Doc Volleyball's Match Analysis: Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. UP Fighting Maroons

AJ Pareja on Mar 02, 2017 03:05 PM
Match Analysis: Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. UP Fighting Maroons
The Blue Eagles’ disposal of the Fighting Maroons showed how the former caught their tailwind in the middle to end game.
Claiming Katipunan

It was an all out slugfest as both the men’s and women’s teams of Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and University of the Philippines (UP) battled it out to claim dominance of both the UAAP as well as the Katipunan territory.  Over at the women’s side, the Lady Eagles of Ateneo succeeded in dealing the Lady Maroons of UP their first loss of the season in a dominant straight set outing 25-14, 25-19, and 25-21. Likewise in the Men’s division, the Blue Eagles were able to ward off the threat from the Fighting Maroons to maintain their spotless record as well as front-runner status in the league. While it was a tighter match than their female counterparts, the Blue Eagles also edged out the Fighting Maroons in straight sets 25-18, 26-24, 25-16.

The Blue Eagles’ disposal of the Fighting Maroons further boosts their standing to a remarkable 6-0 tally in the men’s division. The general theme of the sets showed the Maroons always off to a splendid start but would soon falter once the Eagles caught their tailwind in the middle to end game.

Battle of First Possession

In men’s volleyball, perhaps the most important or crucial moments are in the initial phase of the rally namely the serve, the pass, the setup and the first attack. Due to the more physical nature of men’s volleyball, it is crucial to limit your opponent’s scoring opportunities from either the serve or the first attack. Getting a point through a kill, a drop, or a check out from the first pass off a serve is called first point conversion. The first point conversion rating is often (if not totally) overlooked in the local scene despite the fact that it frequently always determines the outcome of a match. Since every ball possession is an opportunity to score a point and given the physical nature of the division, teams should ensure that they limit an opponent’s first point conversion rate while maintaining a higher rating for their own. As such, it is severely important that the serving team is aggressive enough to disrupt the system of the opposing team if not making an ace. Likewise, it is of equal importance for the passing team to be able to setup an offense that can win them a point in one attempt so as not to give the opponents an opportunity for a break point.

In the first set of the match, first point conversion ratings were not far off for both teams. Ateneo scored 6 points out of 15 first attack attempts giving them a 40% first point conversion rating while UP had 7 points out of 19 first attack attempts giving them a 37% rating. Looking at the service quality of the Eagles, majority of the serves were targeted into zone 6 and its seam with zone 5. While the Eagles can do low and flat serves, the location is considered poor as it enabled UP to setup their offense with Mark Millete scoring 3 points out of a combination play. On the other hand, UP were better at their service location with the majority landing in zone 5 and a few into zone 1. Going for zone 5 was beneficial for UP as it forced Ateneo’s Polvorosa to set more to the pins rather than in the quick and combination hits in the middle. The set was tight initially but Ateneo was able to limit UP’s 1st point conversion in the end game to edge them out 25-18.

In the second set, Ateneo was able to tally 6 points out 18 first attack attempts giving them a 30% first point conversion rating while UP had 4 points out of 23 attempts giving them 22%. As compared to the first set, Ateneo’s service locations shifted to the seam between zone 6 and zone 1. While such location is still less ideal than targeting zone 1 primarily, it was a better location than their first set since it mitigated UP’s Baldelovar from setting up a combination play. On the other hand, UP did a remarkable job in limiting Ateneo’s first point conversion early on by positioning almost all of their services into zone 1. As such, UP was able to blind side Polvorosa for most of the set forcing the later to set mostly to the left pin. Despite trailing for the most part of the set, Ateneo was able to dominate the end game when Espejo fired up multiple first attack successes coupled with poor passing on UP’s end to close the set at 26-24.

Ateneo came out strong in the 3rd set winning nine points out of 13 first attack attempts giving them an impressive 69% rating while UP had eight markers off 20 attempts granting them 40%. Ateneo was able to locate their serves better this time targeting mostly zones 5 and 1 with a couple of aces on 5.

However, in five instances that Ateneo served into zone 6, UP was able to setup an easy play and convert a first attack. UP, on the other hand, reverted back into targeting zone 5 of the Eagles’ court. While the consistency is commendable, it didn’t prove beneficial for them this time around since the Eagle’s have already adjusted into passing from that location. As such, Ateneo was able to setup their quick hits and combination plays in the middle. The Eagles’ remarkable adjustment in passing from zone 5 enabled them to have a 69% first point conversion rating which was high enough to dominate the set and eventually win the match 25-16.

Efficiency in Urgency

While long unending rallies certainly keep the crowd at their feet, it’s not what always wins matches especially in the men’s division where there is a higher demand in physicality. While first point conversion is just one of many important statistics used in volleyball, its value lies in its ability to determine the trend of a set and the outcome of the match most of the time. As such, it is a statistic that most UAAP teams should start looking into in order to further increase their level of play. Maintaining a good rating and limiting an opponent’s first point conversion stat would force teams to ensure that they are serving aggressively, passing consistently, setting logically, and attacking efficiently. Just to get a picture of first point conversion goals, top men’s teams in the USA NCAA and World Leagues have percentages ranging in the 50s and 60s respectively.


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