad is good. Whether they will learn to succeed in the CUSA and NCAA tourneys is up to the players. But whatever the case, dont make the mistake of taking Yerty as relaxed. Its halfway through the season and shes just getting warmed up. OTHER STUFF
- John Rote, tight end and defensive end for Briarcrest High School has been named as the NFL and College Football Hall of Fames Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the Southern U.S. Rote was quite the high school student with impressive grades and test scores. He currently attends Stanford University. As a football player for Briarcrest, Rote served as team captain and was named All Metro and All Region for three years. And apparently Rote has this thing against punters. He blocked a total of 12 attempts in one season.
- Nice work by the Grizzlies for handing out free tickets to those in uniform. They certainly deserve it. However, I might not be American enough, but isnt dedicating the entire season to this whole affair a bit much? The team encourages all fans to dress in red, white, and blue for all home games. Maybe this will be the new color scheme when the squad drops that horrible teal.
- So MJs back, huh? I for one will enjoy going to watch him play, but I cant imagine that it will be very much like the old Mike. Still, if Jordan does end up playing the small forward position, its going to be fun to watch Memphis? Shane Battier go at it with his Airness. Of course, word has it that Jordan might opt to play point guard instead. Word has it that he played the one spot during his workouts at HOOPS gym. It makes since that he would want the Wizards offense, such as it is. If thats the case, Grizzlies point guard Jason Williams is going to definitely have his hands full. Hmm "His Airness against His Hairless"