Digging into the stats of the EuroBeachVolley 2020 Finals
Sunday night in Jurmala brought us two different kind of champions. On the men’s side Christian Sorum and Anders Mol of Norway dominated the competition and blazed their way to a 3rd European Championship in a row without dropping a single set along the way. The women’s draw was unpredictable from the start, with top seeds from Germany and Switzerland losing early and Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré besting Cinja Tillmann and Kim Behrens in a 3-set thriller.
But at EuroBeachVolley2020 with full box scores available for the final matches (available for men here and women here) we can take a deeper look into exactly what happened in each match. For Norway, blocker Anders Mol scored 21 points while teammate Christian Sorum scored only 10. At first it appears that Mol carried the team to victory. However, in beach volleyball the player doing the scoring is the player being served for the most part. This means that the Russians were trying to avoid serving Sorum, which makes sense given his sky-high side-out efficiency through the short season.
You can see this concept play out even more starkly for Russia, where Viacheslav Krasilnikov had 31 receptions compared to only 6 for Stoyanovskiy. While he was able to pass positively 74% of the time, he ended making 11 attacking errors on his 34 attempts, ultimately costing Russia their early lead. While Stoyanovskiy was an imposing presence at the net, scoring on blocks 6 times and scoring on 8 of 12 attacks, the fact that the beach volley Vikings avoided him totally on serves meant that his effectiveness was limited. Picking on Krasilnikov ended up being the defining strategy that won the gold medal for Norway.
You could see a similar story play out for the women, where Germany’s Kim Behrens took the brunt of serves from Switzerland, passing 40 times compared to teammate Cinja Tillmann’s 11. This didn’t work out the same way as Krasilnikov though, as Behrens was the more efficient attacker on her team at 51%. And Germany was the better reception team compared to Switzerland too, with more aces and better back row defense.
So what was the issue? The first was the number of errors that cost Germany points. They made 15 attacking errors compared to only 6 for the Swiss, mostly on shots trying to avoid the imposing block of Joana Heidrich, who had 5 scoring blocks in the match. At 176cm and 178cm tall respectively, Tillmann and Behrens were undersized going up against the 190cm Heidrich.
The second was that Heidrich was able to do anything she wanted at the net, scoring on 18 of 25 attacking attempts and only making 3 errors. While the Germans served Vergé-Dépré more often, Joana was still targeted 23 times. And finally Anouk Vergé-Dépré serve was very effective in the match. While aces are a decent metric for serving effectiveness, often the number of total serves can be a better indication of the most effective server. In this match Anouk had 33 serves, 10 more than Heidrich. This means that her serve was more difficult for Germany to side out from, resulting in more break points for Switzerland.
While you always need to watch the full match (available on eurovolley.tv) to provide context to the number, there is a lot to learn from just a few numbers on the box score.