Monday, September 26, 2011

Florida's SEC Win Streak Snapped; Analyzing Kelly Murphy's Hitting

Late Sunday afternoon, Tennessee upset Florida 25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 19-25, 18-16, ending the Gators' 24-match winning streak in SEC play. Florida had won its first two conference matches this season, after going a perfect 20-0 in the SEC a year ago and winning its final two league matches of 2009 (UF volleyball archive).

Not that it's been a terrible season for Florida, but the Gators already have two home losses thus far, the Tennessee match and a September 5 setback to Iowa State (Florida's only other loss was at Stanford in the final of the Big Four Classic).

Senior Kelly Murphy, a setter in Florida's two-setter offense and a powerful left-handed hitter from the right-hand side of the court, has been the Gators' leader in recent years. She was down against Tennessee, hitting only .171 on 10 kills and 4 errors in 35 spike attempts. That prompted me to see how Murphy was doing overall thus far into the 2011 campaign.

As seen in the graph below, Murphy is not hitting as well (statistically) as she did a year ago, but it's all relative. Last year, she hit a stellar .374 and this season has fallen to "only" .342. Her share of the Gator hit attempts is the lowest it's been in any of her four years, by a small amount.

 
An optimistic note for Gator fans is that Murphy has the potential to raise her already high hitting percentage and (pending the strategizing of coach Mary Wise) her number of hit attempts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Iowa State's Greater Consistency Too Much for Texas Tech


Texas Tech faced its first major challenge of the season yesterday, at home in its Big 12 conference opener with No. 16 (tie) ranked Iowa State. The Red Raiders came in 13-1 -- a tremendous improvement already, considering last year's team was 4-25 -- but had played a schedule consisting heavily of schools in Texas and Louisiana from non-power conferences.

With my camera and my clipboard, I was amongst the 881 spectators in attendance. One thing I noticed in person that I had not noticed on television is how physical Iowa State is (pictured above on the right; you may click on the photos to enlarge them). It's not entirely height -- Tenisha Matlock (17) and Jamie Straube (14) are each 6-2, but many top teams have players taller than that. Rather, it's that the Cyclones are stout (as in "Strong in body; sturdy" and "Powerful; forceful"), yet also capable of executing some very effective quick sets down the middle.

Texas Tech played well... in spurts, early in Games 1 and 2. But in the end, Iowa State had way too much, sweeping the match, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16. Through two games, the Raiders held their own in blocking (4 total team blocks to the Cyclones' 6). At the end of the day, however, ISU dominated the box score, just as they did the action on the court.

The Red Raiders apparently opted for a low-risk serving strategy, which led to only 1 service error, but also only 2 aces. Further, the Cyclones were rarely taken out of their offense by Tech's serve, siding-out at a quite high 76% clip. Iowa State, in constrast, served very aggressively, exemplified most prominently by Caitlin Mahoney's high-toss jump serves. The Cyclones collectively had 4 aces and 5 service errors, but held the Raiders to a 51% siding-out rate.

The Cyclones greatly outhit the Raiders, .277-.049. ISU was led by Matlock (.444), Hannah Willms (.375), and Straube (.333). Iowa State also dominated digging, 66-45, which would be one of the reasons for Texas Tech's low hitting percentage.
...

Elsewhere around the nation last night, USC scored what might be called a "nailbiter sweep" over Stanford, 25-23, 26-24, 25-23, while across town in Los Angeles, UCLA took down Cal, 3-1.

Over in the Big 10, there was another nailbiter sweep (for the first two games at least), as host Purdue stopped Michigan, 26-24, 26-24, 25-15, in a battle of previously unbeaten teams. Tiffany Fisher’s .571 hitting performance (9 kills and 1 error on 14 attempts), along with Catherine Rebarchak’s .333 (8-3-15) led the Boilermakers.

No. 3 (and possible heir apparent to No. 1) Illinois completed a successful weekend Sunday afternoon, sweeping Wisconsin in Mad-town.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Illinois, USC, and UCLA Register Impressive Wins

In last night's key matches...

