Our scouting report series continues as we at VolleyMob give you a more in-depth look at the biggest matchups of the week and the year. Wielding gargantuan implications on the winner of the West Coast Conference, #25 San Diego plays host to #8 BYU at the Jenny Craig Pavillion.
The Cougars come into this one as the visitor at 14-1 and 3-0 in WCC play, fresh off a four-set win over Pepperdine. San Diego sits at 10-3 and is also 3-0 in conference play as they swept Loyola Marymount on Tuesday.
- Saturday, September 30th
- San Diego, California (Jenny Craig Pavillion)
- 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
- WCC TV/Game Tracker
BYU SUCCESS FACTORS
- A strong front-row defense:
The Cougars have the top blocking team in the WCC (2.92 blocks per set), which helps the rest of their defense. They’re just eighth in the conference in digs (although a strong offense and blocking lowers their numbers), and a lengthy and physical front row has been the biggest factor in BYU leading the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.162). It helps to have the conference leader in digs per set behind it in Mary Lake (4.59 blocks per set), but the front row helps funnel easier attacks to her. It’s not just one or two options who stuff the opposition either, as the Cougars have three players ranked in the top six in the WCC in blocks led by Cosy Burnett. A pair of others average more than 0.50 block per set as well, as no matter who rotates to the front there will be options to shut down the San Diego offense.
- Dynamic pin-players:
BYU has all the size you could ask for with seven players listed at 6’2″ or taller (and three at 6’4″ or taller led by 6’7″ Sara Hamson). However, it’s the shorter players (relatively so for BYU, although not necessarily compared to other schools) in 6’1″ McKenna Miller and 6’0″ Veronica Jones-Perry as dynamic pin-players on this roster. Neither one is going to rack up a ton of digs as back-row outside hitters, but what they will do is terminate the ball in the front row. The versatile attacking of Jones-Perry (adept at hitting seemingly from any position on the court) has sparked her to lead the conference in kills per set (4.62) while Miller also sits in the top 10 (3.35 kills per set). Both have strong arms and can hit cross to the back corner with accuracy and power, causing the defense fits.
SAN DIEGO SUCCESS FACTORS
- An efficient and balanced offense
The Toreros lead the WCC in hitting percentage (.270) as the offense has been extremely efficient and balanced. Their efficiency is further chronicled below in how well their offense clicked last year in a win over BYU. It’s a well oiled machine behind setter Kristen Gengenbacher, who is second in the conference averaging 11.00 assists per set. Although she stands at just 5’9″, potentially creating a blocking issue when rotating to the front, the trade-off is for a stronger offense. Jayden Kennedy (3.60 kills per set) ranks in the top 10 in the WCC in kills per set and hitting percentage (.330). And that efficiency has been the theme for an unpredictable offense with five consistent players averaging 1.94 kills per set or more. With so many options, they are hard to key on, leading to Kennedy’s high mark along with WCC-hitting percentage leader Kaity Edward (.455) and Addie Picha (.318).
- An experienced roster
The Toreros will be tested heavily by BYU, who will go on several runs throughout the match per usual. It helps that San Diego is playing at home in front of a crowd that should be similar to the more than 1,700 that attended last year’s meeting. But when the momentum turns and when the BYU block comes up with a big roof it can be draining for the the opposition. With an older team that features four seniors and seven upperclasswomen – all of which play significant time and/or start (including all the four names above) – San Diego is more adept at handling the momentum swings that come with a big block and a team that will go on runs. That ability to handle that will lessen the flurries of BYU points and help the Toreros bounce back from any big points scored by the Cougars.
SO, HOW DO YOU BEAT THEM?
How does San Diego beat BYU?
- Playing a clean offensive match:
This sounds like a relatively simple key, but it’s not quite so easy. For one, let’s group this together with what starts the offense: reception – both on defense and on the serve. That enables them to stay in system and get good looks on offense, something they did very well in their 3-0 vs. BYU last year at home. They still hit over .250 in the second meeting (a loss), but it was nothing compared to their .393 in the victory. It’s not often that a team is swept when hitting .333, but that’s exactly what happened to BYU because San Diego played so well on offense. For instance, the Toreros had 57 kills to just 13 errors in their win vs. BYU last year compared to 46 kills and 17 errors in the loss.
How does BYU beat San Diego?
- Establishing the middle:
In BYU’s sweep of San Diego last year in Provo, the Cougars hit .369 for the match. Neither team held much of an advantage in aces or blocks; it was more about BYU’s offense out-executing San Diego’s. One key was establishing the middle – both from the center of the net and the pin on slide plays. Amy Boswell logged 14 kills with Whitney Young-Howard totaling seven kills and both hitting .500. However, both All-WCC picks have graduated. If 6’4″ freshman Kennedy Redding (1.09 kills, 1.22 blocks per set) and senior Cosy Burnett (2.05 kills, 1.45 blocks per set) have strong matches they could put up big numbers and open things up for others around them. That becomes even more important knowing the Cougars strengths at the pins, meaning if the middles are going as well, it’s an almost unstoppable offense.