Sunday, October 9, 2011

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 Illinois hitter put away a spike all night. Illinois's blockers contributed points 3, 4, 5, and 9. UI coach Kevin Hambly was quoted in the above-linked match article saying, "I thought... Anna Dorn took over the match blocking late..." Indeed, Dorn collaborated on all four of Illinois's blocks in Game 5.

Most surprising of all, however, is that the Illini's final 6 points came from sloppy Penn State play of one sort or another. Attack errors (hitting the block out of bounds, as the error of getting the ball blocked for an opposing-team point is accounted for separately here) gave Illinois its 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th points; an Illinois service ace brought it point No. 11; and a Nittany Lion ballhandling error (BHE) gave the Illini their final point.

Dorn added a .556 hitting night (5 kills with 0 errors, on 9 attempts) to her 13 block assists for the match, while teammate Erin Johnson turned in yet another fine offensive night, hitting .417 (11-1-24). As a team, though, Illinois hit only .184.

That exceeded Penn State's .134. Nia Grant paced the Lions at .500 (10-2-16).

1 comment:

Carolina said...

That pie chart is very thought provoking and illustrates how execution is paramount in this sport. Actually, I can't wait to see the replay of the match to determine the cause of PSU hitting errors late. Illinois has a knack for wearing teams down -- mentally and physically -- because they are pretty relentless and seem to stay strong in 5-set matches. To what extent PSU errors late are the result of sloppiness or just trying to avoid the block (because hitting off it wasn't working) I think I'll have to watch to determine for myself. It might also be overall experience being employed effectively. Illini's Michelle Bartsch, usually team's biggest offensive threat, was a digging/passing machine.