American Digging Has Stabilized with Kelsey Robinson at Libero

Midway through week 1 of the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League, Team USA head coach Karch Kiraly made a swap at libero, inserting world-class outside hitter Kelsey Robinson at the position. At the time,

Since the change, the Americans have run off 10-straight wins, 9 of which have come in sweeps, and the team has emerged as a leader in reception efficiency in the tournament.

While Robinson’s “excellent” dig rate is still slightly lower than that of the woman she replaced in the starting role, Justine Wong-Arantes, her consistency has been better. Whereas Wong-Orantes had ‘excellent’ receptions in 28% of the serves in which she was targeted (21/75), Robinson has been ‘excellent’ just 22% of the time (43/195). On the other hand, Robinson has committed errors on just 8.2% of her reception attempts (16/195) and Wong-Orantes committed errors on 12% of her receptions (9/75).

As a team, the Americans now have the second-most-efficient service reception in the tournament, as defined by excellents minus faults divided by total opportunities. They sit only small fractions of a percent behind Japan, a team known for their excellent floor defense.

Through Week 4 of the 2018 FIVB Nations League, Serve Reception Efficiency

TEAM Excellents Faults Attempts Efficiency
JPN 208 63 869 16.69%
USA 173 52 732 16.53%
NED 160 54 677 15.66%
BEL 190 56 867 15.46%
TUR 148 54 869 10.82%
BRA 105 44 772 7.90%
ITA 95 42 837 6.33%
POL 91 46 875 5.14%
SRB 109 67 844 4.98%
GER 110 70 905 4.42%
THA 102 69 878 3.76%
ARG 75 65 744 1.34%
RUS 72 69 819 0.37%
CHN 65 63 786 0.25%
KOR 81 86 823 -0.61%
DOM 49 67 902 -2.00%

The United States’ overall floor defense has improved as well. They have the most ‘excellent’ digs/attempt in the tournament so far (88.52%, Netherlands is 2nd with 84.55%), though their defensive faults are still relatively-high at 17.80% of attempts.

Other Key Stats Through Week 4

  • Poland’s Malwina Smarzek is almost-uncatchable for the scoring crown at this year’s Nations League prelims. She has 289 points, which puts her 53 points ahead of Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic (who won’t play in week 5), and 65 points ahead of Germany’s Louisa Lippmann. Smarzek almost has enough points to lock up 1st place in that category without playing. She scored 65 points in 11 sets last week – showing no sign of decreased production as the tournament wears on. She’s hitting 43.78% in the tournament, and the rest of the team improved in that category in week 4, where they’re struggled throughout the tournament. That includes the team’s #2 scorer Agnieszka Kakolewska, who hit 18/31 in week 2 (58%).
  • Poland still leads the VNL in all 3 major raw-stat offensive categories:  besides Smarzek’s points/kills lead, Kakolewska leads all players with 44 blocks, and Marlena Plesnierowicz leads all players with 21 aces (tied with Turkey’s Eda Erdem Dundar).
  • Without her running-mate Brankica Mihajlovic to occupy defenses, Serbia’s top scorer Tijana Boskovic struggled to find gaps in week 4. After hitting 52.00% in the first 3 weeks combined, Boskovic’s hitting percentage in week 4 fell to just 45.5%. Even that numbered was buoyed by a good performance in a 3-set sweep against out-matched Dominican Republic. In 5 sets against the Netherlands, Boskovic was 31/74 (41.9%) and in 5 sets against Italy she hit just 25/61 (41.0%).
  • The field in the tournament as a whole is hitting 39.1% with an efficiency of .247. As compared to last year’s Grand Prix, that’s a small increase of about half-a-percent in the number of shots landed (39.1% this year versus 38.7% last year), but an increase in the rate of errors (.247 efficiency this year versus .251 efficiency last year).

Statistical Leaders after Week 3 of the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League

Top Scorers

  1. Malwina Smarzek, Poland – 289 points
  2. Tiajana Boskovic, Serbia – 236 points
  3. Louisa Lippmann, Germany – 224 points
  4. Tandara Caixeta, Brazil – 200 points
  5. Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez, Dominican Republic – 196

Top Hitting Percentages

  1. Tijana Boskovic, Serbia – 49.40%
  2. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, USA – 47.66%
  3. Brankica Mihajlovic, Serbia – 45.27%
  4. Irina Voronkova, Russia – 44.71%
  5. Paola Egonu, Italy – 43.85%

Best Blockers (Blocks)

  1. Agnieszka Kakolewska, Poland – 44 stuff blocks
  2. Adenizia Da Silva, Brazil – 42 stuff blocks
  3. Eda Erdem Dundar, Turkey – 38 stuff blocks
  4. Malwina Smarzek, Poland – 35 stuff blocks
  5. Ana Beatriz Correa, Brazil – 34 stuff blocks

Best Servers (Aces)

  1. (TIE) Eda Erdem Dundar, Turkey/Marlena Plesnierowicz, Poland – 21 aces
  2. Irina Voronkova, Russia – 16 aces
  3. (TIE) Agnieszka Kakolewska, Poland/Tatian Romanova, Russia – 15 aces

Best Setters (Running Sets – where hitter is opposed by one blocker or less)

  1. Carli Lloyd, USA – 662
  2. Roberta Silva Ratzke, Brazil – 588
  3. Ilka van de Vyver, Belgium – 586
  4. Kanami Tasahiro, Japan – 519
  5. Niverka Dharlenis Marte Frica, Dominican Republic – 494

Best Diggers (Digs)

  1. Sime Sebnem Akoz, Turkey – 80 digs
  2. (TIE) Celine Van Gestel, Belgium/Suelen Pinto, Brazil – 77 digs
  3. Yuki Ishii, Japan – 73 digs
  4. Maret Balkestein-Grothues, Netherlands – 72 digs

Best Receivers (Excellent %, eligible players)

  1. Kim Hill, USA – 22.22%
  2. Britt Herbots, Belgium – 20.25%
  3. Celine van Gestel, Belgium – 19.30%
  4. Anne Buijs, Netherlands – 18.66%
  5. Jodie Guilliams, Belgium – 15.53%

 

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