No. 3 Illinois passed its biggest test of the season, winning 3-2 at Minnesota to remain undefeated.  Both teams feature a number of high-percentage hitters, but last night the big guns were held in check, the Illini outhitting the Gophers only .201-.174 (box score).

Erin Johnson was the only Illinois player to record a really high hitting percentage, clocking in at .435 (11 kills with 1 error, on 23 attempts). Brianna Haugen, who had taken only 11 swings for the Gophers thus far all season, hit .500 (7-0-14), while Minnesota's stalwart, Tori Dixon, hit only .182 (13 -7- 33).

Illinois outblocked Minnesota 16-4, although the Gophers had the advantage on digs, 77-70.

On the West Coast, USC continued to look like the team people expected the Trojans to be, sweeping No. 1 Cal, while UCLA held on in five against No. 2 Stanford. For the Bruins, Rachael Kidder registered 30 kills (with 10 errors) on a make-your-arm-fall-off  77 swings, for a .260 hitting percentage.

I'm off to campus to see Iowa State at Texas Tech this afternoon!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hitting Stats for Up-and-Coming Illinois

This weekend's top women's college action appears to be in Los Angeles -- where tonight Cal plays USC, and Stanford meets UCLA, before the teams switch opponents Saturday -- and in Minneapolis, where Minnesota hosts No. 3 and undefeated Illinois tonight.

I've written a ton about USC so far this season (most recently here), some about Stanford and UCLA, and a little about Cal. I've also written a lot about Minnesota, so I will concentrate on Illinois in the rest of this entry.

The Fighting Illini are 11-0, but only one match has been against a ranked team, No. 21 Dayton. The Dayton match, as well as ones against Tulsa and Louisville, went five games. Based on this Illinois pre-match release, I created the following table about the Fighting Illini's top hitters in their last six matches. Individual hitting percentages above .300 -- and there are a lot of them -- are highlighted in white font.

Hitting %
(# Attempts)
Dayton
Middle
Tenn St.
Cal Poly
 Tulsa  
Cincinnati
Louisville
M. Bartsch
OH Sr.
.197
(71)
.303
(33)
.188
(48)
.286
(49)
.417
(24)
.043
(46)
Anna Dorn
MB Fr.
.529
(17)
.571
(7)
.579
(19)
.522
(23)
.500
(8)
-.167
(6)
Erin Johnson
MB Jr.
.407
(27)
.353
(17)
.636
(22)
.591
(22)
.444
(18)
.348
(23)
Liz McMahon
OH Fr.
.500
(4)
.800
(10)
.222
(18)
.421
(19)
.556
(9)
.576
(33)
Colleen Ward
OH Sr.
.327
(55)
.385
(26)
.185
(27)
.324
(34)
.188
(16)
.311
(45)

The gaudiest hitting percentages have been put up by the two frosh, Anna Dorn and Liz McMahon. Illini coach Kevin Hambly apparently increased Dorn and McMahon's hit attempts gradually, with the latter rising to the point that she maintained a .576 percentage on 33 attempts against Louisville.

Of the two outside-hitting seniors who have been expected to lead the team, Colleen Ward, a 2010 transfer from the University of Florida, has shown greater offensive consistency in doing so than has Michelle Bartsch. Most consistent of all, arguably, has been MB Erin Johnson.

Dorn is the only Illini player within the conference's Top 10 in blocks/set (game) with 1.14, whereas two members of the Orange and Blue, Jennifer Beltran (3.85) and Bartsch (3.49), are in the Top 10 of digs/set.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nebraska Wins Debut Big 10 Match, Edging Penn State; A Look at Hitting Allocations and Success

Last night's first-ever Big 10 conference match for Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers hosted none other than four-time defending national champion Penn State, lived up to its billing, as Nebraska won in five, 25-18, 25-16, 23-25, 19-25, 15-10 (article, box score). The Huskers actually seemed to be on their way to a sweep, leading (as best I recall from listening to the online radio broadcast) 16-11 in Game 3. However, Penn State got hot for the next game and a half, before Nebraska regrouped in Game 5.

