The Division I women's volleyball national semifinals are here. The volleyball season is one of the longest in college sports, which means we have pools and pools of data to sift through to better understand what we're watching.
To help you out heading into this weekend, here are five key data points that tell the tale of this year's national semis:
Florida senior Rhamat Alhassan has a wingspan measuring 80 inches, or four inches longer (6-8 vs. 6-4) than she is tall. Alhassan averaged more blocks per game this season than anyone in the country at 1.75, an entire tenth of a block clear of No. 2, Madison Dennison from Utah Valley. With five blocks against Stanford she'd set a career-high for blocks in a season, breaking her personal record from her sophomore year, when she recorded 189. She would need 10 total blocks before the season is over to tie Florida’s all-time single-season record of 195 blocks, set by Nina Foster in 1997.
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The hitting percentage of Penn State’s Haleigh Washington, the only player in the country with a hitting percentage above .500. She's had 10 separate matches this year in which she hit .600 or better, a staggering mark. Washington had one of her least effective performances of the year in the national quarterfinals vs. Michigan State, hitting just .176, but heading into these semis you can expect her to course-correct and bounce back to the way she's been playing all season long.
Stanford sophomore Jenna Gray has racked up 1,384 assists — over 12.1 per game — this season, an increase of more than 200 over last season despite playing at least five fewer sets by the end of the season. She’s recorded nine matches with at least 50 assists, five of which came in just four sets.
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Russ Rose began his first season with the Penn State women’s volleyball team 459 months ago, in September 1979. Since he started, Penn State has won 1,246 matches and lost 199. Despite the eight months each year the team spends in offseason mode, Rose’s teams have won 2.7 matches per month, on average, for the last 39 years, a truly astounding pace. Next season, of course, would mark Rose’s 40th season with the Nittany Lions.
Nebraska is ranked No. 51 in the country in blocks per set at 2.42. Statistically speaking, the margin between No. 1 and No. 51 in the country isn’t terribly wide: it’s less than one block per set. But when you take a look at where the other three teams in the national semifinals rank, the Huskers seems disproportionally low:
4. Stanford (3.10)
5. Penn State (3.08)
6. Florida (3.01)
Seriously, at that point it’s almost too weird for Nebraska to not rank No. 3 or No. 7 in the nation. Interestingly enough, Nebraska is actually No. 9 in the country in opponent’s hitting percentage at .151, not as high as No. 2 Florida (.136) but better than both No. 32 Penn State (.168) and No. 60 Stanford (.178). So don’t discount Nebraska’s defense just because it doesn’t rack up the blocks like its semifinal peers.