Friday, October 18, 2013

Defending What You Don't Have?

OK, you knew it was eventually coming.  Here we have a statistics based post on the eve of travelling to Houston to see if SFA can cure its road woes against the Huskies of HBU.  I held off this long, but you knew the numbers were going to get used to make a few points at some point during the year.

While watching matches at home, attending some of the recent road matches and following others on the Internet, I’ve noticed something that I decided to check in the box scores.  Sure enough, my eyes weren’t deceiving me: 

The conference’s outside hitters feast on our defense.

SFA is allowing other teams’ outside hitters to put up big numbers night after night after night.  So, that leads me not to an accusation, just a hypotheses that I can’t fully test:  If you are a team that runs an offense focused on the right and the middle, does this leave you partially inept to defend the left? 

I know you can practice for specific opponents based on their offensive strengths.  But, if their offensive strengths are different than yours.. then does that leave you at a partial disadvantage to actually execute because what you see in the game couldn’t be replicated as strong as in practice?

You can’t defend what you don’t have?  Maybe my hypothesis is false.  I am very willing to believe it is.  But, whether my hypothesis is true or not doesn’t change the original fact I presented:

The conference’s outside hitters feast on our defense.

So far, SFA has played 8 conference matches and six times an opposing outside hitter has put up double digit kills while hitting over .350.  In fact, this has occurred six conference matches in a row!  Focus on that for a minute. 

Each of the last six SLC matches an opposing OH has hit .350 against us with 10+ kills:

Brink, TAMUCC, 18-5-31 (.419)
Cagnina, McNeese, 16-2-29 (.483)
Schnars, UCA, 16-1-21 (.714)
Pope, ORU, 19-6-36 (.361)
Elrod, NWLA, 19-2-44 (.386)
Thomas, SLU, 11-2-25 (.360)

Add up the attack errors.  You get 18.  This almost hurts to type:  The kill leading OH for our opposition is averaging only three attack errors PER MATCH in the last 6 conference matches.  You simply must force the main outside hitter on the opposing team into more than three attack errors in a match to have any chance of containing them. 

If you start digging deeper, it doesn’t get any prettier.  The two matches that are not reflected in that list above are our wins against Nicholls and New Orleans.  Well, Nicholls had TWO outside hitters put up 19 kills against us (neither hit >.350), and UNO is the worst team in the league.

So far, during conference play we have had an outsider hitter reach double digit kills and hit over .350 just once (barely).  That was Tori Bates against SLU (10-3-20, .350).  Now, you can pick on me for choosing “10 kills” and “.350 hitting percentage” rather arbitrarily, but go change your criteria to anything similar and you will come to the same conclusion:  We are not stopping the main outside hitters in the conference from putting up big numbers.

Bates’ 10-kill performance against SLU is the only time ALL YEAR an SFA left side attacker has 10+ kills while hitting over .350.  Against us, this has happened six times in conference and five times out of conference.  That’s 11 total times vs. 1.

To be fair, yes, our middle blockers have put up 10 kills while hitting over .350 more than our opponents (9 times for us, 4 times for opponents).  I am certainly aware that Jill Ivy being hurt limits our offense.  Of course, that obvious.  But, not having her defense in the matches can’t be the only explanation for opposing outside hitters raking us over the coals.

We need more offense and we need to start shutting opposing pin hitters down.. or at least slow them down.  We have half of the conference schedule left to fix some things, but there is no shortage of areas that could improve.  Let’s hope we do just that as well as get everyone back healthy as soon as possible

Let me leave you with one thought:

If your BLOCKERS are the ones putting up the vast majority of stellar offensive nights, and the opponents’ outside HITTERS aren’t getting defended with any consistency….

Isn’t that a little backwards?