Q&A with Virginia Volleyball Head Coach Dennis Hohenshelt Part 2

Sophomore setter Tori Janowski serves the ball during Virginia's Orange & Blue Scrimmage August 18, 2011. Photo by Tim Mulholland (@Tim_STL)

If you missed it, please check out part one of our interview with Coach Hohenshelt before continuing!

Last week you got to read a little bit about the new Virginia volleyball head coach Dennis Hohenshelt. This week we've got some comments on the Atlantic Coast Conference, the first years, televised games, streaming video, the sand courts, President Sullivan and more.

Before we get to the interview though, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the administration for providing the volleyball team with brand new locker room facilities. While I was at the Orange & Blue scrimmage on Saturday I managed to talk my way into getting a tour of the locker rooms before they were officially unveiled.

While I was unable to take any pictures to show you, believe me, they're awesome. When you walk through the door, you immediately forget that you're inside of musty old Memorial Gymnasium. The entire place is gorgeous, functional and state of the art.

One of the things that I like best about it was apparently a special request by Coach Hohenshelt. Right next to the player's lounge area (which looks quite comfortable - I wish I could have studied in there!) is what was referred to as a "classroom." Though to me it looks more like a theater. Two long rows of comfortable chairs in front of an open area just big enough for some demonstrations. And on the opposite wall is an enormous flat screen television perfect for having a large group of people watching game film.

I don't know if the new locker rooms (along with the new lighting and sound system at the courts) were part of the deal when we hired Coach Hohenshelt or not. But whoever made it happen should be very pleased with the outcome.

Alright, enough digression, let's dig in (never thought I'd use a volleyball pun)!

Streaking the Lawn: What do you think about the ACC this year?

Dennis Hohenshelt: I think the ACC's going to be pretty good this year [STL: The smirk on his face as he said that told us that he was understating things a bit, just FYI]. Obviously I think Florida State is going to be good. I think North Carolina is going to be really really good. Duke lost a lot, but they still have enough important pieces there that I think they're going to be good. I think Clemson could be the surprise team. They have a lot of kids - a lot of athletic kids - returning.

Believe it or not, I've actually seen most of these teams play before because that's sort of what we do - I watch volleyball games. You know, some people go home and they'll watch Monday Night Football. Well, if there's a game on, I watch a volleyball match and if I can't watch it live I'll record it and watch it at a later time. So throughout all of that I've seen most of these kids play - maybe not 20 times each, but I've seen them play. [Assistant Coach] Stevie [Mussie] has been a lot better about that because she was at N.C. State, so I can ask her about specific people.

So I would think Clemson could be the surprise team this year that could jump some people. Miami lost their best player, but they still have a very athletic group. And I think what's happened is, if you look at the bottom of the ACC, it's come up. Hopefully we're coming up. I think Boston College is coming up. At Maryland, he's done a nice job recruiting. And that's how the conference gets better. The good teams have been good. But you get better by the bottom teams getting better and then everyone gets better because now there's no off weekends.

So hopefully those teams have come up and now there's going to be a battle. Instead of 3 or 4 teams every year, it's a big battle. And that's our goal - to get into that battle. Would I like to win that battle? Well, yeah. But we have to get in that battle before we can start talking about winning it.

STL: You mentioned watching all of the games on TV. Virginia has a televised game this year at Clemson. How important is having those televised games?

DH: I think it's very important. That was a discussion between me and my administrator. The game's not until 8pm on Friday and then we have to go to Georgia Tech. Well, we'll suck it up because I think for us to be on TV is very very important. I think we need to get volleyball on TV as much as possible. And it's important for kids who are interested in Virginia to be able to see us and for us to be able to say "Hey, we've been on TV, we're going to be on TV, etc."

[STL: At this point Coach Hohenshelt switches topics slightly and starts talking about streaming video, a topic that I know is important to a lot of our fans who don't live in Charlottesville, so I wanted to call it out specifically.]

DH: And it's not just TV. I've had a discussion with the marketing department about streaming almost every game. I want to get all of our games streamed. Because its important that I can tell the kids from California "Hey, I can guarantee that at least your parents can see fourteen home matches." You can't say that we want to recruit nationally and then have kids whose parents and relatives all over the country aren't able to watch them.

Virginia is a national institution. So I think we're going to recruit nationally. So this year we're at six [home games streamed over the internet]. Which is better than it was before. So that's seven games [including the Clemson TV game] that people will be able to watch. It's a long process. But that's where we've got to get to.

There's a lot of little things that people don't really think about when you're trying to build a program. Stuff that I took for granted when I was at Penn State. And streaming is one of those things. So this year they said they got me six. Great. Next year I want eight. And the next year I want ten. And then I want to say "all of them."

STL: I know a lot of fans will be happy to hear that because streaming video has been a big topic and there are a lot of folks out there that will watch whatever UVA event they can get - just there hasn't been that much available until recently.

DH: Right. Absolutely. And I'm not trying to be unrealistic about it. I know the battles we have with getting some of this stuff set up. Another thing I've said is that we're going to play all of our games at 7pm on Friday and Saturdays. In the past that hasn't been the way it was. It's been "Avoid avoid avoid. Let's avoid." Well, I understand that if I go at 7 on a Friday night, there might be men's soccer going on over at Klöckner. But to me, there's nothing I can do about that. The people that are going to come to here are going to come to here. The people that are going to go there are going to go there. Some people are going to have to make choices because they want to do both. I understand that. But for us to get some continuity in what goes on, I think we need to be at 7pm so everyone knows that if we're at home, the game is at 7pm. And I don't want to move to Sunday because to me, that's a losing battle. I know what I do Sunday at 1pm. I'm either watching volleyball or I'm watching my beloved Eagles play.

