Friday, December 18, 2009

Hodge and Hooker Key to Upcoming Penn State-Texas NCAA Women's Final

Saturday night's NCAA Division I women's championship match between Penn State and Texas will pit a couple of star outside hitters against each other. For the Nittany Lions, it's Megan Hodge (shown on top in the following sequences), whereas for the Longhorns, it's Destinee Hooker (who has also won multiple NCAA high-jump titles in track and field). I made these screen captures from ESPN360.com's archived videos of Thursday's two semifinal matches (I added yellow outlines to highlight the ball and Hooker's burnt orange sleeve).



Being able to assess the physical parameters of a spike attempt -- how high above and far behind the net it was struck, at what downward angle, and at what speed -- might be the way of the future for volleyball analysts, much like Pitch f/x, which already exists in Major League Baseball. I am not aware of anything similar coming up in the near term for volleyball, so the above photo sequences will have to serve merely as an inspiration of what might become available in the future.

In terms of more conventional volleyball statistics, one that jumped out at me was Hawai'i's total of ZERO team blocks vs. Penn State Thursday night, compared to the Nittany Lions' 15. In the other semifinal, Texas outblocked Minnesota 5-2. (Only when the defense directly earns a point such as by stuffing the ball back onto the hitting team's floor is a block officially credited; see scorekeeping procedures.)

According to official NCAA statistics (through December 13) on blocks per game (or set), Penn State ranked second in the nation at 3.23, Texas was fifth at 3.03, and Hawai'i was way down at 40th with 2.46. If these statistics are any indication, Texas should be more competitive with Penn State than was Hawai'i.

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