Skip to main content

NCAA Women's Final Four Preview II: USC vs. California

Tonight's second semifinal match of the NCAA women's Final Four will be an all-Pac-10 battle, with the University of Southern California (USC) taking on the University of California, Berkeley. What gives this match a little extra intrigue is that these teams have already met twice this season in conference play, with USC winning both times. The Trojans actually had a harder time holding off the Golden Bears -- 17-15 in the fifth game -- October 9 in Los Angeles (boxscore) than up in Berkeley, where USC prevailed in four games (boxscore).

As usual, I've been focusing a lot on hitting percentage during the tournament, and the following table tells us which players have (and have not) done well in this season's USC-Cal head-to-head match-ups.

As discussed in yesterday's preview of tonight's other semifinal between Penn State and Texas, middle blockers will often have higher hitting percentages than outside hitters, because the latter likely receive a greater number of impromptu, desperation sets when a team is out of system. Having said that, though, USC's two giant middle blockers, Alexis Olgard (6-foot-5) and Lauren Williams (6-4, a third-team All-America), have attacked extraordinarily well against Cal this season, with hitting percentages of .389 and .349, respectively.

On the other hand, the Trojans' outside-hitting corps, led by first team AVCA All-America Alex Jupiter, has been held in check against Cal. As can be seen above, Jupiter, Falyn Fonoimoana, and Katie Fuller have all hit in the range of .222-.235 in the two matches against the Golden Bears. One important task for Trojan setter Kendall Bateman, a second-team All-America, will therefore be to get her outside hitters going.

Cal OH Tarah Murrey, powered by her fellow Cal first-team All-America, setter Carli Lloyd, has overcome any difficulties outside hitters have in recording high hitting percentages, going .364 in the Bears' two matches against the Trojans.

Middle blocker Kat Brown has held her own against SC, hitting .312, while opposite hitter Correy Johnson, an honorable mention for All-America honors, has hit .250. Adrienne Gehan (OH/opposite) and Shannon Hawari (middle) have been almost totally neutralized by USC, compiling virtually as many hitting errors as successful kills.

So there you have what I think are the key questions for tonight. Can the Golden Bears limit the damage from the Trojans' middle blockers, while still keeping the SC outside hitters under wraps? And can Tarah Murrey get a little help from her friends, as Cal tries to match SC offensively?


Popular posts from this blog

My Simple Prediction Equation for the NCAA Women's Tourney

Two years ago, I created a very simple prediction equation for the NCAA women's tournament. Each team gets its own value on the predictive measure. To calculate it, you take a team's overall hitting percentage at the end of the regular season and divide it by the hitting percentage the team allowed its opponents (in the aggregate). The result is then multiplied by an adjustment factor for conference strength, as shown here . For any match in the NCAA tourney, the team with the higher value on my measure would be expected to win. In both 2012 and 2011 , my formula did about as well as other, more complicated ranking formulas. I'm not going to do a full-scale analysis for this year's bracket , but I wanted to mention the formula and provide some sample calculations, in case anyone wanted to compute a score this week for his or her favorite team. The necessary information should be available from the volleyball page of a given school's athletics website. Here are 20

My Vote for Off the Block's Men's Collegiate Server of the Year

I was invited once again this year to vote for the Off the Block men's collegiate volleyball awards . The number of awards has increased and I've been very busy this semester, so I may not have time to conduct statistical analyses for all of the categories. However, I have conducted an analysis to determine my votes for National Server of the Year. The NCAA men's volleyball statistics site (see links column to the right) provides an aces-per-set statistic. Aces are only one part of judging serving ability, in my view. Someone might be able to amass a large ace total by attempting extremely hard jump serves at every opportunity, but such aggressive serving likely would also lead to a high rate of service errors. Another aspect to consider would be serves that, while not aces, still took the opposing team out of its offensive system. Only aces and service errors are listed in publicly available box scores, however. What I did, therefore, was find out the top 10 players in

Statistical Notes Heading into Women's Final Four (2013)

With this year's NCAA women's Final Four getting underway Thursday night in Seattle, today's posting offers some statistical observations. The two semifinal match-ups feature defending champion Texas vs. upstart Wisconsin, and Penn State vs. hometown favorite Washington. Wisconsin, a one-time power that had missed the NCAA tourney from 2008 through 2012, is now back in an ascendant mode under new coach Kelly Sheffield. Seeded 12th nationally, the Badgers benefited in their part of the bracket from the fact that SEC teams Missouri (No. 4 seed) and Florida (No. 5 seed) were Paper Tigers and Gators, respectively. Having said that, Wisconsin may be the kind of team that can give Texas a tough match (like Michigan in last year's semifinal ). A year ago, I developed a statistic that attempts to measure teams' "grind-it-out" tendencies . To me a grind-it-out team is one that lacks spikers with pulverizing power, but digs opponents' attacks well and avoid