Phil Landolt was a happy man when it finally sunk in, his team had won another Class 2 State Championship in Cape Girardeau’s Show-Me Center gym, against a seasoned St. Pius X team in the Final Four State playoffs. Winning both sets, 25-18 and 25-19, the stats looked like so many of the Bearcats previous wins and defined a possible winning strategy, as it arced over the season. The Advertiser-Courier asked Head Coach Phil Landolt about his thoughts, looking back at the start of the season, culminating in their sweet State Championship win with a 35-5 season record.
“We knew we were a tough serving team, so we needed to continue serving tough,” said Coach Landolt. “We also knew one of our strengths was our serve-receive, so we allowed very few aces [from our opponents.”
He felt this was significant saying the Bearcat’s serve-receive was better than the other teams they played.
“If you can serve tough and keep the other team out of the system with serve-receives, but stay in the system, you will do very well,” he explained.
Another factor was his team learned not make many errors, like at the beginning of the season.
“We would lose games because we just had too many errors, whether they were attack errors or net errors, so our goal was to reduce those,” he said. “The one we concentrated the most on were attack errors. I think we had 16 attack errors (actually 20 attack errors - Editor) in the loss against Jeff City.”
Attack errors are hitting out of bounds, hitting into the net or getting the attack blocked.
“We had four losses out of our first six games,” reminded the coach, and those came from attacking errors.” “So we were really focused on looking how to avoid the [opponent’s] block and if we hit the block, where on their hands do we hit the block [to get the ball over the net in bounds]?
He compares the improvement against the second game against Borgia, where the Bearcats won with only three attack errors.
Coach Landolt said the team had a serving percentage goal of 93 per game (93 percent of the collective team serves result in a point).
“We told ourselves if our attack (hitting) percentage was over .250 and we served at 93 percent, we should win most of our games,” he shared. For the most part, we were over .250 for the match in hitting and we were always in that 90 percent [serving] range.
What makes a good serve to get in that 90 percentile range?
“What we have is a flat, ‘float-serve,’” he shares.
He says the float-serve just kind of wobbles in the air.
Some people jump and some serve from the ground, but if you hit it just right, there’s no spin on the ball—it will move as it’s coming towards you, so it’s hard [for the opponent] to judge whether it is “in” or “out,” and when it moves side-to-side, it makes you move your platform which causes issues. When you see one coming at you, they’re pretty tough [to receive].”
Grace Winkelmann and Chloe Witte were the primary attackers for the Bearcats. They were very effective, so how were they used?
Grace was hitting in the 400’s (.400 hitting percentage) and someone hitting in the 300’s is an excellent attacker.
“You want her to get the ball, because she’s going to get a kill, almost half the time she swings at the ball,” he explains. “She sees the court really well, jumps really high and she hits a fast and heavy ball. She’s smart”
Coach Landolt said at the State playoffs, the team triple-blocked her.
“If you’re triple-blocking an attacker, that means there is an extra space open on the court, so knowing they were going to triple-block her, she just tipped to where that blocker should have been playing defense,” he said. “She has a really high contact point, so she has time to see the court.”
Others were hitting in the 200’s, which is still a good hitting percentage. Coach Landolt said Gabriella Engemann had some great games in the State pool play.
“When [the opponents] are focused on one player (such as Winkelmann), it leaves other people open to get a kill.
On defense, Hannah Grosse did most all of the setting for the team. Coach Landolt said she was never in “serve-receive,” so she was always able to be at the net to set the ball, which is where you want it, setting up for the kill from Winkelmann or Witte, or to a lesser extent, Malerie Schutt, Engemann and Grace Godat.
Once the team learned to control their kill errors early in the season, Hermann’s girls dispatched any team that was on the schedule until they got to the Lebanon Tournament semi-finals. They played a tough Marshfield team, losing the first set 24-26, but winning the next two sets, taking them into the finals to play Jefferson City, whom they lost to earlier in the season.
“We played a much cleaner game with only two errors,” he said. “It was a big win for us.”
Does coaching simply amount to seeing what needs improvement and working on those weaknesses to up the game?
“It doesn’t always work like that,” says Coach Landolt. “But, the things we were doing wrong were fixable. We had the talent—we just needed to fix a few things.”
He says the team doesn’t do a lot of fancy things, but work really hard on technique.
“We still have a ton of bad habits that need to be corrected,” he offers.
When pressed, he says some of the attackers go into the ball way too early.
“Some of them need to fix their arm swing,” he adds, “but those are things that you work on through repetition.” “Coach (Linda) Lampkin used to say, ‘You’ll get them right where you want them—and then they graduate!”
Coach Landolt is already looking at next season. He has lots of sophomores that played junior varsity this year.
He has some players in mind that could play on the left side to replace the graduating Chloe Witte.
“If somebody becomes a really good serve-receive passer they have a spot [on varsity],” he said. “Chloe was passing serves in almost every rotation.”
He said Gabriella Engemann, who also graduates this year, was getting two kills a set on the right side and was an imposing blocker. He’ll have to find a replacement for her as well.
Volleyball camps will start in July and in Aug., practice starts for the 2020 season.
Coach Landolt could not have had a better ending to his first season as head coach, following Linda Lampkin. How much pressure did he feel, knowing the expectations of the community?
“I knew it was kind of a no-win situation,” he explained, “but we did the best we could.”
The team has some special help this year from previous Head Coach Linda Lampkin, who filled in for Asst. Coach Beth Weir, while she was on maternity leave. He said she was a great mentor and always willing to help, giving great advice.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easiest thing to do this year—but we did it and that says a lot about our girls,” he explained. “They have a good work ethic and are very responsible. They know that when they get on the court before a game it’s all business. They were focused on wanting to win.”