One noteworthy statistical element of the match was that Nebraska outblocked Penn State, 11 to 9. The Nittany Lions very rarely get outblocked.

The Huskers also outhit the Lions, .229-.182. Many times on this blog, I've plotted players' hitting percentages by how many spike attempts they've taken, the idea being that a team presumably would want players with high hitting percentages (which makes the bars in the graph higher) to also be taking a lot of attempts (which makes the bars wider). Previously, however, I've only plotted one team per graph (example from last year).

For last night's Penn State-Nebraska match, I thought it would be interesting to view the two teams together, with the bars arranged left-to-right from highest to lowest player hitting percentages (you may click on the graph to enlarge it).


For whatever it's worth, Nebraska (red bars) seemed to have a core of players who took a lot of spike attempts and hit in the high .200s. Penn State's hitting, in contrast, was concentrated among some players who hit really well and others who didn't.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Round-Up (Sept 16-17, 2011)

USC, which a week ago was routed on its home floor by UCLA, went into Seattle on Friday night and shocked the No. 4 and heretofore unbeaten Washington Huskies, 25-20, 28-26, 25-20. The Trojans did it not so much with scorching offense, hitting .240 as a team, but to a large extent with defense. Natalie Hagglund contributed 30 digs against Washington, one of the reasons the Huskies hit only .128 as a team. The Trojans completed a perfect weekend by also sweeping Washington State on Saturday, hitting .447 as a team along the way.

If one were to pick out USC's most significant matches of the season thus far, they would probably be the opening-tournament contests against Minnesota and Penn State (at Penn State), the loss to Central Florida in the Florida Gulf Coast tourney, and the three Pac 12 conference matches. I thought it would be interesting to see how the Trojans' leading hitters have fared in those six matches in terms of hitting percentages, so I created the following table:


Minn
PSU
UCF
UCLA
@UW
@WSU
Burnham
-.083
.452
.188
.105
DNP
0 Att.
Fuller
.160
.185
.000
.300
.231
.579
Jupiter
.327
.200
.000
.056
.097
.308
Schraer
.333
.571
.000
.083
.250
.364
Shaw
.250
.000
.000
.333
.481
.583
Williams
.552
.269
.500
.118
.167
.571
Legend to table: Wins, Losses. Middle blockers in italics.

Several observations are noteworthy, in my view:

*Nobody has shown a lot of consistency in these matches, with plenty of sub-.200 and sub-.100 percentages in evidence.

*Lauren Williams has had her ups-and-downs, exceeding .500 in three matches, but hitting much lower in the other contests. Middle blockers (of which Williams is one) seem to have higher hitting percentages than their outside-hitting counterparts, which is why I've italicized the names of middles. As commenters on VolleyTalk have pointed out, sets to the middles almost always occur when the offense is running in system, middles rarely face double-blocks, etc.

*Katie Fuller and Sara Shaw have really picked things up with the start of conference play.

*Hannah Schraer has, for the most part been solid, but has had some off-matches, whereas Alex Jupiter has slumped even more.

*Kirby Burnham's big evening vs. Penn State appears to have been a one-off, and she does not appear to play much of a role in the USC offense at this time. Whether she has had injury problems or not, I don't know.

Washington, for its part, bounced back from the 'SC loss with a vengeance yesterday against UCLA, sweeping the Bruins. As this game article notes, the Huskies:

...hit .340 for the match with senior Bianca Rowland getting back into dominant form with 12 kills and a .647 attack percentage. Junior Kylin Muñoz had one of the highest quality efforts of her career with a team-leading 13 kills and just one error for a .429 attack percentage, and setter Evan Sanders was on target all night with 41 assists.

Next weekend, USC and UCLA host Cal and Stanford.

...

