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Showing posts from September, 2014

"What Wins in the Big 12?"

As some long-term readers of this blog may know, I'm a professor at Texas Tech University and I meet occasionally with Red Raider volleyball coach Don Flora to discuss statistical aspects of the sport and find out what kind of analyses he might be interested in at a given time. We last met this past spring and he told me his big question: "What wins in the Big 12?" I took the meaning of the question to be: what combinations of success at hitting, blocking, digging, serving, etc., were associated with winning conference matches in the Big 12? I told Coach Flora I would have something for him, and proceeded to start thinking about how I would conduct analyses.

Now, with the Red Raiders opening their Big 12 portion of the schedule by hosting TCU tonight, I have the fruits of my inquiry. I first created a database of all 72 conference matches played a year ago (despite its name, the Big 12 has only 10 schools and one, Oklahoma State, doesn't field a women's volleybal…

Opening of Women's Conference Play (2014)

It's a busy week in women's college volleyball, with conference play opening up around the country. The Pac 12 schedule has each team starting off league play against its respective traditional/geographic rival. A pair of matches will be held tonight, featuring Cal (8-2 in nonconference) at  No. 1 Stanford (10-0), and No. 20 UCLA (9-2) at No. 9 USC (7-3). Other Pac 12 rivalry matches will be held on Wednesday and Thursday. I already wrote about Stanford's fast start this season, so I will discuss UCLA and USC (among other teams) in the present posting.

The Big 10 (or B1G) begins play with matches Wednesday and Friday. The marquee match-up of the week, not just in the conference, but nationally, features a rematch of last December's national championship tilt between No. 3 Penn State (12-1) and No. 5 Wisconsin (9-1), in Madison. The Nittany Lions' only loss so far this season was in a five-gamer to Stanford, whereas the Badgers' only setback was to Washington, l…

Stanford Women Off to Fast Start

Heading into the third weekend of the 2014 women's college season, Stanford has been the most impressive team thus far, dominating the most recent AVCA national poll. The Cardinal (4-0) is by no means the only undefeated team; 10 teams in the Top 25 have perfect records. However, it's the difficulty of Stanford's opposition -- Iowa State (in Ames), Nebraska (in Lincoln), Penn State, and Illinois -- that makes the Cardinal's record so noteworthy.

Another challenge Stanford has overcome thus far is the absence of two of last year's seniors, three-time All-American MB Carly Wopat and All-Pac 12 honorable mention OH Rachel Williams. Let's explore how the Cardinal has adapted offensively. I first compared Stanford's offensive statistics for 2013 and 2014 (the latter statistics, based on only four matches, should of course be taken with caution). As the first graph shows, the Cardinal has not hit at quite as high a clip as last year, while its opponents (in the a…