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.

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