Turning to the Big 10, new member Nebraska warmed up for its huge conference-opener this coming Wednesday when Penn State comes to town by slamming its former Big 12 rival Iowa State, 25-23 , 25-15, 25-18. The Huskers sided-out (i.e., winning points on ISU's serve) at a 74% rate for the match, 86% in Game 2.

Four Nebraska players exceeded .300 hitting in the box score: Gina Mancuso (14 attempts, 1 error, 35 attempts, for a .371 percentage); Brooke Delano (6-1-14, .357); Morgan Broekhuis (11-4-23, .304); and Hayley Thramer (6-1-15, .333).

Looking at Iowa State's top hitters from when the Cyclones upset Florida back on Labor Day, only Kelsey Petersen (3-0-13, .231) had even a decent night against Nebraska. Jamie Straube (-.067) and Tenisha Matlock (.000) were definitely kept in check by the Huskers. Carly Jenson, who hit only .053 vs. Florida, did much better against Nebraska with a .275 evening (17-6-40).

The blocking comparison tells it all: Nebraska had 13 total team blocks and Iowa State only had 1. One place the Cyclones held their own was in digging (perhaps because so many Husker hits were getting through the block). ISU had 56 digs with four players in double figures, whereas Nebraska had 55.

This coming Wednesday night (7:00 Central), Iowa State hosts Missouri in a national ESPN-U telecast. If you get the Big 10 Network, you can also watch Penn State-Nebraska on Wednesday

Elsewhere in the Big 10, Michigan swept Texas A&M in a mostly tight match, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17, to win its own tournament and complete a perfect 12-0 non-conference record. With Lexi Dannemiller taking over at setter from last year's senior Lexi Zimmerman, and directing plenty of balls to tournament MVP Lexi Erwin, the Wolverines were able to prevail.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cal Beats Stanford; Reader Remarks on Cardinal Hitting Errors

No. 1 Cal has defeated No. 2 Stanford in Berkeley tonight, in a battle of the unbeatens.

UPDATE: Reader "Hobbes" left a note in the Comments section (below) focusing on Stanford's high rate of hitting errors, but with an interesting twist. Yes, hitting errors were key in Game 3 (after the teams had split the first two), as the Cardinal went from being ahead 10-5 to losing 25-16.

Perhaps even more telling than comparing the teams' overall hitting errors -- Stanford 31, Cal 17, for the match as a whole -- is Hobbes's distinction between unforced and other errors. Eleven of Stanford's errors were blocks by Cal (balls that rocketed back down to the Cardinal side of the floor for immediate Golden Bear points), so 20 of Stanford's errors (31-11) were what Hobbes would call unforced -- spiking the ball out of bounds, into the net, etc. Cal suffered 12 blocks to Stanford, leaving the Bears with just 5 unforced errors (17-12). Here is a copy of the box score.

Focusing on the simple difference (subtraction), Stanford committed 14 more overall errors than Cal, and 15 more unforced errors, essentially no difference. As a ratio, however, 31/17 = 1.82, whereas 20/5 = 4.00. This is all post hoc, of course, and so the ratio looks more diagnostic because we know Cal won.

As some readers may recall, at the end of the 2009 women's college season, I analyzed the merits of Karch Kiraly's assertion that getting blocked was somehow a "better" kind of error to commit than hitting the ball out of bounds. The approach I took is certainly not the only possible one, but I did not find much support for the Kiraly hypothesis.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekend Round-Up (Sept 9-10, 2011)

Stanford won the Big Four Classic on its home floor, beating Penn State in the semifinals and Florida in the final. It was a tightly contested tournament, as three of the four matches went the maximum five games (sets). The Stanford-Penn State tilt went four. As I wrote in my Pac 12 preview:

...the loss of three senior stars from last year leaves doubt whether STANFORD can contend this year at its typical nationally elite level. Gone are Alix Klineman and Cassidy Lichtman, who together accounted for nearly 50% of the team's hitting attempts, plus leading libero Gabi Ailes.

