early this year for the Chesterton volleyball team as second-year coach Luke
Starkey has made the sport a numbers game for the Trojans.
Starkey hasn’t gone
full-on “Moneyball” with his approach to the 2017 volleyball season, but
after a recent trip to the Notre Dame team camp last month, the Trojans are
approaching the game from a statistical background.
“It was three days
of nonstop information,” Starkey said of the Notre Dame camp that
unofficially kicked off the season. “Everything was standardized.”
process has taken some time and Starkey has relied on a lot of numbers to
make it make sense to not only his players, but to himself as well.
“I went back and
watched every single game that we played last year and I took notes, trying
to find some trends,” Starkey said. “They’re there, the trends. Through use
of statistics, we can figure out how to get better.”
history, economics and psychology and spends a lot of time looking at data
and numbers. He’s simply taken that analytical approach and applied it to
the game of volleyball. Once he learned information at Notre Dame, such as
utilizing a four-step approach when getting ready to hit, he went back to
the film and crunched some numbers. Everything began to make sense and then
it began to find its way to the practice floor.
different at Notre Dame,” Starkey said. “They said you can do your own
thing, but when you’re here, you’re doing it our way. They weren’t just
telling us how to do it, they were showing us the research and evidence for
why it was better.”
Starkey knew he
could try and reinvent the wheel with Sabermetrics all he wanted, but unless
his players understood what he was selling, it would be for naught. A trio
of seniors -- Kristin Stillman, Ginger Hedrick and Ella Whitmore Ð have led
the charge and the younger players have followed suit.
“Our players have
bought into everything we learned and now we’re implementing a lot of that
information,” Starkey said.
Stillman led the
Trojans in kills last season and was among team leaders in digs. The outside
hitter should shine in her final season while Hedrick will patrol the middle
of the net. Whitmore will serve as setter and play the outside.
The Trojans have
seven juniors on the roster this year and a handful already have varsity
experience including middle hitter Ariel Rohe, outside hitter Taylor Bowser
and defensive specialist Lorann Lombardini. Many of the juniors can play all
the way around the court, including right side attacker Paige Seely and
outside hitter Kylie Vendramin. Caroline Parks has emerged as a long,
athletic middle hitter while Sammy Devereaux is a former setter that has
converted to defensive specialist. Olivia Smilgius is the lone sophomore on
varsity and Starkey can already see that the setter is becoming a team
“Looking at where
we’re at in the conference, it’s not only how are we going to beat Crown
Point, but how are we going to compete with Crown Point,” Starkey said.
“Let’s use statistics and see if it helps. We’re making simple movements
with statistics and the girls have bought it. Let’s see what happens.”