Two steps, a toss, a jump, a hit.
Then the game begins.
Sometimes, particularly if Sherrie Wang or Gabrielle Tschannen is in the back right corner of the court, it instantly results in a point for the Huskies through the coveted service ace. Other times, usually when Clare Lund controls the serve, the other team’s defense is disrupted, their one- or two-hit plays no longer strong enough to make the cut.
Regardless of who is on the line, for head coach Ken Nichols, the serve is the most important part of his team’s game.
“Seventy percent of the time, almost all the success, be it theirs or ours, is predicated on how well we serve,” Nichols said. “That should be a major emphasis.”
After an early morning practice with just two weeks left in the season, Wang and Lund laughed together about their coach’s obsession with the serve, but did agree that he knew what he was talking about.
“He thinks that it affects everything,” Wang said. “And he’s right. It does.”
The Huskies managed to outscore opponents 1,339-1,316 across their 2018 campaign, which concluded with a CAA Tournament loss to Towson after a 16-14 season (9-8 CAA). They held their competition to 124 service aces while collecting 139 – 32 of which were recorded by Wang. Tschannen filled in as a close second with 31.
Both Wang and Lund have opted for the jump float style of serving, which allows the player to contact the ball at its highest point (the jump) to send it sailing over the net at a flatter angle, making it more difficult for their opponents. The original hit on the ball comes with a pop on the palm of the server’s hand, which allows it to move over the net with light movement (the float).
Wang emerged as a leader on the serving slate just this season after totalling 24 service aces last season (good for third on the team), 14 in 2016, and eight in 2015.
“She’s never let up on her craft,” Nichols said of the senior from Annandale, New Jersey. “She’s never settled for just being really good at serving. She’s constantly trying to find new ways to create movement on the ball.”
While the valuable point that comes from service aces cannot be understated, Wang was quick to insist that the serve is just the catalyst to the game at large.
“It’s up to the server,” Wang admitted. “But a big part is your teammates, and you playing the actual game to keep your serve. You’re not getting an ace every time. You’re probably almost never getting an ace.”
Despite Lund just tallying 20 aces across her junior campaign, the Pasadena, California native is valuable beyond the box score. Nichols said her serve is capable of wreaking havoc among the impending recipients.
“It’s whole different kind of style,” Nichols said. “It’s not the glaring ace to set ratio, but this is what she does.”
With the natural rotation of volleyball, Wang and Lund often find themselves coming in off of the bench to perform. It might seem like added pressure, but the pair said that not taking themselves too seriously lightens and improves their game.
“When you go back there, it’s okay to like, air a lot, as long as your serve is going to be tough,” Wang laughed. “When you make a mistake, it’s like ‘Oh man, she’s down on herself, now we’re going to use her as our strategy to beat them.’ I think [it’s better] if you come off and you are okay with missing, or you’re not surprised when you get an ace.”
Two steps, a toss, a jump, a hit.