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Huskers Sweep Horns to Win NCAA Women's Title

Playing in Omaha, not far from the school's Lincoln campus, the University of Nebraska swept the University of Texas, 25-23, 25-23, 25-21, to win the Cornhusker program's fourth NCAA title (the third under current coach John Cook) on Saturday, December 19. Here's a link to the box score and play-by-play sheet.

As shown in the following graph, Nebraska outhit Texas by a substantial margin in each game. Yet the games were tight (especially the first two). The Huskers were called for three "assist errors" (perhaps the setter backing into the net or contacting the ball above the net when starting out from the back row) and one ball-handling error for the match, whereas the Longhorns were called for none of either, thus giving UT a four-point advantage in that department and negating some of NU's hitting edge.


Pacing the Husker hitting attack were outside-hitter Mikaela Foecke (.385 percentage, based on 19 kills and 4 errors, on 39 swings) and middles Amber Rolfze…

NCAA Women's Preview 2015

I didn't write much during the regular season, but I'm ready to go for the NCAA women's tournament. I have once again produced my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) metric, the methodology of which is explained here. The heart of the CACOD is the ratio of a team's own hitting percentage to the hitting percentage allowed to opponents. The 64 NCAA teams are ranked below on the CACOD (unless you have amazing eyesight, you'll want to click on the images to enlarge them).

The principle is simple: Whenever two teams play, the one with the higher CACOD would be favored to win. The CACOD's success rate in predicting winners of NCAA women's tournament matches has been right up there with other forecasting tools such as Pablo, Massey/Elo, and RK (see here and here). Last year, the CACOD foresaw BYU's run of upsets in the NCAA tourney.




The Washington Huskies (28-2) come out No. 1 on the CACOD, with a clear margin over the next-closest teams. …

USC Continues Undefeated; Penn State in Uncharacteristic Collapse vs. Nebraska

USC, having displayed an amazing ability to prevail in tight games and matches thus far, will almost certainly be ranked No. 1 in the next national poll. Now 16-0, the Trojans have staked their claim to the top ranking with wins at Stanford last Sunday (26-24, 19-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-13) and at home vs. Washington today (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 33-31).

This wasn't supposed to happen, at least according to the preseason AVCA poll, which had USC at No. 22. In fairness to the voters, the Trojans had were coming off a weak 16-16 record last season and were losing two transfer players, Ebony Nwanebu (to Texas) and Lauryn Gillis (to Wisconsin). It should be noted, however, that Nwanebu and Gillis did not put up great hitting percentages for the Trojans a year ago (.226 and .174, respectively).

Thus far in 2015, USC is playing lights-out both offensively and defensively, in terms of hitting percentage (you may click on the following graph to enlarge it).


The Trojan offense is led by a trio …

'15 Women's World Cup Ends, College Play Begins

Needing a top-two finish at the FIVB World Cup in Japan to qualify for next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, the U.S. women took third. China (first) and Serbia (second) advance to Rio. (Brazil is automatically in the Olympics as host country, so per FIVB policy, did not participate in the World Cup.)

The World Cup uses a round-robin format exclusively, with no elimination rounds (i.e., seminfinals, finals). Under this format, the U.S. finished 9-2, with losses to Serbia (in five games) and Russia (in three). Final standings are shown here, with the U.S. match log shown here.

The U.S. still has another opportunity to qualify for the Olympics through competition at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) level.

Below, I've graphed how U.S. attackers performed against top competition (China, Serbia, fourth-place Russia, and fifth-place Japan). For each player, only matches in which she took at least 10 swings are shown. (Unless you have…

"Volleyball Tracking" Site Provides Micro-Level Data

Over on a discussion thread at VolleyTalk, I learned of a service called Volleyball Tracking. One can find online a sample report of a match, providing information on such statistics as serve speeds, total number of meters run by each player during a match, and set-to-spike times (in fractions of a second). In addition, the report includes heat-maps and vector-type serve-trajectory diagrams. A separate Volleyball Tracking webpage shows animation of player movements on points during the match.

