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Showing posts from October, 2011

Rematch Weekend (2011)

You could call it "Rematch Weekend," as several match-ups of the top teams in the top conferences took place Friday and Saturday for the second time this season. The following chart lists the match-ups, who won the first time, who won the second time, and some brief statistical notes on the rematch (CAPS = home team, lower-case = visitor).

TeamsWinner Match 1 Winner Match 2 Statistical Notes on Second Match Nebraska-
Penn State NEB 3-2  PSU 3-1 PSU outhits (.194-.116) and outblocks (14-8) Neb.  Hancock (PSU) records 6 aces (box score). USC-Stanford USC
3-0 STAN
3-0 Stanford outhits (.339-.161) and outblocks (13-4) USC. Wopat (Stanford) hits .611 (11-0-18); 2 additional Cardinal players hit .290+ on 20+ attempts(box score). USC-Cal USC
3-0 usc
3-0 USC outhits (.319-.147) and outblocks (9-5) Cal. Trojan trio hit .368+ on 19+ attempts. Cal's Hawari hits .435, but Murrey held to .185 (box score). UCLA-Stanford UCLA
3-2 ucla
3-0 UCLA outhits Stanford, .226-.140, led by Aquino's .444 …

Team Hitting Percentage by Game (Set)

Even a casual reader of box scores would probably realize that the same team on the same night can record vastly different hitting percentages in different games (sets). I was curious if there were systematic differences, so I decided to conduct an analysis. Why might there be such differences?

As a match progresses, coaches may devise adjustments to take away a source of offensive success the opponent had been enjoying. Or coaches may come up with ways to overcome the opponent's defensive approach to increase their own team's spiking success. Some coaches may be able to implement adjustments between Games 1 and 2, but if not then, perhaps between Games 2 and 3, when there is a full-fledged intermission.

I looked at the Pac 12 conference, as it appeared to reach its halfway point of league play faster than other major conferences. The Pac 12 plays a full home-and-away round-robin, meaning that each member team plays 22 conference matches. I started compiling the statistics ab…

Nebraska Knocks Off Top-Ranked Illinois

We'll likely have a new No. 1 team in the national women's college rankings this week, as No. 4 Nebraska (17-1, 10-0) handled the previously top-ranked Illinois (20-1, 9-1) relatively easily, 24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-11, to mark the halfway point in Big 10 conference play.

The Illini came out on fire in Game 1, hitting .429 and siding out 72% of the time, but only won the opener 26-24, as the Cornhuskers weren't far behind in these two categories (.412, 68%). Illinois never hit better than .179 nor sided-out at better than 58% in any of the next three games, whereas Nebraska continued to side-out well in the final three games (78%, 63%, and 83%, respectively) and hit particularly well in Games 3 and 4 (.400 and .696). See box score here.

Individually, the Huskers had four players who exceeded hitting percentages of .300 on 22 or more spike attempts: Morgan Broekhuis, .444 (17 kills and only 1 error on 36 swings); Hannah Werth, .407; Brooke Delano, .318; and Gina Mancuso, .…

Illinois at Nebraska Preview

Tonight, No. 1 Illinois (20-0, 9-0) visits No. 4 Nebraska (16-1, 9-0) in a key Big 10 match. As I've written previously, I feel the Cornhuskers are worthy of being ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, already. With Big 10 teams playing a 20-match conference schedule (where a completely balanced home-and-away schedule would require 22 matches), tonight's match will be the only one this season between the Illini and Cornhuskers, unless they meet in the NCAA tournament.

Based on Nebraska's and Illinois's pregame notes (plus the Illini's box score from its most recent win, over Northwestern), I've plotted the hitting percentages Nebraska and Illinois have achieved offensively, and allowed defensively, against their conference opponents so far this season.

Nebraska clearly seems to be the better hitting team. Having played eight common opponents in conference thus far (DNP = Did Not Play), the Huskers have outhit the Illini against six of them. The only exception…

Under the Radar, Part II: Tyler Henderson (Tulsa)

As described in Part I of the "Under the Radar" series, these postings are an outgrowth of a VolleyTalk.net discussion of players from outside the power conferences who might nevertheless be worthy of national honors (e.g., All-America). Tonight, I present my analyses of Tyler Henderson, a 5-10 junior outside hitter for Tulsa.

Henderson has certainly put up some big numbers so far this season, recording hitting percentages of .457 vs Albany; .655 vs Texas-Arlington; .452 vs. North Dakota State; .593 vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff; .433 vs Cal-Davis; .435 vs. Middle Tennessee State; .500 vs. Rice; and .421 vs. UAB. She's also had some underwhelming matches, such as when she hit .167 vs UTEP and .154 vs. Houston.

