Saturday, November 3, 2012

Upset Friday!

Last night saw four major upsets, three of which were in the Pac 12. All four of the victorious teams were unranked in the latest AVCA national poll. No. 2 Oregon lost at home in five to Cal, No. 4 Nebraska squandered a two-games-to-none lead and fell at Michigan, No. 5 UCLA was swept at Arizona, and No. 6 USC was swept at Arizona State.

UCLA really seems to have a hard time with Arizona, for whatever reason. Even though the Bruins ultimately won last year's NCAA title, they lost both 2011 regular-season matches to the Wildcats. This year, the teams split, with UCLA winning at home on October 7, before last night's Arizona win. In order to get an idea of what might be going on, I've created the following table of key statistics for the last four matches between the Bruins and Wildcats (box-score links are at the top of each column; H% = hitting percentage). My usual warnings about concluding too much from small samples apply, however. 


2011@Ariz 2011@UCLA 2012@UCLA 2012@Ariz
UCLA Team H% .256 .189 .333 .143
Kidder H% .290 .265 .333 .148
Love H% .167 .050 .591 .133
UCLA Side-Out% 62% 62% 68% 54%
Arizona Team H% .239 .259 .258 .288
Arizobal H% .263 DNP .267 .312
Kingdon H% .200 .061 .278 .219
Arizona Side-Out% 57% 70% 55% 66%
Winner Ariz 3-2 Ariz 3-0 UCLA 3-0 Ariz 3-0

Arizona seems to be the steadier team in these matches on hitting percentage, staying within a range of .239 to .288, whereas UCLA's been all over the place from .143 to .333. The attacking prowess of Bruin outside hitter Tabi Love appears to be crucial; in UCLA's one win, Love hit .591 (13 kills without an error on 22 attempts), whereas in the other matches, she's hit .167 and below.

Sophomore outside hitters Taylor Arizobal and Madison Kingdon were steady for the Wildcats in this year's matches against the Bruins. Last year, U of A had seniors Cursty Jackson and Courtney Karst to handle a lot of the hitting load and let Arizobal and Kingdon come along gradually. For example, in Arizona's second 2011 match against UCLA, Jackson hit .304 and Karst, .393, to key the Wildcat sweep.

I don't know that UCLA's side-out rates are that diagnostic, other than the 54% performance associated with last night's loss. In the teams' first 2011 match, the Bruins had the better side-out rate despite losing the match (thanks to an 80-31% side-out advantage in Game 2, which the Bruins won 25-10). Also, when the Wildcats have sided-out at 66% or better for a full match, the Bruins haven't been able to win even a game.

***

Nebraska has gone through an unusual stretch recently. Last weekend, playing at home, the Huskers lost to Ohio State, but bounced back to beat No. 1 Penn State. Nebraska, of course, lost last night to Michigan and now is playing Michigan State. I will elaborate upon  Nebraska's recent performance, as well as that of USC and Oregon, in future postings.

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