This is the first of a two-part series of scouting reports in which we break down the strengths and weaknesses of each team in a featured match. Today’s SR focuses on #3 Stanford travelling to #12 USC to decide early leadership in the Pac-12. Currently, Stanford sits at 7-0 and 14-2, alone in first place. USC is 6-1 and 14-4, tied for second with Utah in the Pac-12.
- Sunday, October 15
- Los Angeles, California
- 6:00 PM Eastern Time
- Television: Pac 12 Network
- Full TV and live streaming schedule
This is clearly the biggest match of the week concerning the Pac-12. With a Stanford win, the Cardinal would have a stranglehold on the conference lead. With a USC victory, they could create a logjam at the top, as Stanford, Utah and USC would all potentially be tied for first. Additionally, Stanford is undefeated on the road, while USC is undefeated at home.
STANFORD SUCCESS FACTORS
- The Cardinal have Kathryn Plummer, and you don’t
When everyone in the gym knows where the ball is going offensively, and said player still averages 5 kills per set, you have someone special on your roster. Nationally, Plummer is in the top 10 in kills per set and points per set, as she also leads or is among the conference leaders in kills per set, aces per set and points per set. She is the first option in every offensive set, front or back row. If you do not account for her heavy arm, you will pay for it.
- Defense wins championships
I know, I know, a sports cliche if there ever was one. But this one actually applies. Teams playing Stanford are limited to hitting under .170 on the season. The Cardinal lead the conference in a couple of key defensive categories, including opponent hitting percentage (.165) and kills per set by opponents (11.17). They also average over 3 blocks per set and lead the Pac-12 in aces per set (1.63) in all matches (The Lady Trojans lead that category in conference matches, stated below). The Cardinal have the top setter in assists per set in the Pac-12 in Jenna Gray. There is a ton to like about the Cardinal in this matchup, and I haven’t even mentioned Tami Alade (Pac-12 hitting percentage leader at .391, second in Pac-12 in blocks per set at 1.57) or Audriana Fitzmorris (hitting .339 and blocking 1.33 per set).
USC SUCCESS FACTORS
- We have a stud sophomore, too…..and then some
The counterpart to Plummer for USC has to be sophomore Khalia Lanier. She is currently fourth in the Pac-12 in kills per set (4.14), fifth in points per set (4.74) and sixth in aces per set (0.35). The Lady Trojans also Brittany Abercrombie, who is 10th in the conference in hitting percentage (.334) and is second on the team in kills per set (3.12).
- Our teams stats are solid as well
USC leads the Pac-12 in conference matches in kills per set (15.09), assists per set (14.17) and aces per set (1.43). They also average more than two digs per set than the Cardinal (14.4-12.04). Their serve receive also allows the least amount of aces per set, at 0.75.
SO, HOW DO YOU BEAT THEM?
Stanford: Plummer will get hers. Slow down everyone else.
I already stated Plummer’s excellence above. What I didn’t say is what happened in Stanford’s two losses—both to Penn State. In the first loss, on September 1, Plummer had 27 kills in four sets. Only one other player had double digit kills and the two major contributors listed above (Alade and Fitzmorris) combined for 9 kills and had a hitting percentage close to zero. In their second loss to Penn State a week later, the Cardinal got blocked 20 times and received zero kills from Plummer in the deciding set. Even in viewing the fifth set recently, Penn State adjusted their defense to key on Plummer, and kept the Cardinal out of system enough to not allow that heavy arm to beat them.
USC: They run a 6-2, but where’s the blocking help that comes with it?
Penn State regularly runs a 6-2 offense, and they have the attacking and blocking horses to pull it off. One of the main reasons any team should run a 6-2 is that you have two exceptional setters that aren’t quite tall enough to be a factor in block defense. One of the other reasons is that you have a dearth of big attackers that can block well, and you would like to use any and all tools in the tool box. The former statement is true; Reni Meyer-Whalley and Cindy Marina are outstanding setters, proven in the assist stats listed above. USC also receives serve exceptionally well, whereas they average allowing less than one ace per set. The third statement in this paragraph, however, is not true. The Lady Trojans rank second-to-last in the Pac-12 in blocks per set (1.96), and that’s with the advantage of never using a shorter setter in the front row. Something doesn’t add up.
Bottom line: Stanford has yet to lose a true road match and USC has yet to lose at home. For those of you tuning in to watch this match, this should be a special matchup of future NCAA tournament participants. Early Pac-12 supremacy is on the line, and no match could speak more to the strength of the conference than these two juggernauts battling it out.