Libertyville plays by the numbers

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In baseball, number crunching inspired a book and movie titled “Moneyball.”

Libertyville is also using data as a tool to dictate the decisions it makes on the court.

“We track statistically everything we can,” coach Greg Loika said. “The girls know if they are struggling, there is someone on their heels.”

There’s also a number to justify the competition. Because the team is not built around tall, powerful outside hitters, the Wildcats’ offense is ineffective unless it first plays sound defense. It starts when receiving an opponent’s serve, or when an opponent returns a Libertyville serve.

One of the most important statistical measurements the Wildcats use is on serve-receive. Defensive players, responsible for initiating the team’s offensive system, are judged on a three-point scale, with three being the highest.

“If our setter can set the middle or the right side or left side so (our hitters) have three attack options, we call that a three pass,” Loika said. “If she is a bit outside and can only go to the right or left side, that’s a two. A one would be we chucked the ball up.”

A zero is possible for a passing error, but it is rare.

So far this season, the Wildcats’ most effective player based on this statistic is defensive specialist Vicky Liu. The senior has an average score of 2.16 on 94 receptions, or touches. Freshman Morgan O’Brien is second with a 2.12 (on 254 receptions) and senior Carly Ostmeyer is third with a score of 2.05. Players said they strive to be above two points.

Loika and his assistant coaches will tell players what their scores are in person as well as post statistics on the website maxpreps.com. This houses everything from attacking percentages to blocking errors.

Ostmeyer said the statistics give an unbiased view of performance.

“It’s helpful as it lets us know what we have to work on, what you need to improve,” Ostmeyer said. “I know we check it as passers.”

There are conventional statistics the Wildcats keep and review, such as kill percentages, assists and digs, used by all teams. But Loika said he likes digging deeper because it gives players specificity rather than a generalized evaluation.

“I think for the most part they know what we are looking for. We want to be sure our feedback is given to them to provide ‘Hey, this is a match where our defense and offense struggled,’ and they can connect the dots and dominos from that point,” Loika said.

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