Emery Hermann came to volleyball from Arizona to be the setter of the future. After graduation from Julia Patterson after the 2019-20 season, it was Herman’s job from day one. For a freshman, that was a big ask. Now in her second season, Herman is a complete player, but she is still working on the skills needed to be an excellent passer at the top level of college volleyball.
“She’s one of our best waitresses”, head coach David Rubio noted. “She’s one of our best defenders. It is an excellent blocker. Yet his frame has yet to catch up with the rest of his skills. The frame is still the thing she’s probably the furthest behind, and I think she recognizes that. We work on it every day with her. And the best attribute she has by far is just her regular keel. You must have that in this position. We can’t have a passer who gets so restless and frustrated, doesn’t understand. But she’s so stable that she keeps the team stable.
Last season, Herman was a big part of the class ranked No. 7 by longtime prep volleyball evaluator John Tawa. At the time, Rubio said they had “the setter we wanted”. Signing a player from Texas State was not business as usual for Arizona.
“It’s kind of funny, Dave said he’s never really had a Texan kid before,” she said. “So they saw me at nationals, I think my eighth year or my freshman year, and they were like, ‘Oh, we can’t have a kid from Texas.’ Never spoke to me. I never even thought of Arizona. I never knew anyone to go to Arizona or anything. And then they were talking to another smuggler. She didn’t come after all. So like, ‘Okay, let’s try.’ “
It was worth the chance. Herman said she fell in love with the program as soon as she came for her official visit. Arizona alumnus Paige Whipple had a huge influence.
“The coaches were just brilliant,” Herman said. “They are super nice, super welcoming. I think a big part of that was Paige Whipple. She was there, and she was just great with me. We are still very close, we became best friends last year.
Herman graduated from high school early and arrived in Tucson for the spring 2020 semester, but her hopes of making a leap in her college development have been disrupted by the pandemic. Not only has in-person practice and classes stopped, but the fall 2020 season has been postponed to spring 2021.
Part of Herman’s development centers around prioritizing his surroundings. Before entering university, she was often more of a striker than a setter. A few times in his rookie season, Rubio ran a 6-2 system with two setters to try and help him make the transition. But he always returned to the 5-1 system that the program followed for 28 of his 30 years at the helm.
“She was a hitter-setter,” Rubio said. “So his mindset became different. She’s a setter first instead of a hitter first and then a setter…She’d be one of our best hitters if…we decided to go 6-2 and she hit Also.
She is still a very offensive-minded passer. This was evident even in his debut season last spring, but Rubio said it has developed further this year. Last season, she finished the year with 0.81 kills per set and a .200 hit percentage. So far this year, it’s contributing 1.14k/s at a much more effective hit percentage of 0.403.
The frame still has some way to go for Herman. As a former setter, Rubio knows this is no easy task. According to him, setter and outside hitter are the two most complicated positions to play. For the setter, it comes down to the mental part of the game as much as the physical part.
“It’s like a quarterback going through the reads and … not looking at the receiver, being able to see which receivers are opening up and making your first pick, your second pick, your third pick,” Rubio said. “And then the reality of being able to throw the ball. For Emery, it’s the same thing. It’s the ability to recognize who’s the best person to set based on the pass, based on who the blockers on the other side are, and then being able to put your feet there and set the ball in an attackable position so we can score. ”
As she progresses through her college career with the other members of her highly regarded recruiting class, Rubio believes she will hone these skills. He knows she has to if the team is to achieve its goals.
“I think Emery now has a much better idea of this selection process,” Rubio said. “And sometimes she thinks about it so much that it affects how she locates the ball, so she’s just a bit late for the ball too. So as a team we are so young that we don’t play without thinking. We play by thinking first, then reacting. And when you get to the point like the teams we play against and have played against, where they are older, then they play and react without thinking. And that’s kind of where we want to get to, but we’re just not there yet.
Herman and Rubio agree that it will take extra commitment from the players to make that happen.
“I think there’s a lot of things off the grid that we need to do,” Herman said. “Watch a movie, put in some extra time, realize we can’t take the excuse of being young anymore. We just need to step up and execute.