Luckily we lucked out that we're not going at the same exact time as football. That would be the one battle that I would avoid. But this is one thing that I put my foot down on and said "this is when we're going to go." I had to fight that battle. Now if there were a football game at 7pm, maybe I do go at 4pm because hopefully we get some of those people before the football game coming in as they walk by. It's the battle. You know, it's "how do we get as many people as possible in here." And of course, you don't get people until you start winning. So that'll be the first battle.

STL: Not that I want you to talk about it too much, but you got here just in time for the whole Theresa Sullivan thing to sort of go crazy here at Virginia. What are your thoughts on that?

DH: Yeah, I heard about it, I got the news and I was sort of like... "ok...?" You know? It happened. I understood what happened. I knew it was a big deal. But I really hadn't worked with Theresa at all. I didn't understand how much she meant to the other head coaches until I was in a meeting with them and I saw how much she meant to [Athletics Director] Craig [Littlepage] and the athletics department. And then I was like "OK, now it's a big deal. Now I understand. I get it." It was interesting to see the other coaches' reactions to it. They were dumbfounded. They were upset. They were like "Hey. She's the best." So that's what I'm going on. They're glad she's still here. So I'm glad she's still here.

STL: The sand volleyball courts that are right outside Memorial Gymnasium. Are you all making use of those?

DH: We have. In the springtime when I was here we used them maybe once a week. They're as nice as anything. The thing that I like about them is that there's 50-60 people down there all night long. So we've been trying to get some of those people to come in and watch our games. So clearly there's some interest in volleyball based on how many people you see playing on those courts. I'm glad that the people are using them when we're not using them. That's what they're there for. We'll use them to train. We did some jump training there. And its fun for the kids to go play on those courts. Its fun for the ones from Santa Barbara or San Diego to be able to go play on sand courts here. I have to figure out a way to implement them more. I want to do that. It's a bonus for us to have them.

STL: Is that a normal thing for teams to have sand courts like that?

DH: No. Not at all. I mean, we didn't have them at Penn State. I don't know if [Penn State women's volleyball head coach] Russ [Rose] would ever use them. I mean, we never asked for them. I mean, I got here and was like "so you guys want a sand team?" and they said "no, they're just for your team." And that's the answer I like to hear. So we'll use them in some way shape or form.

STL: How are the first years adapting to the college game?

DH: They're at a tough point in their life right now. That's the best answer I can give you. Have they been great? Yeah. But I know what's going to happen. I could have told them that on day 4 they're going to hit the wall and break. But they're 18 year old kids. They're untouchable. They've been the best kids on their team for the last twelve years. They're not the best kid on the team anymore. As we like to say, the 2x4 of reality has hit them square in the face. It's an adjustment. It's like Jordan going to go play baseball. You're the greatest player in the world in what you've been doing and then all of a sudden you're the #8 hitter in your lineup.

But they're getting there. They're all going to be good. They're figuring it out. They're figuring me out. And I think they all have bright futures. They're going to have to contribute. No question about that. We're going to be young. At one point the other day we did a drill and I looked and all five of them were on the court together. It's a little scary. But it's what it is. It's where we're at. Nothing I can do about that. So they're going to play. They're going to have to play. And I've been very explicit with them from the day I got the job that they're going to have to come in and contribute. So we've thrown them in the fire and I like how they've responded. So we're excited.

STL: Were you involved in the recruiting of any of them or were they all strictly Coach Maes's recruits?

DH: Amanda Barnes, who walked on from Virginia Beach, was the only one that we did. Everyone else was pretty much done. And I hadn't seen them much. I knew Natalie [Bausback] from being at Penn State. We had talked to them and seen them play. And Vivian [Bircescu] I knew because she's from New York, I had probably seen her play a hundred times. I actually saw her like a week before I got the job. But I really hadn't seen the other ones.

So I go out to California to see those three kids [Kayla Sears, Natalie Bausback and Manon Greskovics-Fuller] and I'm walking into the gym crossing my fingers going "Dear God I hope they can play." Because I had no idea. And they were all very good. They'll be big time players here.

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So there you have it folks. That's all of our interview with Coach Hohenshelt.

The Virginia volleyball team takes to the court for the first time this season tonight (Friday) at 9pm ET against Colorado State in the Rams Volleyball Rocky Mountain Invite. The Rams are the #25 team in the country according to the AVCA pre-season poll. The Cavaliers follow that match with two games tomorrow (Saturday): Rhode Island at 1pm and Denver at 7pm.

The Wahoos return to Memorial Gymnasium for their home opener on Friday August 31st as they host the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup. Lehigh and Delaware take to the court at 4:30pm while Virginia squares off against Western Kentucky at 7pm. Then on Saturday, the 'Hoos battle Lehigh at 1pm and Delaware at 7pm. You'll note that the two Virginia games on Saturday are sandwiched around the football game, so if you're on your way to or from the game, make sure to stop by Mem Gym and take in some of the action!

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