I’ve started working on a research project where I look at what volleyball statistics correlate to success. In this case, when I say success I mean conference Win %. The data I’m using comes from all levels of men’s and women’s NCAA volleyball. I haven’t finished my data collection, but I can share some initial results.

The following table shows statistical correlations between Match and Set Win % and the standard reported stats we see in college box scores and statistical reports. Everything is comes only from conference matches.

click to enlarge

There are a lot of numbers in the table, but you can really just focus on the first row. It tells us that Kills/Set correlated 71% to Match Win%. Hitting Efficiency [(Kills – Errors)/Total Attacks]* is even higher at 77%. After that, things drops off rather sharply.

Aces/Set is next at 42%, with Blocks/Set not far behind at 38%. Bringing up the rear is Digs/Set at 26%. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as digs are not points either for or against, as in the case of the other metrics.

People are often heard referring to Gold Medal Squared talking about blocking as the skill least correlated to success, particularly in women’s volleyball (I talk a bit about that here). This analysis doesn’t back that up, but keep in mind it includes both men’s and women’s data.

There’s a LONG way to go with my analysis. Just thought to share this tidbit as something to think about.

*In the NCAA stats blocked balls are counted among hitting errors

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    3 replies to "Correlations to league success"

    • Robert Hixon

      Coach, what was your methodology for arriving at these numbers?

      • John Forman

        Nothing complicated. All the data is from official NCAA reports aggregated for each team by season, using only regular season conference matches. Something north of 2000 total observations. Just ran a basic correlation in R. No controls for men/women, conference, division, or anything like that at this stage.

    • rbrochelle

      I look forward to the results. On my site (d3vbwest.com), I’ve talked a lot about the correlation between hitting efficiency and winning the DIII championship. (My site is dedicated to DIII volleyball.) I only had data for the last 9 championships, but the winner has finished in the Top 11 on hitting efficiency each year. No other statistic comes close to that. I few years back, I looked at the other divisions and it wasn’t this clear cut but hitting efficiency was still at or near the top.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.