Finking Critically

It is with great pride that I introduce our newest contributor and segment, Finking Critically with Michael J. Fink, also known as FINK! Fink is an old hat in the D3VB landscape, and might be older than time itself. He was a member (and former Captain) of the New Paltz Hawks from 2006-2010, a dear friend, and the most patient doubles partner I’ve ever played with (I’m very bad everyone).

He’s a familiar face in the Rochester Volleyball scene and over the years has coached at various levels including High School, Club, DIII, and College. When he’s not on a volleyball court, Fink doubles as a Physics teacher at Our Lady of Mercy School in Rochester New York (volleyball is more important in my opinion).

Finking Critically is Fink’s take on Volleyball in the landscape in however form he see’s fit, and as a New Paltz Alumni he obviously took the time to watch the Beasts of the East clash last week between New Paltz and Vassar. For his first segment, you’ll find the running diary Fink kept as the Cinco-Set match played out, and the key moments he picked up on throughout. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day, especially when Vassar and New Paltz go head to head again tonight in another double header rematch! Without further ado, lets begin Finking Critically. – Ramius

Finking Critically: A Running Diary of New Paltz – Vassar (Match 1)

Set 1 New Paltz 1 Vassar 4: After struggling with Kim’s serve, New Paltz finally gets on the board with a perfectly placed kill by Spulnick down the line on the right side.  Vassar’s libero set up defensively in the 1-6 seem in what seemed to be an attempt to force a hard shot for a righty on the right side. 

S1 NP1 V5: Loads to unpack on this point.  There is a back and forth and eventually Vassar gets a kill on an Andrew Kim bic, but I am more interested in what we are being told prior to the kill.

Vassar: First serve receive of the night.  Early play calls are indicative of what a team wants to do offensively throughout the match based on what they deem to be the best matchups.  Vassar’s first play call: pins stayed home on the right and left and the middle runs a back one.  Back one play calls can be a great change up and/or audible, but they are really tough to force and can make the middle unavailable more frequently than balls in front of the setter.  When I see this play call, my instinct is to think that coach Gary wants to draw the New Paltz middles as far away from his outside hitters as possible.

New Paltz: On the final defensive attempt that led to the bic kill by Kim, New Paltz blocked… nothing …

Kim needs to earn the bic respect in this match.  New Paltz is going to make him swing and keep that ball in bounds.

S1 NP2 V7:  MacPhail gets a “kill” by over passing in serve receive.  The ball falls in the middle of all six Vassar players.  This is going to be the first thing coach Gary harps on if Vassar loses this set.

S1 NP7 V9: Kim passes low to target. Duchmein (MB) has no chance to get up on time for his one ball.  Vassar’s setter is forced to send the ball back to his right side, Kim1.  On the other side of the net, New Paltz’s freshman middle, Adam Brawn, didn’t think for an instant about blocking Duchmein.  Brawn takes off towards the right side and closes for a block with MacPhail.

1- There are two players named Kim on Vassar.  This is Jacob Kim, a freshman setter/right side from California.  Not to be confused with Andrew Kim, a sophomore outside hitter from California. From here on out, Jacob Kim will be referred to as Kim2.

S1 NP11 V15: Vassar’s serve catches tape and comes over.  O’Malley (New Paltz’s All-American middle) picks up the ball trickling over and saves an ace.  Matt Grace (New Paltz’s All-American setter) still finds a way to set O’Malley, even after being forced to pass.  Vassar still has two blockers with O’Malley and he makes an error.  Strategically, I could make a pro-con list about this decision by Grace.  The “cons” side would be full of every logical thought and idea I’ve ever learned about volleyball.  The “pro” side would be HE IS NICK O -F*$@*G- MALLEY.  Let’s call it a wash.  

S1 NP12 V17: Vassar works NP off the net with serve.  Vassar executes a perfect triple block off the serve receive.  Eventually it leads to a Kim bic, where everyone stays down on the block… except O’Malley.  Nothing major, but this shows (a small) disagreement between the All-American player and the AVCA award winning coach.  New Paltz gets the dig, but botches the return.  

S1 NP15 V19:  Gulick’s serve looked like it caught the line but it was called out… Tough call regardless, but I am going to side with myself.  It was in, I’m right, Ref is wrong.  Vassar loses out on an ace.

S1 NP 20 V21: New Paltz serves Vassar off the net and the set gets forced to Kim on the right side.  New Paltz blocks the ball, but it is very coverable.  Vassar tenses up and the ball falls.  A cover point there would have ended the set, more or less.  Momentum is swinging and the reigning champs are knocking on the door.

S1 NP23 V24:  Grace forces a back one to O’Malley, who has two blockers on him.  O’Malley gets a kill anyway.  Very risky choice by Grace, but I can understand giving the ball to your stud with the set on the line. Because he’s HE IS NICK O -F*$@*G- MALLEY.

