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 Illinois .191-.168. Erin Johnson, who I previously described as Illinois’s steadiest hitter, led her team in hitting percentage at .333 (11- 3- 24). The Illini benefited from fewer service errors (7 vs. 13) and more total team blocks (11-8).
It was not a good weekend for another Big 10 squad, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers got swept in both matches of a road swing through Ohio State (25-23, 25-20, 28-26) and Penn State (25-15, 26-24, 25-15). The Buckeyes failed to build on the Minnesota win, dropping their final weekend match to Wisconsin, however.
In Big 12 play, Texas scored an impressive five-game win at Iowa State. As shown in the graph below, Texas's Bailey Webster and ISU's Jamie Straube essentially cancelled each other out with their plus-.500 hitting, whereas the Longhorns' Rachael Adams and the Cyclones' Tenisha Matlock did the same with their hitting in the mid-.300s. The key difference was in the teams' depth, as Texas's spikers beyond the top two (.194 hitting percentage on 124 attempts) outshined their Cyclone counterparts (.043, 117).
Finally, in other Big 12 action, Oklahoma survived two match points to win 17-15 in the fifth against Texas Tech. For the Red Raider program, which only a year ago snapped a 64-match conference losing streak, to now give a nationally ranked team all it could handle (the Sooners were ranked No. 25) shows the rapid strides being made. Aubree Piper had a breakout night for Texas Tech, hitting .455 on 10 kills with no errors on 22 attempts, whereas Sallie McLaurin (.303, 12-2-33) and Suzy Boulavsky (.277, 17-4-47) paced the Sooners. The Red Raiders, with 5 aces and 7 errors, appeared to serve more aggressively than they had in the past.