Sunday, May 5, 2013

UC Irvine Block Party Sweeps BYU in Men's Final

The University of California Irvine repeated as men's NCAA volleyball champions last night, sweeping Brigham Young University in three tightly contested games, 25-23, 25-22, 26-24, in Los Angeles.

UCI was even more dominant on paper, as the Anteaters outblocked and outhit the Cougars by wide margins. At the net, UCI prevailed 17-6 in total team blocks (block assists divided by two, plus solo blocks). Whereas the Anteaters' Colin Mehring was the nation's top blocker on a contending team this season by my calculation, it was his teammate, junior middle-blocker Scott Kevorken, who stepped up in the championship match with one solo block and 11 assists.

Irvine's blocking dominance last night was very different from the teams' relatively even blocking in their two regular-season head-to-head matches, both of which were won by BYU. (Box scores for the three matches are available by clicking on the relevant link: first regular-season match, second regular-season match, NCAA title match). I have graphed BYU and UCI's total team blocks in the teams' three head-to-head matches:


UCI's blocking prowess was the story of the match, all the way down to the final points. The Anteaters trailed 24-21 in Game 3, meaning the Cougars had three set points. However, Irvine ran off five straight points to win 26-24, the last three all coming on blocks!

Irvine outhit BYU for the match, .383-.274. In Game 1, UCI recorded 17 kills with only 4 errors in 29 attempts, for a .448 hitting percentage. In Game 2, the Anteaters reduced their hitting errors even further, again scoring 17 kills, but committing only 2 miscues (on 35 attempts) for a .429 percentage. Kevorken and Mehring each had identical hitting lines for UCI: 7 kills, 1 error, 10 attempts, .600 percentage. Outside hitter Connor Hughes (11-3-22, .364) and opposite (right-side) hitter Zack La Cavera (11-1-21, .476) also contributed offensively for the Anteaters.

BYU OH Taylor Sander, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year and first-team All-America, hit .308 on the night (20-8-39). However, six of his eight hitting errors resulted from being blocked. The Cougars' highly touted frosh opposite Ben Patch had a rougher night (7-5-22, .091), with four of his five hitting errors due to being blocked.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NCAA Men's Final Four Begins Thursday

The Net Set offers some fairly statistically oriented previews of the Loyola (Chicago)-UC Irvine and Penn State-BYU semifinal matches of this year's NCAA men's Final Four.