After two years of finishing outside the top four in the EIVA, St. Francis is eyeing a return to the postseason this upcoming season.
St. Francis coach Mike Rumbaugh said in an interview with Off the Block during the weekend that he feels confident the Red Flashes can contend for a spot in the four-team EIVA Tournament with how the team has looked in the fall preseason.
Check out Off the Block’s interview with Rumbaugh as the coach discusses St. Francis transitioning to run a more up-tempo offense, the players being motivated to return to the postseason and the position battles during the preseason for starting lineup spots.
Off the Block: Coach your team is finishing up all of its preseason tournaments. How has this preseason gone for the Red Flashes?
Mike Rumbaugh: It’s been a really good preseason for us. … We played Penn State a few weeks ago and went five games against them. We used a lot of mixed-up line-ups, and I actually felt really good because results-wise and stat-wise it was looking really good for our team after only having one week of practice in. We practiced a few more weeks and played Ohio State and Ball State. The Ball State match I still had bunch of lineups in. I wasn’t happy with our serving but as the match went on I thought our ball control was getting better. We are searching for a setter with good consistency and we got a lot of good reps in with our setters setting live. … Every set versus Ball State and Ohio State ended up being within three points. I was happy with that. I was more happy with how we rebounded from last week. We watched what the middles from Ohio State were doing running very on-time and quick up in the air. This week we worked on our middles doing that and it made a difference [Saturday]. Our middles are running with a faster and better tempo.
OTB: What’s been the biggest surprise for you, positive or negative, this preseason?
MR: It would be two sophomores stepping up. Michael Kresch is a sophomore setter and showed us that he really wants to be on the court. He is actually making a big difference for us. He is competing with a senior setter [Michael Krepp]. It’s a really good battle, and I’m really excited about him stepping up. The other pleasant surprise has been Mike Marshman who’s a sophomore for us. He played a little opposite last year and some middle. I put him in the middle this year, and he’s actually earned a starting spot.
OTB: You talked about the starting setter battle, are there any other starting position battles for your team right now or do you pretty much have your starting line-up figured out?
MR: The other big battle is I have three seniors all fighting for the outside attacker spot. It just seems like daily those three just rotate in the rankings. Logan Patterson returns and he was the First-Team All-EIVA player last year and then Kyle Beatty was the other starter for most of the year. But Adam Barba has come in very fit and in good shape. He’s actually in the middle of the mix with this battle. I got three guys that can go on the pin. I think that might change in January. It could change every week. Hopefully one of the guys solidifies a spot as the season goes on, but the outside attacker battle is a pretty good one. The other exciting thing is Lucas Behringer, who is also a senior. He’s played a little outside attacker for us last year. He’s stepped in and is now playing libero for us after [Nick] Bancroft graduated last year. He’s doing an excellent job at libero. He accepted that role because he wants to be on the floor.
OTB: Your team last year finished in fifth place and just missed the four-team EIVA Tournament for the second consecutive year. How motivated is your team this year to get into the postseason, especially some of the seniors?
MR: Our guys were pretty disappointed we didn’t make it last year. It was a huge letdown. Our guys want to be there. In my 15 years at St. Francis we’ve only not made the playoffs four times and we’ve missed it now two years in a row. I do feel very confident about the way this team is playing now that we have a pretty good shot to get into the playoffs.
OTB: Talking about the program you’ve built at St. Francis, there are a lot people who may not have gotten a chance to see your team play. What would you want them to know about your team and you play volleyball?
MR: I like the fact that historically we try to run through our middles to beat everyone. We’re a pretty middle oriented team. We’ve changed our speed and our tempo to get faster to the antennas. I don’t think we are the fastest team in the country but we’re actually getting the balls out to the antennas pretty quick right now. I think we are a pretty good ball control team so if you play us we are going to save a lot of balls. We are going to pass pretty well to try to knock you off and not make it easy for you to side-out.