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Showing posts from August, 2011

Recap of 2011 AVCA Showcase

The USC Trojans had the tables turned on them last night, squandering a 2-0 lead and losing to Penn State, just one night after 'SC had come back from 0-2 down to top Minnesota. The Gophers, meanwhile, came back on Saturday to defeat Oregon, the opening night's conqueror of Penn State, sending home all four teams in the AVCA Showcase with 1-1 records.

What stood out to me from the Penn State-USC box score was the depth each team had available to call on. For the Nittany Lions, it was frosh OH Nia Grant, whose hitting line consisted of 11 kills and 0 errors on 17 attempts, for a .647 percentage. Another first-year player, Micha Hancock, has taken over Penn State's setting duties for now, and she added a 7-0-8, .875 line on the attack. The former setter, Kristin Carpenter, has now apparently become a backcourt specialist, leading the team with 20 digs. Deja McClendon (.321) and Katie Slay (.320) had solid hitting nights, but Ariel Scott had an off match (-.143).

For 'S…

Opening Night of 2011 AVCA Showcase

Last night's opening matches of the AVCA Showcase didn't exactly go as expected. Pre-season No. 1 Penn State lost to Oregon, 3-1, ending the Nittany Lions' 94-match home winning streak. No. 2 USC almost lost, dropping the first two games to Minnesota before roaring back to take the final three.

Tonight's Oregon-Minnesota match certainly takes on more importance than previously thought, as a second win over a ranked opponent (the Gophers are No. 12) would really propel the initially unranked Ducks' national reputation. The PSU-USC match tonight, though perhaps diminished somewhat in luster, nevertheless gives the Lions a chance to bounce back and make a statement.

Looking at the box score from the Penn State-Oregon match, one wonders at first glance how the Nittany Lions lost, given that they outhit (.308-.277) and outblocked (8.5-5.5) the Ducks and had fewer service errors (8-12) for the match overall. However, if we remove Game 1 -- which PSU took 25-16 -- from t…

2011 Women's College Season Gets Underway

The 2011 women's college volleyball season gets underway today, with a slew of tournaments across the country. The marquee event is the annual AVCA Showcase tournament, being held this year at Penn State. The format of this competition brings together four teams, a pair from each of two conferences. This year's conferences are the Big 10, from which Penn State and Minnesota will be participating, and the Pac 12, represented by USC and Oregon.

All matches are cross-conference. Tonight's matches are Penn State vs Oregon and Minnesota vs. USC. Saturday night, Minnesota faces Oregon, plus the pre-season No. 1 Nittany Lions square off with the No. 2 Trojans.

If you scroll down to my conference previews in earlier entries, you can see capsule summaries of the four teams. One update for USC is that outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana has been declared ineligible. Also, in Trojan coach Mick Haley's "At the Net" video broadcasts (here and here), he has alluded to middle …

Coach Writes in "Coaching Volleyball" on Using Stats

Oakland University (Michigan) women's volleyball coach Rob Beam has an article in the August/September issue of the AVCA journal Coaching Volleyball, on compiling statistics and using them to help one's team improve its performance.

The article, aimed mainly at high school coaches, provides a gentle introduction to volleyball statistics, with definitions of many key terms. Further, rather than presenting his ideas in technical terms (e.g., correlation coefficient), Beam uses a more intuitive form of exposition.

For each type of volleyball statistic, he presents a chart with the terms "absolute correlation" and "strong correlation" to winning or losing. The chart tells the reader how, for the midwestern high school competitions analyzed, performing above or below certain levels on eight different statistical indicators within a given match was associated with winning or losing. For example, teams recording a hitting percentage above .281 always won (an abso…

Women's 2011 College Previews -- SEC, ACC, and 9 Other Conferences!

Today, I present the final batch of 2011 women's college team previews. Having done comprehensive (i.e., every team) previews of the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12 thus far, I didn't have time to do the same for all the remaining conferences, with play beginning in a little over a week! What I did, therefore, was look at last season's NCAA bracket and the newly released 2011 AVCA pre-season poll to select a manageable number of teams to preview.

I ended up with 23 new teams, from 11 conferences. If a school made the round of 32 in the NCAA tourney and/or received a substantial number of votes in the new pre-season poll (even if it didn't actually crack the top 25), then that team is included somewhere (either in today's preview or in one of the earlier ones).  When today's 23 teams are added to those reviewed earlier, it brings the total to 56 squads for which we now have capsule summaries.

Below is a chart (actually, two charts, given the large number of teams) …

Women's 2011 College Previews -- The Pac 12

Penn State is obviously the dominant program in women's volleyball, having won the last four NCAA titles. Arguably, however, the second-, third-, and fourth-best teams a season ago were all from the Pac 10 (now 12), namely Cal (national runner-up), USC (Final Four participant), and Stanford (which ended Penn State's 109-match winning streak in September and ultimately lost a tight regional-final match to USC). In addition, Stanford (1st, .319), Cal (3rd, .308), and USC (8th, .290) all were among the nation's most highly ranked teams last season in hitting percentage.

Of the three schools, USC returns the greatest number of key players -- basically everyone -- whereas Cal and Stanford lose some top players. Another three Pac 12 schools -- UCLA, Washington, and Arizona -- were in last year's NCAA tournament, and will seek to improve their conference standing based on returning players and/or strong recruiting classes.

The following chart highlights the most noteworthy re…

Women's 2011 College Previews -- The Big 12 (-2)

In the history of the Big 12 Conference (and its forerunners, the Big 8 and Southwest Conferences), there have been two nationally elite programs, Nebraska (winner of three national titles, most recently in 2006) and Texas (participant in the last three Final Fours and national champion in 1988). Nebraska is now gone to the Big 10, so for now at least, Texas seems to be in a dominant position in the Big 12.

Let's start with my chart of capsule summaries of the teams, with additional discussion of each team below (you'll need to click on the chart, and possibly on the plus-sign magnifying glass icon that will appear next, to enlarge it). As noted previously in my Big 10 preview, when it comes to teams' leading hitters, I'm generally looking for hitting percentages of .250 or better, and players who take appreciable shares of their teams' spike attempts (20% for outside hitters and 15% for middle blockers).


As hinted at by the high 2010 hitting percentages shown for …