Friday, November 9, 2012

Nebraska Slumping of Late

Perennial power Nebraska heads into this weekend's homestand vs. Indiana (tonight) and Purdue (tomorrow) with three losses in its last four matches. After dropping their Big 10 opener at Penn State -- certainly no crime -- the Cornhuskers won nine straight. The next time out, seemingly out of nowhere, Nebraska fell at home to Ohio State in four games, before rebounding to beat then-No. 1 Penn State in five. A winless trip to Michigan and Michigan State followed, with the loss to the Wolverines particularly jarring because the Huskers had led two games to none.

The Huskers' season to date is nicely encapsulated in this weekend's match notes from the Nebraska athletic department. Given the importance of hitting percentage in teams' success, I decided to plot Nebraska's hitting percentages for all of its conference matches so far this season, for the team as a whole and for the five players who take the most swings (you may click on the following graphic to enlarge it). 

During the recent slump, the Huskers as a team, and Gina Mancuso, Hannah Werth, and Hayley Thramer, individually, have seen a sharp decline in their hitting percentages (highlighted in yellow). Frosh middle blocker Meghan Haggerty has been erratic throughout the Big 10 season, recording some big highs (.700 at home vs. MSU, .778 at Illinois) and lows (-.111 at home vs. Wisconsin) in her hitting percentages.

In fact, Mancuso has been an almost perfect barometer of how the team is doing. When she's hit well, so have the Huskers, and when she's hit poorly, the team has, as well. To simplify things, I've removed the other players from the above graph and created a new plot below. One can see that, other than the Wisconsin match, in which Mancuso exploded for a .583 performance, her hitting percentages (dotted red line) have tracked extremely closely with the team's hitting percentages (black line). In most Big 10 matches, Mancuso has taken from 20-30% of the Huskers' swings.

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