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Showing posts from December, 2010

Penn State Over Cal in Final -- An Unexpected Rout

I don't know that there's a lot to say about last night's three-game sweep that gave Penn State its fourth straight NCAA women's volleyball title. Other than in Game 2, in which Cal had a pair of set points , there was very little drama. The statistical issue that got the most attention on ESPN's broadcast was how the Golden Bears' Tarah Murrey was getting nearly half of her team's hit attempts (she ended with 46% of them, 56/121), thus letting Penn State devote its attention to stopping her. And stop Murrey the Nittany Lions did, holding her to a very uncharacteristically low .143 hitting percentage ( box score ). In the semifinals against Texas, in contrast, Murrey hit .413. For Penn State, middle-blocker Arielle Wilson exhibited her usual blend of steadiness and power, hitting .391, and right-side hitter Blair Brown punched in at .316. Outside-hitter Deja McClendon, though hitting only .250 on the night, got off to a fast start; of her 16 total kills,

It's Penn State and Cal in Saturday Night's Final

Below, I've circled what I think are some key numbers from last night's two NCAA women's semifinal matches (I did screen captures of the official box scores, then annotated them in PowerPoint). One thing that's clear right off the bat is that the two winning teams, Penn State and Cal, each sided-out extremely well. With those kinds of side-out percentages, teams will very rarely lose games (sets). In my Penn State-Texas preview , I had concluded that, "Blocking may provide Penn State with a decisive edge in holding down Texas's hitting effectiveness." I don't often make such spot-on predictions, so when I do, I like to toot my own horn a little. As seen in the following boxscore, the Nittany Lions dominated the blocking and slowed down two Longhorn hitters who had been very productive of late, Rachael Adams and Jennifer Doris. Throw in a torrid hitting performance from Penn State's Deja McClendon and a three-game romp is the result. (You may cli

NCAA Women's Final Four Preview II: USC vs. California

Tonight's second semifinal match of the NCAA women's Final Four will be an all-Pac-10 battle, with the University of Southern California (USC) taking on the University of California, Berkeley. What gives this match a little extra intrigue is that these teams have already met twice this season in conference play, with USC winning both times. The Trojans actually had a harder time holding off the Golden Bears -- 17-15 in the fifth game -- October 9 in Los Angeles ( boxscore ) than up in Berkeley, where USC prevailed in four games ( boxscore ). As usual, I've been focusing a lot on hitting percentage during the tournament, and the following table tells us which players have (and have not) done well in this season's USC-Cal head-to-head match-ups. As discussed in yesterday's preview of tonight's other semifinal between Penn State and Texas, middle blockers will often have higher hitting percentages than outside hitters, because the latter likely receive a great

NCAA Women's Final Four Preview I: Penn State vs. Texas

The first of Thursday night's two NCAA women's national semifinal matches presents a rematch of last year's championship contest, Penn State vs. Texas. The nightcap will feature two Pac-10 foes, USC and Cal. The present write-up will focus on Penn State and Texas, with another one tomorrow for USC and Cal. My starting point in analyzing the Nittany Lions and Longhorns is to examine to what degree, if any, the teams have changed over the past three months in their allocation of sets to different hitters and these players' hitting percentages. Back in early September, on the eve of the Big Four tournament -- with Florida hosting Penn State, Texas, and Stanford -- I presented graphs of each team's leading hitters. The key elements of these graphs are as follows. Each team gets its own graph. The graph consists of several bars, one for each hitter. A bar's height represents that player's hitting percentage (based on some reference timeframe) and its width

Graphing the Trajectories or Arcs of Sets to Hitters in a Match (UCLA-Texas 2010 NCAA Second Round)

Today's entry falls under the rubric of, "It seemed like a good idea at the time." While watching last Saturday night's webcast of the UCLA-Texas women's NCAA second-round match, I decided to create what, to my knowledge, would be a novel type of play-by-play sheet that visually depicted the trajectories of each team's initial sets in mounting an attack from serve receipt. Being able to check, at a glance, whether a team was varying its attacks between high and outside (a "4 set"), quick middle hits (a "1 set"), and other varieties of plays , and its success in siding-out with the various types of attacks, would seem to be valuable information. Further, because the webcast was shown entirely from an "end zone" camera, it was relatively easy to observe the arcs of the sets. What I didn't bargain for was that, even graphing merely a single game (Game 2, which ended up being the only one taken by the Bruins), the process of