Behind the numbers: Statistics offer clues, but focus wins matches

The women’s volleyball team is riding a 6-game winning streak

In recent years, the use of statistical analysis has become prominent in sports such as baseball, football and basketball.

Women’s volleyball coach acknowledges that statistics are useful tools for volleyball coaches. Ness studies certain types of statistics, specifically looking to see how her team ranks among other Iowa Conference teams in certain statistical categories. This year, the Duhawks are ranked in the top four in several categories.

“I think it’s important as a staff to know where we sit in some of the categories to know where our strengths and weaknesses are,” Ness said. “Some of our biggest strengths in the past have been our defense, so usually our dig numbers are in the top half.”

Defense does appear to be a huge asset for the team this season. As of Sept. 26, Loras ranks third in digs per set and second in total number of digs.

This is due in part to the fact that the team’s libero, Haley Bergan, ranks third individually in digs per set. Bergan likely will break her personal record of digs in a season this year. In 2014, she recorded a total of 534 digs. She currently ha tallied 317 digs in 2015, and there are still many matches left to play. Bergan is single-handedly responsible for 27 percent of the team’s digs.

Other areas in which the team is faring well are kills and blocks. The Duhawks rank third in blocks per set and fourth in kills per set. Danni Kennedy is ranked second individually in the conference in blocks per set, currently averaging 1.0 per set. While it is exciting that the team is doing so well statistically, there is more to winning than what looks good on paper. It’s important to consider the bigger picture.

“Sometimes when you look at our statistics versus another team’s, we will out-statistic them but then lose the match,” Ness said. “A win is not solely based on statistics; it’s more the mental side when we get down to it.”

The Duhawks must have a very strong mental game considering the team is on a 6-0 winning streak. First, Loras defeated Wartburg in a thrilling five-set match on Tuesday, Sept. 22. This was a significant victory for the team, considering Wartburg is one of the teams receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association weekly polls.

“It was a total team effort,” Ness said. “We played really well, we capitalized on certain areas when we needed to and we were aggressive. We never gave up. The kids wanted it; they wanted to win.”

The streak continued into the weekend when Loras hosted the IIAC-NACC Crossover Challenge. Four teams from the Iowa Conference and four teams from the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference competed in this two-day tournament.

The Duhawks went 4-0 on the weekend defeating MSOE, Marian, Benedictine and Lakeland. Loras won all but one of its matches in three sets, virtually dominating the court. The last time that the Duhawks went undefeated in a tournament was the 2010 season, so this was a welcome accomplishment for the team.
The Duhawks rounded out their winning streak on Tuesday by defeating Coe in four sets.

As the season continues, the Duhawks will look to improve both their mental  focus while also improving their statistical performance in the hopes of remaining atop the Iowa Conference.

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