My focus, however, is on four Tulsa matches -- vs. Illinois, Kentucky, Florida State, and Central Florida. These four opponents have achieved varying amounts of national prominence, plus each has played some top opponents this year, allowing us to compare Henderson's…

Illinois and Nebraska Each Win in Five, as Illini and Huskers Get Ready to Face Each Other

No. 1 Illinois (19-0, 8-0 in the Big 10) and No. 5 Nebraska (15-1, 8-0) each pulled off five-set wins last night to set the stage for a head-to-head showdown next Saturday night when the Illini visit the Cornhuskers.

In holding off Michigan State, the Illini were propelled by Colleen Ward's spectacular .538 hitting percentage (22 kills with only 1 hitting error, on 39 attempts). The usually steady Erin Johnson had an off-night hittng for the Orange and Blue (-.118; 2-4-17), but did contribute 9 block assists. Kyndra Abron (.367; 16-5-30) paced the Spartans (see box score).

Nebraska dropped the opening two games at Minnesota, before rallying for a 28-30, 19-25, 25-10, 25-12, 15-11 win. For the Cornhuskers, it was the balanced offensive attack we're accustomed to seeing from them, with four players registering solid, if unspectacular, hitting percentages against the Gophers: Brooke Delano, .294; Gina Mancuso, .283; Hannah Werth, .270; and Morgan Broekhuis, .256. Nebraska outhit…

Under the Radar, Part I: Lauren Wicinski

Last Friday, October 7, user "bucky415" launched a discussion topic on VolleyTalk regarding women's collegiate players who might be considered "under the radar" nationally. Specifically, readers were urged to nominate players "from programs outside of the top conferences that people here see being candidates for national honors this year." Bucky made his own suggestions, to which interested readers added names. Bucky's primary suggestion was:

Lauren Wicinski from Northern Illinois. She is a 6'1" sophomore outside hitter who plays all around and is just putting up ridiculous hitting numbers. The Huskies swept Western Michigan at home tonight, and she had 25 kills and hit .667, following up a four set win over Toledo where she had 39 kills and hit .484. For the season, she is averaging 5.77 kills per set and hitting .341 against some pretty solid competition.

Your VolleyMetrics analyst feels statistics can contribute to the discussion, so to…

No. 1 Illinois Edges Penn State, as Game-5 Errors Hurt Nittany Lions

This weekend's marquee women's college match, played Saturday night, went to No. 1 Illinois over No. 8 (and four-time defending NCAA champion) Penn State, 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 15-12. That the win occurred on the road for Illinois only enhances its impact.

One oddity to notice in the box score is that, of the Fighting Illini's 15 points in the decisive fifth game, only 4 were gained via the kill (the losing Nittany Lions, in contrast, had 10 kills in that game). Similarly, in winning Game 4, Illinois had fewer kills (9) than did Penn State (13).

I suspect that few teams have ever won a 15-point game with only 4 kills. My curiosity was piqued, so I examined the CBS Gametracker play-by-play sheet to see precisely how Illinois got its points in Game 5. I plotted the information in the pie-chart to the right, with the numbers denoting how each Illini point from 1 to 15 was accounted for.

Interestingly, Liz McMahon's kill to put the Illini up 8-7 was the last time an…

Hot-Hitting Duo Leads Baylor Over Texas Tech

Baylor accomplished what seems to be a fairly rare feat in sweeping Texas Tech 25-19, 25-23, 25-18 tonight in Waco. The Bears had two players who each recorded hitting percentages over .400 on at least 20 spike attempts, namely middle blockers Briana Tolbert, .583 (15 K, 1 E, 24 TA), and Torri Campbell, .476 (11-1-21).

I don't have a comprehensive database of all matches. However, in looking over the box scores from the matches I have written about this season -- which tend to include some of the nation's top-hitting teams -- I found few instances of two players on the same team each hitting .400 in a match on 20 or more swings.

The nation's current No. 1-ranked team, Illinois, has achieved (or nearly achieved) these criteria in a few matches. In the Middle Tennessee State tournament, against Tulsa, Erin Johnson hit .591 on 22 attempts and Anna Dorn went .522 on 23 (Liz McMahon nearly made it a trio, coming in at .421 on 19). Despite hitting .396 as a team in this match to…

Big 10 and Big 12 Round-Ups; ESPN's Statistical Displays

This past weekend's major matches appeared to be concentrated in the country's mid-section. Your VolleyMetrics analyst is always happy to see statistically oriented graphics during volleyball telecasts. This includes the one below from early in Game 2 of last night's Nebraska-Michigan match, even though it conveys bad news for my graduate-school alma mater. The Cornhuskers won in three, a night after being taken to five games by Michigan State (screen capture from ESPN3.com broadcast of game, with the actual statistical display enlarged below the original picture).


No. 1 Illinois, playing at home last night, survived a tight match with the nation's only other heretofore undefeated team, Purdue, 26-24, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23. Tiffany Fisher lit things up for Purdue, scoring 16 kills with only 2 hitting errors on 24 spike attempts, for a hitting percentage of .583. However, of her teammates with at least 10 attempts, nobody hit higher than .181. Purdue actually outhit Illin…