The Pioneer

The Pioneer

System key to women’s volleyball success

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System key to women’s volleyball success

Women’s volleyball coach Jim Spagle addresses his team on Tuesday at Pioneer Gymnasium during practice.

Women’s volleyball coach Jim Spagle addresses his team on Tuesday at Pioneer Gymnasium during practice.

Photo | Tam Duong Jr.

Women’s volleyball coach Jim Spagle addresses his team on Tuesday at Pioneer Gymnasium during practice.

Photo | Tam Duong Jr.

Photo | Tam Duong Jr.

Women’s volleyball coach Jim Spagle addresses his team on Tuesday at Pioneer Gymnasium during practice.

Louis LaVenture,
Sports Editor

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To the average fan, the term ‘system’ doesn’t mean much when it comes to volleyball.

However, the distinct system that the Cal State East Bay women’s volleyball team and Head Coach Jim Spagle utilizes sets them apart from the crowd.

“We are one of if not the only team that uses his system,” senior defensive specialist Veronica Sanchez said. “He plays the odds a lot, it is a very different style and when everybody is in sync it works great.”

Playing the odds may sound like a gambling technique to most but for Spagle it is about trying to create advantages through his opponent’s weaknesses. Who could argue with him and his 424-171 overall record during his 19-year tenure at the helm for the Pioneers.

“Offensively, our game plan is to attack opponents with speed and precision. Defensively, our goal is to establish a block at the net that is synchronized with the backcourt floor defense,” Spagle said. “When these systems of play are supported, trusted, and implemented by every team member, the opportunities to succeed rise dramatically.”

Coming off back-to-back losing seasons doesn’t sit well with Spagle or the current CSUEB players who are trying to get back to their winning ways.

“He is really intense and sometimes we lack that as a team,” senior setter Ashia Joseph said. “At times we really take on his persona because it’s hard not to. His intensity definitely transfers to the court through us.”

Over the last two seasons CSUEB has gone an unfamiliar 23-36 overall with the trend continuing so far this season. The Pioneers are 5-6 overall and 2-4 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play with an upcoming showdown with Cal State Monterey Bay on the horizon. The Otters are going through struggles of their own in 2014 with a 2-8 overall record and 2-4 record in CCAA play.

“We just have to play our system and do it well. When we do that we are successful.”

— Joseph

“Playing in their gym is a challenge in itself,” Spagle said. “They will have a big, very loud crowd jammed into a very small gym that will require a great deal of toughness on the team’s part.”

The Pioneers will be looking to rebound against a struggling familiar foe in Monterey Bay who defeated CSUEB in both matches last season by finals of 3-2 and 3-1.

“We have a lot of new faces so when things aren’t going our way we try and stay positive as a team and always look at how to get better,” senior Samantha Bruno said. “[Spagle] is a really good coach that will adjust the style not just to the game but to his team. He may be a little hard sometimes but it is always for a reason.”

Spagle’s distinct coaching style was in full swing at Tuesday’s practice as he told one of his players to, “point the barrel of her gun at the target and follow through,” during a setting drill. Spagle was referring to the player’s hands as the barrel of the gun and their teammate as the target ready to deliver a spike.

Senior outside hitter Amber Hall has been a bright spot in her final season at CSUEB. Hall leads the Pioneers in kills early this season by a wide margin totaling 141. Freshman Brandi Brucato is near the top in a handful of notable statistical categories including first in digs with a total of 141 averaging 3.44 digs per set.

“Some of the young players are really good and you can see a high talent level,” Bruno said.

The team seems positive about being able to turn things around translating that into more victories for the Pioneers this season.

“We just have to play our system and do it well,” Joseph said. “When we do that we are successful.”

CSUEB returns to Hayward and Pioneer Gymnasium for back-to-back conference home games tomorrow and Saturday.

San Francisco State University (5-6 overall, 3-3 conference) makes the pilgrimage to East Bay for a 7 p.m. start time tomorrow. The Pioneers will be looking for revenge on the Gators who took victories in both matches last season.

Sonoma State (6-4, 4-2) will take the court against the Pioneers on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Seawolves are riding a two-game winning streak and went 1-1 against CSUEB last season.

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System key to women’s volleyball success