Perhaps I was a bit premature! Stanford soph outside hitter Rachel Williams, who last year hit a relatively low .229 on 14% of the team's total attempts (541 out of 3,811), won tournament MVP honors. After hitting .302 vs. Penn State, Williams hit only .183 against Florida. Perhaps the judges were impressed in the latter match, however, by the Herculean 71 spike attempts she took over five games, on which she registered 23 kills and 10 errors. In 2011, thus far, Williams has upped her hitting percentage to .286.

Other top performances in the Big Four include the following (line scores are of the form kills-errors-attempts, hitting percentage):

Tangerine Wiggs, the junior right-side whose name is a walking billboard for Florida’s citrus fruit industry, hit spectacularly for the Gators in the tournament, particularly against Stanford (18-1-31, .548), but also vs. Texas (13- 4-26, .346).

Kristy Jaeckel also came up big against the Cardinal (20-5-45, .333); according to the Gators’ online radio broadcast, apparently Florida coach Mary Wise moved Jaeckel midway through the match from her usual left-side OH position to a right-side opposite location. Florida junior middle blocker Betsy Smith had a fine night against the Longhorns (5-1-10, .400, plus 8 block assists).

Texas’s Madelyn Hutson (8-1-13, .538), Bailey Webster (10-2-16, .500) and Rachael Adams (9-2-19, .368) recorded stellar hitting performances in the Longhorns' consolation-match victory over Penn State, after no UT player hit over .227 in the semifinals vs. Florida. Adams added a solo block and 7 assisted ones against Penn State, after scoring 10 block assists vs. Florida.

Penn State’s 6-foot-6 sophomore MB Katie Slay compiled impressive lines against both Stanford (11-2-22, .409) and Texas (7-2-15, .333, plus 8 block assists).

Stanford gets only a short rest, opening up Pac 12 play Tuesday night in Berkeley against No. 1 (but largely untested) Cal. The Golden Bears are 10-0 (30-0 in games), but have played no nationally ranked opponents (or even any teams that have received votes in the AVCA poll).

...

Talking about the Pac 12, UCLA went into USC's Galen Center and absolutely destroyed the Trojans, 25-19, 25-17, 25-17. I would call the Bruins' win a mild upset, but the one-sidedness of the match a major stunner.

Leading the Bruins was junior OH Rachael Kidder, who hit .483 (14-0-29), not bad for career .200 hitter (.186 in 2010, .206 in 2009). She was joined in the .400 club by frosh MB Zoe Nightingale (7-2-12, .417). Such sizzling hitting stats seemingly make Minnesota transfer Tabi Love’s .294 (5-0-17) look shabby, which of course it isn’t! As a team, UCLA was .355 on the night.

Other than Katie Fuller’s .300 (8-2-20), no Trojan exceed a hitting percentage of .118 (also excluding players with very small numbers of attempts). Many observers feel the loss of OH Falyn Fonoimoana, who was declared ineligible right before the season  began, is a key reason for USC's current disarray. She hit .239 last season, taking a substantial chunk (23%) of the team's spike attempts. There was an interesting exchange on VolleyTalk, in which one person argued:

I can't believe people are still pinning USC's woes on Falyn.....will someone please check her stats, yes she was productive but 3 kills per game at under .250 percentage is NOT irreplaceable. USC's struggles extend A LOT farther than FF, trust me. Even without her they return 3 All Americans and 2 more starters from last year...do you know how many teams would kill for that kind of experience right now? Even with their current roster they should not be getting swept by Central florida, and not reaching 20 points in even a set at home. USC is falling apart, and its not because of Fayln.

but another contended:

Well, if not for [Fonoimoana's] 21 kills (.311) in L.A. against UW last year, USC doesn't pull out that 5-set win (4.2 kills a set). As a freshman, the statistical averages from the second half of the season are a lot more significant than those from the first half. In the first matchup in Seattle, she was much less effective, with 16 kills (.133) in a 5-set loss to the Huskies (3.2 kills a set). I know those are just snapshots, but I do think they are somewhat indicative of the trajectory of her improvement. In USC's final conference game against UCLA, she had 23 kills (.237) in a 5-set win (4.6 kills a set).

