Coaches poll and around the league results
It was a pretty quiet week in the Top 25 upset-wise. Only two upsets involving Top 25 teams:
#2 Oregon lost to #7 Stanford
#12 Purdue lost to unranked Iowa
When I saw Purdue's loss, I thought there was a chance they might drop enough for us to move up a spot. What I didn't notice was #16 BYU, just in front of our #17 ranking, took 5 sets to beat unranked Loyola Marymount for their only match of the week. So, when Purdue dropped down, we ended up getting a 2 spot jump, leaving BYU in place at #16 and Purdue landing at #17.
The RPI also updates on Mondays, of course. Wins always improve the percentage calculated by the RPI and in between the runs, we had 2 wins and no losses. And yet we dropped a position, to 5, because the wins were against Seton Hall and Rutgers, neither of which rate all that well in terms of strength of schedule.
So, while our percentage increased, other teams, with more competitive conferences to play in, increased their percentages more, and UCLA leapfrogged us in the RPI rankings.
And so it comes to the Monday night match-up with #9 ranked Texas.
To say this was a big matchup is an understatement of Texas-sized proportions. Texas is a powerful and very offensively oriented team. Their lineup is tall and strong, they block well, and their attacking is among the best in the nation. The Longhorns do have weaknesses, though. Specifically in digging and passing.
We looked, back when we played Kentucky, about how to play and win against a very defensively oriented team, so now we get to look at how to get the job done against a very offensively oriented team.
Mostly you do it by making sure your attacks stay in play, at almost all costs. This means that the VolleyCards had a lot of times when they normally might have attacked the set with a strong swing, but instead pulled back, and softly hit, or maybe even just tipped the ball over the net, and likely the block, into the Texas side of the court.
The idea, here is to dig and pass well, get a good set, and get the ball in play consistently, and if you can do that, you then wait for the defense on the other team to shank a pass, or mishandle a set. Essentially, you're playing for the other team to make a mistake.
For the most part, it worked. In the first and third sets, which the Cards won, Texas hit only .186 and .189. In the sets that Texas won, they hit .270, .260, and .278...a noticeable difference. Similarly the Cards hit .341 and .259 in the first and third sets (wins) vs .103, .143, and .103 in the second, fourth and fifth sets (losses). Texas had a lot of digging and passing errors in the first and third sets, but found a good defense in the second, fourth and fifth sets.
So, what do you do to play for the other team make mistakes? Well, you don't over-attack, as was mentioned, but perhaps more importantly, you recruit Caitlin Welch to be all over the court to rack up 37 digs, as well as get 8 assists...typically when Katie George, or Hannah Kvitle get digs (13 and 8, respectively). Then you make your sets quick, so their defense doesn't get time to set up. That's really the strategy.
Unfortunately, of course, it didn't work well enough. Texas is a great team and made adjustments...found a defense...and was able to battle back for the win. The VolleyCards have nothing to be ashamed of...they played really well, and worked hard...but of course, they're a competitive bunch and will undoubtably be unhappy with the loss. There still is nearly two months of season left, though, and plenty of time for them to continue to refine their play and get ready for the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
So who gets the unenviable task of being on the receiving end of the Cards anger at losing? St. Johns on Friday afternoon, and Connecticut on Sunday afternoon as Louisville starts a northern tour through New York and Connecticut. The frequent flyer miles keep building with another road trip the next week to Syracuse and Milwaukee. They finally get to come back close to home, at least, with a visit to Cincinnati, before finally, truly getting back home to take on Villanova at Cardinal Arena at the beginning of November.