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Women's volleyball preview: UCI faces uphill climb

Anteaters aim to shake recent struggles, despite battling injuries and defections.

August 15, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

UC Irvine women's volleyball coach Paula Weishoff said she doesn't like to coach effort, though she has come to realize the necessity of managing it.

Coaching effort typically refers to the need to generate energy from players, most often on the practice floor. But Weishoff, entering her fourth season, said she has not had to motivate her players in this regard. Instead, she believes that her players' propensity to try too hard has contributed to shortcomings that have produced a combined 18-41 record the last two seasons, including a 7-25 mark in Big West Conference play.

"I think this group wants to win so badly that they start to force it," said Weishoff, who returned to campus Monday after helping the U.S. women's national team collect a silver medal at the London Olympics as an assistant coach. "When they don't have the set, they try to make it be the set they can take a good swing at. If you can't hit the ball where it's set, you've got to [take a smarter shot]. They sometimes don't have the patience to just say we're going to try another shot. We have to work on that."

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There is plenty to work on for a team that tied for last in the nine-team Big West in 2011 and has been picked to finish ninth in the 10-team conference that this season has added Hawaii, ranked No. 8 in the national preseason poll.

UCI, which lost its last five matches and seven of its last eight last season, hit just .153 as a team in 2011. That ranked No. 278 among 322 NCAA Division I schools.

"We have a lot of errors," Weishoff said. "Serving errors (221 with 129 aces in 2011) and hitting errors. We need to manage those. When we do, it's pretty clean. And when we don't it's like the gold-medal match [in London, in which Team USA won the first set, but was blitzed by Brazil the next three]."

The Anteaters, who open the season Aug. 24 against the host Wildcats in the Kansas State Tournament, are also dealing with injuries and defections from a roster that welcomes two incoming freshmen who figure to make an impact, Weishoff said.

Shaina Olsen, a 6-foot junior outside hitter whose 230 kills last season ranked second behind then-sophomore Aly Squires' 372, has elected not to return to the program, Weishoff said.

Mary Carls, who led the team with 735 assists as a sophomore in 2011, has given up volleyball and plans to study abroad for a semester during the upcoming academic year.

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