...

I'll close by discussing two teams from the Big 10 and one from the Big 12.

For Minnesota, this past weekend contained good news and bad news. On the positive side, the No. 6 Gophers knocked off No. 15 Northern Iowa to win the UNI tournament.

Further, Minnesota soph Tori Dixon (MB) continued her astoundingly hot hitting through the weekend. After piling up hitting percentages of .410, .364, .500, and .444 in matches during the initial two weekends of the season, she hit .421 vs. St. Louis and .500 vs. Kansas in her team's first two UNI-tourney matches, before falling to "only" .286 against the Panthers in the final.

Against St. Louis, senior Gopher MB Ariana Filho had a near-perfect hitting night; other than one ball that was kept in play, each spike she attempted was a kill, giving her a .900 hitting percentage (9-0-10).

The bad news for Minnesota was an upset loss to Kansas midway through the UNI tournament. Against KU, Gopher soph OH Ashley Wittman had a big hitting night (28-6-53, .415), plus she recorded 13 digs. Ultimately, Wittman would win the tourney MVP award, but she and her teammates didn't have enough against the Jayhawks.

KU was paced by the hitting duo of Tayler Tolefree (8-0-21, .381) and Allison Mayfield (19-2-46, .370) in the win over Minnesota. The Jayhawks went 2-1 in the UNI tournament, losing only in five games to the host Panthers. Last season, KU had the dubious distinction of being the team that lost to Texas Tech as the Red Raiders ended their 64-match conference losing streak. The Jayhawks really seem to have rebounded this season!

Finally, Michigan continued its undefeated ways, defeating two ranked teams -- the host Flyers and Florida State -- and a Pepperdine team that may well be ranked in the future, to win the Dayton tournament. The Wolverines hit .410 as a team in their opener vs. FSU; I suspect that .400-plus performances against nationally ranked opponents are not very common.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Preview of Big Four Classic and UCLA-USC Match

The two main attractions of this weekend's play take place on the West Coast. One event is the Big Four Classic at Stanford, beginning tonight with the host Cardinal taking on Penn State and Florida going against Texas. Second, Pac 12 conference play gets under way tonight (sure seems early) with UCLA visiting USC.

I've already written fairly extensively about Penn State, Florida, Texas, and USC in recent weeks. All of these teams have suffered an unexpected loss (or in Texas's matches vs. Minnesota, surprisingly one-sided losses) thus far this season. Stanford has not, to this point, played as high-profile a schedule as some other schools, but the Cardinal owns an impressive win over nationally ranked Duke.

UCLA started out the season 6-0, including wins over Long Beach State, Ohio State, and host Hawai'i in last weekend's Wahine Volleyball Classic. However, on Wednesday night, the Bruins fell at Pepperdine in five games. UCLA led 2-1 in games, before succumbing to a "Pepp rally."

The following table presents a brief statistical overview of tonight's matches. Though the teams' schedule difficulty thus far is not equal, all have encountered at least some degree of quality opposition.  Further details on Stanford, USC, and UCLA can be found in the Pac 12 statistical report.

Match
Hitting Edge
Defensive 
Edge*
Notes
Penn St.-Stanford
PSU 
(.315-.263)
Stanford
(.101-.189)
Wopat averaging 1.79 blocks/
set; Hancock .94 aces/set
Florida-Texas
Florida  
(.300-.228)
Florida
(.091-.202)
Florida 13 more serve errors than opp.; Adams averaging 1.71 blocks/set
UCLA-USC
USC
(.291-.205)
UCLA
(.129-.202)
Williams hitting .496, atop Pac 12; Todorovic averaging .81 aces/set
*Hitting percentages holding opponents to.

