North Texas Daily

Volleyball team takes analytical approach to meet championship standards

Volleyball team takes analytical approach to meet championship standards

Senior Carnae Dillard jumps into the air to spike a ball down for a point.

Volleyball team takes analytical approach to meet championship standards
August 31
01:07 2015
[df-subtitle]How North Texas volleyball is wired in with the Cauldron[/df-subtitle]

Brady Keane | Staff Writer


When the North Texas volleyball program hired associate head coach Vinh Nguyen in the off-season, it brought in one of the most experienced assistant coaches in the sport. Nguyen brings more than 20 years of volleyball experience to the program and has spent time with Team USA and the USA High Performance Pipeline.

With that extensive experience comes knowledge of a technique that Nguyen and the rest of the coaching staff feel could push this year’s team to the next level.

“The Cauldron,” as the strategy is called, is a system that uses advanced statistics gathered both from games and competition in practice to improve players’ efficiency and effectiveness.

“Those two adjectives, efficiency and effectiveness, are understood much better now,” Nguyen said. “They are really going out there and playing as hard as they can. We are using this information to teach them to work smarter, not harder.”

It is not a new system in regards to collegiate and professional sports. In addition to the USA Men’s and Women’s National volleyball teams, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers and the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team have been known to use the Cauldron.

But even though Nguyen has known about the Cauldron for nine years, it is a completely new concept to North Texas.

“It’s been kind of hard to adjust to in the beginning,” sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Abii said. “At first my efficiency went down because I was trying to increase my effectiveness. I was trying to go too hard. But now, I have a good balance of the two and it has helped a lot.”

Using the statistical based approach involves dissecting each player’s success in categories including serve-receive, serving, attack conversion percentage, blocking, passing and digging. Coaches will typically track a player’s performance through statistics and competition in practice in order to develop an optimal lineup and gameplan that can expose the weaknesses of an opponent.

“We put together numbers in terms of when we pass, serve, and hit,” Nguyen said. “We take that data and put it into a computer program, tabulate it, and get the averages to use.”

By striving to become more efficient, the Mean Green hope to close the gap between itself and 2014 Conference USA Champion Western Kentucky, who eliminated North Texas from the C-USA tournament last season.

Comparing the efficiency of both teams in 2014 shows that North Texas trailed the Hilltoppers in attack percentage (.236 to .273), while the Mean Green also committed more attacking errors, (644 to 566).

Shortening the gap in those numbers could be the difference-maker in the Mean Green’s championship aspirations, and the Cauldron is what the staff hopes will facilitate that change.

So far, the analytic approach is working. Although the Mean Green are only three games into the 2015 season and sport a 1-2 record, the team’s attack and serving percentages have slightly increased from the end-of-season marks last year.

“Coach Nguyen has changed our perception of the entire game,” said sophomore defensive specialist Meredith Bramer. “It’s broken the game down into more simple terms, and made us have a new perspective.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | North Texas Athletics

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