The Cardinal make it 0–2 for the Ducks this season

by Glenn on November 7, 2015

Among the travails of road games:

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I watched the first two sets of Stanford’s victory over Oregon on Thursday night. So good to see volleyball on a real television via a network rather than a computer screen.

The Cardinal started out slowly. In the first set, Oregon was up 15-9, at which point you thought, “Well, maybe it’s one of those matches where we’ll have to drop a set before we get going,” but then Stanford poured it on. (Or did Oregon fall apart?) Stanford outscored Oregon 16 to 8 through the end of that first set. It’s great to watch a team whose performance gets better as a match proceeds, even as it must have been disheartening for Oregon fans to watch their team fade away as the sets proceeded.

On the kill side, it was delightful to see Stanford have such balanced and efficient scoring. (See chart below.) Their season average heading into this match was .270, so this was significantly better. (Though not better than when Stanford played Oregon earlier this season, when Hayley Hodson had 22 kills at a .636 rate, Merete Lutz had 15 kills at .536, and the team had 66 kills at .424.) Interestingly, Oregon’s .195 hitting percentage was right with what Stanford had been allowing this season (.199).

Stanford kills KEff Florida kills KEff
Merete Lutz 14 .480 Lindsey Vander Weide 11 .241
Brittany Howard 13 .565 Taylor Agost 9 .273
Hayley Hodson 12 .320 Martenne Bettendorf 8 .240
Ivana Vanjak 5 .556 Kacey Nady 6 .308
Jordan Burgess 3 .048 Frankie Shebby 6 .158
TEAM Total 47 .361 TEAM Total 43 .195

Jordan Burgess has been inspiring this season. This almost certainly is not the senior year she might have hoped for in terms of her attack. On the broadcast last night the announcers listed the injuries that she has had to work through over the last year—injuries which have hampered her ability to score. Kudos for working through it all. While her attack has not been a primary option for the team as it was last year, she remains a six-rotation volleyball player who has contributed immeasurably on the defensive side. The offensive elements are coming back. It’s been great to see her back on the service line. She appears to be getting stronger, which obviously won’t hurt anything as the Cardinal (assuming, of course) head into the post season.

Here’s how Stanford won this straight-set contest:

Stanford Oregon
+4 47 Kills 43
+4 4 Aces 0
+4 8 Blocks 4
Gifts from Opp.
+7 11 Attack Errors (Less Blocks) 4
0 Opponent Ball Handling Errors 0
-2 5 Opponent Service Errors 7
75 TOTAL 58

Basically, Stanford out-hit and out-blocked Oregon and played more cleanly. End of story.

The only category where Stanford lost was in service errors, but the Cardinal served much more aggressively, an okay trade-off. You can live with service errors that come from aggressive serving if the serve, when it’s in, unsettles your opponent.

The broadcasters, Paul Sunderland and Karch Kiraly, were pretty critical of some of Oregon’s serving.

The broadcasters also noted two weaknesses that Stanford has had to compensate for this season. First is the lack of a slide attack from the middle. They said that Inky Ajanaku has the body for it while Stanford Coach John Dunning has kept Merete Lutz on two feet for jumping. You’ve got to appreciate a coach who wants to win but is clearly concerned about his players’ long-term health.

The other weakness they identified is the fact that Stanford doesn’t close the block very well. It’s hard for the middles to stay with the setter to prevent an attack and then rush out to the pins to assist in blocking an outside attack.

It seems like the team has more or less settled into what the rotations are going to be for the rest of the season. Here are the rotations and the way they performed on Thursday night:

4 Nov 2015 Stanford v Oregon.004

There wasn’t a rotation that lost points—every rotation at lease broke even (side out volleyball).

The service reception was the most impressive:

score change for Stanford number of times percentage
+1 (immediate side out) 32 74.4%
0 (side out after one score) 5 11.6%
-1 (side out after two scores) 5 11.6%
-2 (side out after three scores 1 2.3%

In other words, when Stanford lost its serve, three out of four times they got it right back. Part of this may be a reflection of how softly Oregon served, but one hopes this will be the reality through the end of the season. The weakest rotation for receiving was Rotation 1, with Burgess and Hodson in the front. When they were in the back row (Rotation 3) or when Hodson was in the back row with Howard (Rotation 2), there was only one time when there wasn’t an immediate side out. That’s excellent defense.

Madi Bugg had the best serving of the night.

The Cardinal plays Oregon State tomorrow. The Cardinal have a perfect 62–0 record against the Beavers.