Two other tournaments are worth looking at, in my view. One is the Dayton Flyer Classic, which includes No. 20 Michigan, No. 23 Dayton, No. 24 Florida State, and Pepperdine, who is likely to be ranked in the future. The other is the Northern Iowa tournament, featuring the host Panthers (No. 15) and Minnesota (No. 6). Tori Dixon leads a powerful Gopher hitting attack.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Iowa State Edges Florida

Iowa State and Florida, both undefeated and nationally ranked coming into today's Labor Day matinee in Gainesville, played a suspenseful match, with the Cyclones prevailing, 16-14 in Game 5 (box score). ISU had won the first two games and Florida, Games 3 and 4.

For the match, the Gators outhit (.251-.208) and outblocked (16-8) the Cyclones. As shown in the following graph, however, the two teams' game-specific hitting percentages were all over the place.

Junior middle blocker Jamie Straube, one of the Cyclones' top hitters from a year ago, hit .321 against the Gators. Kelsey Petersen, a senior right-side hitter, led ISU with a hitting line of 15 kills and 2 errors on  23 attempts, for a .565 percentage, with soph MB/RS Tenisha Matlock adding a .294 performance.

Florida exhibited a balanced offensive attack, with five players being set 23 or more times. Of the five most frequently set Gators, two hit in the high-.200s, Cassandra Anderson (27 attempts, .296) and Tangerine Wiggs (36, .278). The other three all hit in the low-.200s, Kristy Jaeckel (40, .225), Kelly Murphy (23, .217), and Stephanie Ferrell (30, .200).

The Gators, with 7 service aces but 17 errors, appeared to serve more aggressively than did the Cyclones, who had 3 aces and 11 errors. In the middle-to-late stages of the decisive Game 5, Florida missed 3 serves.

Florida now moves on to the Big Four tournament beginning this coming Friday, along with Texas, Penn State, and host Stanford. Iowa State continues its current stretch of road matches, with  two at North Dakota State this coming weekend and then ones at Northern Iowa (Sept. 13) and at Nebraska (Sept. 17). With the Huskers' departure to the Big 10, of course, the ISU-Nebraska match will be of the nonconference variety.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rampant Upsets Early in 2011 Women's College Season; Minnesota Emerges

Even with just two weekends of play on the books, the present season is shaping up to be a weird one. On top of Penn State's loss to Oregon in Week 1, Week 2 has given us a Central Florida sweep over USC and a Colorado State comeback over Nebraska.

Texas, another highly ranked squad, didn't acquit itself particularly well either, failing to take even a game in two matches at Minnesota. The first match score was 25-20, 25-20, 25-17, whereas the second was 25-19, 25-21, 25-22.

Minnesota has been one of the pleasant surprises of the young season, with a five-game loss to USC in the Penn State tournament its only blemish. Leading the Golden Gopher hitting attack is Tori Dixon, a 6-3 sophomore middle blocker. In each of the Gophers' four matches thus far, Dixon has recorded hitting percentages in the .400 vicinity, where .300 would be considered very good (see graph below).

Meanwhile, teammates Ariana Filho (6-2 senior MB) and Katherine Harms (6-2 junior outside hitter) have also been putting up some gaudy numbers, albeit with less consistency.


In Saturday's second match between Texas and Minnesota, the siding-out rates were exceptionally high. The Longhorns' side-out percentages for the three games (in chronological order) were 60, 62, and 68, which usually would win you a lot of matches. However, the Gophers' were 78, 72, and 77!

In the USC-UCF match, the Trojans' Alex Jupiter, whose inconsistencies have been documented on this blog, hit .000. Her 7 kills were cancelled out by 7 errors, in 28 swings (box score). Sometimes Jupiter can be out of this world, and other times, just out of it!

LATE NIGHT UPDATE:  UCLA has defeated Hawai'i 3-1 in Honolulu (box score)... Florida will be hosting Iowa State Monday afternoon (2:00 Eastern) in a Labor Day matinee (UF preview). Unless there are restrictions of which I'm unaware, interested volleyball fans should be able to listen via the Internet to the game broadcast on radio station WRUF 850. There is also tape-delayed television coverage, if you get the Sun Sports network.