Idaho seeks more playing time with opponents around Northwest
The young Idaho volleyball team is making progress in spring play going into Saturday’s quadruple-header at Gonzaga’s Charlotte Y. Martin Centre in Spokane.
The Vandals are set to play Western Washington (21-7 in 2014) at 8 a.m., Alaska Anchorage (21-6) at 10 a.m., St. Martins (4-26) at 12 p.m. and Gonzaga (17-12) at 3 p.m.
“We’re going to go compete, we’re gonna play to win every time we play,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “For us, a big part of this spring is to get kids comfortable. We want to be able to serve aggressively and do things from the service line that we’ve been working on in practice and transfer that to a game.”
One of the key reasons Buchanan said they are playing only four teams, in comparison to teams like Montana playing six teams and Eastern Washington with five, is to keep incoming sophomore setter Sami Parris healthy as she’s been playing ill so far this spring season. Buchanan said she has tried to keep Parris on the court, which has become sacrificial for her and will continue to be a sacrifice until the spring season ends.
Buchanan sat out Parris for a few practices last Thursday through the weekend to help her recover from her ongoing health issue.
So far this spring, the Vandals played both Eastern and Central Washington two weeks ago in Pullman, where Buchanan said she tried several players in different positions with optimism in her offense. However, she also saw the team struggle with errors.
“Our goal is to not make more than six errors per game and we had more than six per game,” Buchanan said. “That is something that we can control, depending on who we play, so that’s kind of a focus for us right now.”
Other struggles included air management, and defensive service lines, which they have focused on this spring. Buchanan also said the young players, including several redshirt freshmen, are getting much needed playing time.
The team’s progress has seen changes both offensively and defensively over the last two weeks. This week, Buchanan had the team work on individual drills including perfect passing, serving and rotations. However, she said it’s difficult to know how much the team is improving without playing other opponents.
Buchanan said she is hopeful to know more how the team is progressing by the end of the weekend after playing four teams from both the GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) and WCC (West Coast Conference) in Spokane.
“It’s getting better — we won’t really know until we get out there and play another team again to see how we match up,” Buchanan said. “Where you really see the challenge come in is when you play somebody new and you don’t know their tendencies so much, and that’s where you really get to see how much progress you’ve made.”
Buchanan gave praise to several players who have stepped up their game, including incoming fifth-year senior outside hitter Tineke Bierma of Canby, Oregon, who is almost two years removed from a knee injury.
“She’s much stronger, she’s moving better and she’s one that’s coming off from major injury — and you can definitely tell that she is playing at a much higher level than she was last year,” Buchanan said.
Bierma played 14 games last season where she had eight kills in 31 sets, six blocks, four service aces and 15.5 points. She had a career-high four kills Nov. 15 against Northern Colorado and a career-high three digs Sept. 27 at North Dakota.
Other notable players Buchanan said have seen growth this spring include senior outside hitter Katelyn Peterson, who doubles as a track and field athlete, senior specialist Jenna Ellis and junior defensive specialist Terra Varney.
Luis Torres can be reached at email@example.com