Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kills, Digs, Blocks, Spikes

Down on E level of Jadwin Gym, there is a storage closet that has a bunch of old file cabinets that used to be in the back room of the OAC, in a spot that is now the shiny new offices of Associate Athletic Director Chris Brock and Assistant Athletic Director Kelly Widener.

These file cabinets include drawers labeled "football, pre-1930" and "men's basketball, 1945-1967." They are filled with old papers, yellowing and crinkly, that have all kinds of information on them, from old rosters to box scores to preseason releases - and, of course, stats.

In fact, there are decades' worth of stats that are hand-written on old notebook paper, with simple columns like "goals" and "points" and "touchdowns."

Back when TigerBlog first covering Princeton in his newspaper days, the shift to computerizing stats was just happening, though not yet for in-game. Instead, then - and through TB's first year or two here in the OAC - stats at all games were still done by hand, with a group of four or five or so people armed with papers, charts, pencils, a typewriter (to type the play-by-play) and blank box scores to fill in. It would take at least 30 minutes after a game to have a finished box.

After the game, TB would have to go into a different office here in Jadwin, then occupied by Marge DeFrank (a longtime administrative assistant here who passed away several years ago), and use Marge's computer to update the cumulative stats. It was an annoying, arduous process.

For men's lacrosse stats, TB developed an excel spreadsheet on which he would have to enter that game's goals, assists, saves, etc., and then excel would do the rest, updating season and career stats.

Eventually, the trend in college sports went to doing computerized in-game stats, which seemed like the very invention of computers themselves to many SIDs at the time.

There were a few companies that were vying for the emerging market of college stats, most notably one called StatMan (which nobody but TB liked) and another called StatCrew (which everyone else liked). TB doesn't know what happened to StatMan, but basically every college now uses StatCew for all of its computerized statting.

StatCrew has programs that are basically structured the same for football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, baseball and softball. These programs have come light years from what they were in the mid-1990s, and the advances in StatCrew software - ability to do live stats, compatibility with the web, ease of NCAA reporting, variety of reports it can create - have done so much to help make athletic communications a much more efficient venture.

All of the programs work in the same manner. Games are set up with the opponents and their rosters, and then all statistical entering is done by uniform numbers, not by names. The programs are designed to anticipate everything that can happen off of a given situation, so if you enter, say, a shot in soccer, the program knows that the next thing for that shot has to be that it was a goal, was a save, went wide, hit the post, was blocked, etc.

Within seconds after the game is over, final stats and updated cumulative stats can be on your web page.

While there are still some in the sports info world who are still intimidated by the process of entering stats, it is something that can be learned with relative ease.

If you ask any SID what the hardest sport to do is, they will almost unanimously say volleyball. TigerBlog has never done StatCrew for a volleyball match, and he'd basically be lost if he tried. The stats are somewhat complex, with digs and kills and assists and aces and everything else, and the game moves quite rapidly.

Princeton's women's volleyball team made the Penn stat crew stay later than anyone thought would be the case when the defending Ivy champion Quakers went up 2-0 in Saturday night's Ivy League opener.

But the Tigers stormed back, winning the final three games 25-23, 25-19 and then 25-9 to shock Penn.

Women's volleyball in the Ivy League works just like basketball, with a double round-robin travel-partner format that determines the league champion and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Should there be a tie for the title at the end, there would be a playoff to determine the automatic bid.

For Princeton and Penn, it was just the opener. Dartmouth and Yale are off to 2-0 starts, and the Big Green are 11-2 overall. Princeton this weekend is home to Brown and Yale as the league race begins to sort itself out.

Of course, for decades, the face of Princeton volleyball was Glenn Nelson, a somewhat beloved figure in Tiger athletic history for his humor, his laid-back style - and his success on the court.

Jolie Ward is now in Year 2 as the head coach, as is her assistant (and the men's head coach) Sam Schweisky, who took the Tiger men to the EIVA final in his first year. While much was made a year ago about how Chris Bates took over from Bill Tierney in men's lacrosse, Ward and Schweisky stepped into as enormous a shadow in Dillon Gym.

With football and a soccer doubleheader Saturday, a big chance for sprint football Friday night and another game against a Top 15 team in field hockey Sunday (all at home), it's possible to overlook women's volleyball, an indoor sport (along with men's water polo) among mostly outdoor fall sports. This is a big weekend for the Tigers in Dillon, where the atmosphere for matches can be outrageous.

And where else can you get stats like this (from the story after the Penn game): Lydia Rudnick recorded 26 kills, 12 digs and a .300 attack percentage in the win. Junior Cathryn Quinn, Princeton's most experienced starter, also had a strong effort for the Tigers. The middle recorded 18 kills and six blocks while providing important leadership after the Tigers found themselves in an early hole.

No comments: