This is the first of a two-part scouting report in which we take a major match and break it down to the minutiae. We talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each team and what each team’s keys to victory might be. In today’s SR, we feature #15 Oregon travelling to #2 Stanford. Stanford (20-2, 13-0 Pac 12) has already established their dominance of the Pac 12 this season. But Oregon (15-6, 8-5 Pac 12) can get a huge road victory and solidify their possibility to host on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament come December.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Stanford has all but won the Pac 12 Championship for the 2017 season. They are currently four games clear of second place USC and 4.5 games clear of three more teams (Utah, Washington and Colorado). For the Cardinal, this is the chance to aim for that #1 overall seed. If the entire bracket were written exactly how the RPI has it today, Stanford’s sweet 16 match-up would be against…..Oregon. I’m guessing the Stanford faithful would like an easier match in the final 16, say, Creighton or Iowa State.
Oregon, on the other hand, have nothing to lose in this match today. Their RPI number (10) looks to be in the hosting range of RPI teams, and a loss today against a higher-ranked RPI team on that teams’ floor shouldn’t hurt them. But a win at Stanford would all but clinch a top 16 seed. Oregon’s remaining schedule are the Arizonas, the Washingtons, USC and Oregon State. Only three of those (UW, WSU and USC) are at home, meaning the only big win would be the one at Stanford.
OREGON’S KEYS TO VICTORY
- Offensive balance
Oregon currently has five players averaging more than 2 kills per set. That’s a lot of well-distributed offense. With Jolie Rasmussen jumping into the offensive fray, a defending team may struggle with whom to stop—or even slow down. Keep teams guessing, and Oregon will be a hard out.
- Service pressure
Oregon is currently third in the Pac 12 in aces per set. But even if you don’t ace teams, relentless service pressure can keep teams out-of-system and predictable offensively. Stanford has Kathryn Plummer. Her discomfort should be any team’s #1 priority, and forcing her into bad passing can slow down the Cardinal juggernaut. It worked for Penn State.
STANFORD’S KEYS TO VICTORY
- We have Kathryn Plummer, and you don’t
Speaking of…..how she does dictates the rest of the team. If she’s on a roll, the remainder of the roster can relax and get into their own roles. Coach Kevin Hambly has the Cardinal humming on all cylinders, and it centers around Miss Plummer. 4.5 kills per set and hitting over .300 as a pin attacker is all you need to know about her capabilities.
- Service pressure
No, I didn’t cut and paste. Stanford leads the Pac 12 in aces per set. As I stated above, even the non-aces can cause issues. For a balanced offense like Oregon, limiting the attacks of some of that offense diminishes their capability. To ask a 2.5-kills-per-set to shoulder the load for a player that’s not getting the ball is out of character for balanced offenses. I’m not sure Oregon is up to task in that area.
SO, HOW DO YOU BEAT THEM?
- Oregon: Make Plummer pass, touch, dig, run, jump….just wear her out.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Plummer is asked to do so much for the Fighting Hamblys that eventually she has to make an error, right? Since you have nothing to lose, Ducks, go for it.
- Stanford: Do what got you here.
Five full-time front row players hitting over .300. Top hitting percentage, top opponent hitting percentage, and top aces per set in the Pac 12. Top Pac 12 individual performers in hitting percentage (Alade, .440), kills per set (Plummer, 4.57) and assists per set (Gray, 11.82). Two blockers in the top four in the conference. Two servers in the top four in aces per set in the conference. The lists are staggering. Do nothing special, just continue doing what you do and keep the end goal in mind; #1 overall seed. Doesn’t that sound great?