I’ve previously posted on the subject of correlations to league success. In that post I used NCAA volleyball data to look at how the major reported related to how a team did in their conference. As you can see from the table below, Hitting Efficiency [ (Kills-Errors)/Total Attempts ] had the highest correlation to match wins, with Kills/Set not far behind. Aces/Set and Blocks/Set are lower, and Digs/Set comes last.

In a similar timeframe, Kyle from SoloStats did his own analysis using matches from a variety of levels entered using that platform. Here is a slide from a presentation he put together about his observations. It’s one of a few showing multiple different levels of play. You can find the whole slide deck on the linked page.

As you can see, Kyle went a bit broader than my analysis did. Yes, he has Aces, Kills, Blocks, and Digs per set. He also has errors/set for Serves, Blocks, Attacks, Digs, and Receptions (which is basically the other team’s aces). He’s got Point Scoring % (pt_sc_pct) and Sideout % (so_pct) as well. The former is when you win a rally as the serving team (also sometimes referred to as a break point) while the latter is winning the rally as the receiving team. You’ll also see figures for pass ratings and pass attempts (# of times the other team served). In some places there’s also the number of sideouts.

It’ll probably come as no surprise that the scoring % figures correlate the best to winning. And, of course, the error tallies mostly correlate negatively. The big exception there is service errors, which shows a small positive correlation. That speaks to the requirement for aggressive serving, especially noting that service aces ranks #3 or #4 in positive correlation.

Related to that, I doubt anyone’s surprised that Aces rank higher than Kills for the lower levels of play. We’ve all seen how much good serving can dominate there.

As I’ve written before, I don’t put much stock in the fact that blocks tend to not correlate highly with success. Good blocking isn’t just (or even mostly) about stuff/kill blocks. Similarly, a high dig tally can simply mean the other team is attacking you a lot. Potentially, that’s because you can’t score against them, giving them transition swings back at you.

What I suspect will surprise a lot of people is how low the pass rating correlates to winning. It’s 0.2 or lower in all four cases above. That’s because a good pass isn’t a point scoring event. It only potentially leads to a point being scored via a kill.

I encourage you to go check out Kyle’s analysis. There are some interesting takeaways.

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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.

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