Tuesday, September 8, 2015

'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 amazing vision, you'll want to click on the graphic to enlarge it.)


The three most consistent offensive threats for the U.S. (in terms of hitting percentage, at least) appeared to be Foluke Akinradewo (middle-blocker), Nicole Fawcett (opposite), and to a somewhat lesser extent, Jordan Larson-Burbach (outside-hitter). These are three of the more experienced players on the U.S. roster.

***

As the World Cup was winding down, the U.S. women's collegiate season was getting underway. This past weekend saw a match-up of No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Stanford (won by the Nittany Lions), and between No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Florida (won by the Gators).

In Austin, three Florida players -- Ziva Recek (9-0-16, .562), Mackenzie Dagostino (5-0-10, .500), and Rhamat Alhassan (13-1-25, .480) -- committed only one hitting error amongst themselves.

In State College, Penn State featured an impressive trio of its own: Aiyana Whitney (13-2-25, .440), Haleigh Washington (12-2-19, .526), and Megan Courtney (11-1-25, .400).

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