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.

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