Coach Gary must be incredibly frustrated.  They knew what was coming, executed a solid block, but O’Malley still converted the point.  That is a tough pill to swallow as a coach.

S1 NP 23 V25: O’Malley misses the serve to end the set.  Big come back by New Paltz, but it was too little, too late.  Too many early errors cost the Hawks.

Between the set thoughts: New Paltz had more talent overall, but Kim was the best player on the floor.  Vassar was incredibly disciplined and purposeful with their blockers and New Paltz was sloppy defensively.

Vassar Adjustments: Kim needs to be set against Grace as much as possible. Even 75% shots to area 1 or 1-6 will score with Logel in the back row.

New Paltz Adjustments: Hit the ball in the court.

Set 2 (General):  New Paltz is pretty dominant.  Less hitting errors and cleaner play, Vassar was about the same as set one.  Biggest change in set two: Nolan was ON FIRE for New Paltz.  Tons of big gdigs leading to lots of points.  That in itself may account for the seven point swing from the first set.

S2 NP22 V17:  Remember a few minutes ago when I said that Kim needs to match up on Grace as much as possible?  Coach Gary agreed and worked that matchup a ton.  Radu either got sick of it or has been playing possum all night until now.  Off the serve, Petrus switched Spulnick to the right side to block.  Kim gets Kill blocked and New Paltz puts this set out of reach.

Between the set thoughts:  Both teams are in a good spot.  This is going five sets.  These are two top five teams throwing haymakers. 

Set 3 General Thoughts (Vasar wins 25-22): Good news: Carrk returns!  I assumed he was still being held out due to whatever the reasons were that he missed the St. John Fisher matches.  However, he looks… rough.  Uncharacteristic errors from an All-American.  Looks like he is fighting through a lot to help the team find a win.

New Paltz’s bench is super obnoxious.  At one point, someone on the bench was screaming like they just learned Cuomo reneged on the Excelsior scholarship and they have to pay full ride for their SUNY experience.  My dog ran into the room to see if I was alright.  Glad to see some traditions never graduate. Chirp away.

**This has nothing to do with volleyball, but I am very jealous of the confidence of Gavin Van Beveren (Vassar).  He dances like no one is watching when everyone is watching.  He is my new Vassar favorite.**

Set 4 General Thoughts (New Paltz Wins 25-17): New Paltz connected on a bunch of serves.  If they serve like that all the time, no one is beating them.  Carrk still made a few mistakes; he does not look like he is playing with a full deck.  Vassar is impressively consistent with performance all the way around.

S5 NP2 V0: Grace has forced two bad passes in a row.  This one is so bad that AJ Erickson actually gets called for a double.

S5 NP3 V0:   Jones (Vassar MB) makes a hitting error with a solo block on a push one.  Seems like a pretty boring point, but I bring it up because Carrk did not go up to help his middle.  This means one of two things: A) Radu is telling his pin blockers to forget the middle and focus on the outside, or B) Carrk just missed it.  I don’t mean to harp on Carrk, but small things jump out when you have achieved the greatness that Carrk has.  To compare, this would be similar to Steph Curry passing up an open three to get a layup for Draymond Green.  Not necessarily a mistake, but if it was a conscious choice, it makes me wonder what led to that decision.

S5 NP 4 V1:  Van Beveren gets a kill and dances like he’s part Timberlake (beyond jealous the dance moves).

S5 NP 7 V3: Vassar gets a perfect pass (rare in this match considering the level of servers) and Van Beverin hits the ball out.  Not Gavin!! I am confident he will redeem himself at some point.  Regardless, 7-3 and 6-4 are drastically different scenarios in a shortened fifth set.

S5 NP 15 V 7: Grace aces to end the match.  Grace went back to serve at 11-7.  He served three aces and got one overpass that O’Malley put away.  Not something you often see from a setter, but something you’ll see often from Grace.

Final thoughts:  

New Paltz: Grace and O’Malley lived up to their reputation.  Carrk had a bad day (by his standards), but I am confident it will turn around (first match of the season is always rough).  Nolan was incredible after the first set.  What New Paltz lacked in blocking discipline, they made up for in serving and flat out fortitude.  The last time a championship was won, it was this team.  Petrus showed he still has his fastball with a few decisions made throughout the match.  The Hawks are beat up and rusty, but the championship DNA is absolutely still there. This is a juggernaut of talent that can go all the way if they get it right.  There is only one. 

Vassar:  Super disciplined and know who they are in 5 of 6 positions.  Kim is the real deal and can hold up in any match.  If you are going to have a stud on your roster, you want it to be at the OH1 slot.  I was very impressed by how deliberate Vassar played.  Most teams at this age/level tend to let emotions overcome them at some point and I never caught Vassar doing that.  Coach Gary had a plan and the team executed.

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