Loyola-Chicago Retains Men's Title in Epic Final

I'm two months late in writing about the NCAA men's final, but an unintended benefit of the delay is that I was able to take the picture to the right, on the Loyola campus during a late-June trip to Chicago. Notice at the bottom of the three-story banner (displayed on a parking structure) that it lists both the Ramblers' 2014 and 2015 titles.

This year's championship was a lot harder to come by than last year's, though, as Loyola captured a marathon fifth game over in-state rival Lewis for the 2015 crown, as opposed to a relatively easy four-game victory over Stanford in 2014.

As shown in the chart below (which I created from the play-by-play sheet), Loyola didn't win until its eighth match point of Game 5 (and the Ramblers also had two match points in Game 4). Lewis had three match points of its own in Game 5.

Held Match PointScoreHeld Match PointLoyola 14-11Loyola14-12
Loyola14-13
15-14LewisLoyola 16-15Loyola 17-16Loyola 18-17
19-18LewisLoyola20-19
21-20LewisLoyola*…

Determining My Vote for Men's OH of the Year

Once again, I have been invited by Off the Block blogger Vinnie Lopes to cast a ballot for men's college players of the year at the various volleyball positions. Because my votes involve a fair amount of statistical analysis, I typically only vote in one category. This year, I have chosen to vote for Outside Hitter of the Year.

My starting point was to look at the top ten outside hitters nationally in hitting percentage (this, and all other, rankings and statistics reported here are from roughly the end of March). These players were: Thomas Jaeschke (Loyola-Chicago, .383); Aaron Russell (Penn State, .379); Tamir Hershko (UC Irvine, .376); Josh Taylor (Pepperdine, .366); Cody Caldwell (Loyola, .325); Nicolas Szerszen (Ohio State, .322); Jonathan Martinez (Pfeiffer, .318); Jon Schaefer (Grand Canyon, .315); Alex Harthaller (IPFW, .305); and Enzo Mackenzie (Sacred Heart, .303).

Spiking may be the primary skill expected of outside hitters, but not the only one. They would also be expe…

Karch Kiraly Visit to Texas Tech: His Coaching Tips and My First Chat with Him in 33 Years!

Let's start with a little "Then and Now." Back in 1982, Karch Kiraly was a senior setter for UCLA, en route to leading the Bruins to three NCAA championships in his four years, and I was the men's volleyball writer for the Daily Bruin. Here's a photographic image of one of my articles (which you can click to enlarge)...


That was then. This is now...


Yesterday, Kiraly came to Texas Tech (where I'm a professor) to spend the day with Coach Don Flora and the Red Raider women's volleyball squad. After a day of private meetings, Kiraly gave a public forum in the evening -- part lecture, part clinic. Scheduled in conjunction with a girls' club tournament, the evening event drew hundreds (if not more) of young players and their parents. As shown in the previous picture, I brought along the old UCLA article and a page printed from my blog to show him. "You're going pretty far back," Karch said, upon seeing the 1982 Daily Bruin article.*
Kiraly…

Belated Summary of Last December's NCAA Women's Final Four

It's been quite a while since Penn State swept BYU, 25-21, 26-24, 25-14, last December to give the Nittany Lion program its second straight NCAA women's title, sixth in the last eight years, and seventh overall. Greater drama was to be found in the two semifinal matches, in which Penn State defeated No. 1-seeded Stanford, and BYU held off No. 2-seeded Texas, both in four games. Accordingly, my statistical review will concentrate on the two semis.

PENN STATE VS. STANFORD

The Cardinal came into this match with a 33-1 record, including a five-game win over Penn State on September 5. Stanford's only regular-season loss had come at Washington on November 26.

In the Stanford-PSU rematch in the NCAA semifinals, however, the Nittany Lions had taken Games 1 (25-16) and 3 (25-22), to place the Cardinal one game away from elimination. Stanford may have been feeling that, if it could pull out Game 4, it would be in good shape, as the Cardinal had hit exceptionally well in Game-5 situat…