The 2007 Wahine Volleyball regular season is over and I am so proud of this 2007 team. They remained focused and determined while everyone else (critics, fans, etc.) wondered what would happen without All-American Kanoe Kamana'o to lead them. Brandt, the starting setter this season still has much to improve to reach the level of Kamana'o, but with a quirky serve and good mobility, it will be interesting to see how far she can go.
And Jamie Houston has got my attention. In the beginning half of the season, it seemed as if those amazing sets from Kamana'o had spoiled Houston, as if she was not interested in improving so much as to better a bad set. From the second half on, she started to play in a manner that said she wanted to earn all the praises that the sportscasters and writers have been giving her all this time. I have to say that she impressed me this season. Sure, the last match against New Mexico St scared me a little, but she regrouped and found other ways to score against them. I am finally excited to see how she will top this season's performance in the next season.
The only disappointment this season, for me, was at the libero position; I would rather see Jayme Lee start as libero. After the great job she did after earning and never letting go of the position once she had it, I do not understand how Ka'aihue kept the libero job this season. I am all for the position going to the best player at that position. Show me a better libero than Lee and I will not argue for Lee to start.
So why Lee over Ka'aihue?
1. Because of her serves: Both players use a standing float serve that is tough, but given the height difference (Lee is about 6 inches shorter), Lee's serve has a tendency to unexpectedly drop short just in front of opponents. This season, Lee's service percentage is a .959 to Ka'aihue's .953 with half the errors and half the attempts. Sure, that sounds close, as if it's not really a comparison, but the service aces to games ratio is Lee's .12 to Ka'aihue's .07-a huge difference. Over time, Lee will have more aces and less errors than Ka'aihue. Lee rarely makes a service error. On the season so far, Lee has 11 aces to Ka'aihue's 7.In last season's 35 matches, Lee had 24 aces.
2. Because of her mobility: Because Lee is 6 inches shorter and maybe 30 pounds lighter, she can react quicker to an errant ball. When both players plant their feet in anticipation of a hard hit from the opponent, Lee will be able to react faster by way of some physics law (okay, I don't completely remember my physics). This was evident earlier this season when both L and K were on the court and a teammate shanked a ball back towards the tunnel. L got to the ball first while K was closer to the ball. L didn't save it, but she got there first, showing that her height wasn't a shortcoming on a play like that one.Just in general play, when covering a hitter or getting to any shanked balls, Lee reacts quicker. She also seems to know her coverage better.
3. Because of her technique and accuracy: This one, you might just have to trust me. Lee's play is cleaner. She passes the ball up so that the setter has an easier time in setting the ball. Lee passes the ball directly to the setter; the setter doesn't have to move and has more time to see the block and choose to which hitter to set the ball. Simply put, Lee does exactly what the libero is supposed to do.Whereas, too many times, when Ka'aihue passes the ball, the ball travels along a flatter parabola. This causes the ball to arrive at a sharper angle to the setter, making it easier for the setter to double-hit (a penalty point for the other team). Also, Ka'aihue isn't as accurate as Lee in getting the ball to the setter.
4. Because of the numbers: The first graph shows the digs per player, per game for the 2006 season. The second graph is the same for the 2007 season. The highest number of digs is highlighted in yellow; second highest in pink; third highest, only for the libero, is in green.
The libero should have the most highlighted games, and they both do. They should also be either 1st or 2nd place in digs each game. Breaking down the highlights:
[# of games]
Lee =  1st place in digs,  2nd place,  3rd place,  4th or worse.
Ka'aihue =  1st place in digs,  2nd place,  3rd place,  4th or worse.
One of the three games where Lee placed 4th or worse was the very first match of the season, the only match that season where Lee did not start; she was the 4th, I believe, libero to be tried. Ka'aihue has started every match this season, so those seven matches in 4th or worse is a big bad number. Lee had one game last season where she had less than 5 digs; Ka'aihue already has 6 games. That tells me that Lee is more productive. In digs per game, Ka'aihue wins it by 4.08 to Lee's 3.80 last year. However, Lee has the uncanny distinction of getting an occasional dig/kill, or what they call a "libero kill." She's 5/5 this year, she had several last year, Ka'aihue is 1/6 this year. The "libero kill" numbers don't really count for libero's since technically they aren't allowed to "attack" a ball, but that said, Lee's kills are impressive. That's something you can't teach.
Anyways, I'm sure Lee is just happy to be playing and doesn't care who starts in the big scheme of things, but I think she should be starting. Everyone else has pretty much upped their game this season, I talked about Houston earlier and certainly Kaufman has improved over this season since getting the starting job, Hittle is back to old form if not better than she ever was before the injury last season, but Ka'aihue has not improved. I'm disappointed. By the way, not like Ka'aihue cares about my opinion either, I'm fully aware of that.
Up next for the Wahine: Tennessee State tomorrow in Kentucky, the first round of the NCAA playoffs.