After a troublesome offseason, volleyball is ready for its team chemistry to take it to the top

Coming out of a transitional offseason, Oregon volleyball is eager and excited going into the 2017 season.

“This is the closest team I’ve ever been on,” said  junior Lindsey Vander Weide. “On and off the court we have great chemistry and I think it’s something that’ll really show on the court because great chemistry comes into great plays.”

Solid chemistry between the coaches and players was interim head coach Matt Ulmer’s focus during the offseason.

A letter written by six ex-Oregon volleyball players and addressed to President Michael Schill and University of Oregon’s athletic directors accused former coaches Jim Moore and Stacy Metro of mistreatment and mental abuse.

Moore and Metro were fired in March, and assistant coach Matt Ulmer was named interim head coach. Ulmer made the decision to have Ron Beick and Dave Butler join the staff as assistant coaches shortly after.

“I’m excited to see how I can make us better,” he said. “I would really like for us to be fearless and go hard against good competition.”

Ulmer spent his first two seasons at Oregon as an assistant coach where he mentored three All-American selections:  former libero Amanda Benson, outside hitter Vander Weide, and middle blocker Ronika Stone. In 2012, he was honored by the American Volleyball Coaches association for the “Thirty Under 30” award where he was one of 10 Division I coaches recognized for being an “outstanding up-and-coming coach.”

Ulmer’s experience as an assistant coach for the last several years benefitted the transformation of the team as they spent the last couple months building a new program. This has made it easier to form close bonds with both players and his coaching staff.

“I feel like it’s a really solid staff,” Beick said. “Each of us work well together. The players know we are focused on helping them have a great season in terms of emotional enjoyment and high-level competitiveness.”

Oregon has run fast offenses in the past, and Ulmer looks to continue to use speed while also focusing on technical assets.

“I’m doing my best to integrate both old and new strategies and so far I think we’ve done a good job as far as seeing games from both sides of teaching,” he said. “There will be a few changes but I’m hoping that tactically they’ll put us in a better position with the strengths we have.”

Replacing key players such as Benson is a job that will take the entire team to work together to achieve, but for junior Lindsey Vander Weide, it’s a responsibility she’s willing to take on.

“I’m going to have to take on a big role replacing Amanda Benson and take control in the back of the court,” Vander Weide said. “She’s been preparing me for two years to take on this role, so I’m excited for it.”

The solid chemistry amongst Oregon volleyball players will be of note in the beginning of the season. As senior Taylor Agost looks forward to her last season as a Duck, she emphasized how positive the overall atmosphere feels.

“The feeling inside this area while we’re practicing feels really good. Coach Ulmer is on us a lot, but it’s very positive like constructive criticism,” Agost said. “It gives us the confidence to know he’s behind us and supports us. We trust him, he trusts us. We think it’ll be a great experience.”

Oregon will play No. 5 Nebraska Friday, August 25, at 2 p.m., and No. 1 Texas Saturday, August 26. at 4:30 p.m. in Gainesville, Florida.

Follow Daphne Martin on Twitter @daaphnemartin

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Daphne Martin

Daphne Martin