North Texas Daily

Senior sets the tone for volleyball defense

Senior sets the tone for volleyball defense

Senior sets the tone for volleyball defense
November 05
11:22 2013

Eshan Azad / Staff Writer 

As the Mean Green volleyball team inch closer to the final game of the season on Nov. 17, defensive play is key. The leader of a volleyball team’s defense is the libero position, and for UNT, the position is manned by senior Shelby Tamura, a player as distinctive as her position.

The team captain has played the position since she started volleyball, but she might not have the same opportunity if she had been born in a different era. The libero is the newest position to volleyball, added in 1998 as part of rule changes that drastically changed the game.

“They did that a lot for opportunity purposes, especially for shorter girls and substitution patterns,” head coach Andrew Palileo said.

Typically in volleyball, when a coach wants a substitution for a player, it can only happen after a “dead ball” when a timeout is taken to stop action, similar to basketball. Each team also has a limit of 12 substitutions for a single set.

The rule change allows the player at the libero position to move in and out of the game without counting it as a true substitution, as it does not count toward the substitution limit. To stand out from teammates, the libero has a jersey with colors inversed from the team’s normal uniforms.

Tamura has played the libero position for 11 years and knows exactly what she needs to do on the court.

“[Liberos] are the leader on the backcourt,” Tamura said. “They can go in for anyone in the game and they set up the defense.”

Tamura said that she fits the typical profile of the libero, as she is mobile and a vocal leader – two important aspects of the position.

“Her ability to be quick on the floor and her low center of gravity helps her get those balls that are lower than the rest,” Palileo said.

At 5 feet 4 inches, libero is really the only position on the floor that Tamura is capable of playing. However, she said she isn’t fazed by the fact that she is the shortest player on the team.

“It encourages me to play smarter, be a little quicker, make the right reads and know what is going on the other side of the net,” Tamura said.

Someone who knows the position just as well is assistant coach Susan Halverson, who played libero at Ohio State University from 2007 to 2010.

“It’s always good to have someone who used to be a libero and since she is so recent, it’s so helpful to have her outlook,” Tamura said.

Halverson, who is in her first year coaching at North Texas, described the position as the one that can show players where they need to go and direct the traffic of the six teammates – all things she believes Tamura exemplifies.

“Shelby is constantly talking and giving feedback and she is really fast,” Halverson said. “When balls get deflected she can run them down and she is one of those people to run through a wall for you.”

Halverson said that the two work on Tamura’s ability to anticipate the opponent’s moves first. Height doesn’t really matter in the big picture, she said.

Tamura has started and played 95 of the team’s 96 sets this year and leads the Mean Green with 358 digs. Her 985 career digs rank fifth all-time in UNT history.

Tamura will probably be done with volleyball after this year is finished. She said she plans to be a fifth-year senior and work with art after she graduates.

Since it will be her last year, Tamura is playing to get the team far into the conference tournament and maybe to the NCAA tournament. Her final goal is to get that championship ring.

The Mean Green will be back in action against the University of Texas-El Paso next Sunday. The game starts in El Paso at 1 p.m.

Feature photo: Senior libero Shelby Tamura wa named the volleyball team captain in 2013. In 2012 Tamura was third on the team with 22 services aces. Photo courtesy of Rick Yeatts 

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