I have often wondered, checked up on, the effectiveness of different first tempo calls both individually (i.e. do close first tempo score more or less than long first tempo?) and globally (i.e. is the offence better with one or the other?). In essence, does one have an intrinsic advantage over the other. What I found at various times was that the close quick (1, a quick, 51) seemed to be more effective than the the long quick (7, b quick, 51). The sample sizes were never very big and somehow I was never particularly satisfied with the result. Now I have access to big data sets and more importantly the amazing Science Untangled Setting Analysis app to do the work. So what did we learn from the Olympics?
At the bottom of each court on the left you can see the kill rate after perfect and positive reception, along with the point win rate (i.e. rally win rate) for K1 (close first tempo) and K7 (long first tempo). The Olympic Games including 28 matches among the top 10 teams showed that K1 allowed for a better attack percentage but a no difference in the point win rate. Given that our objective is the win the rally, there is no intrinsic difference in effectiveness between the two options. Looking at each attack zone we can see some small differences. Position 3, 6 and 1 are equally effective in both ‘environments’, but there is a difference with attacks from position 2 and 4. Position 4 is more effective when coupled with a K1 offence. This is logical. The K1 keeps the middle blocker in the middle of the net and is more likely to lead to a broken block. The K7 brings the middle blocker closer to position 4. The movement of the middle blocker in that case fairly obviously opens the court for position 2 to attack, which is exactly what we see. And no, I cannot explain why the attack from position 1 is not also more effective.
Just for my own amusement, I also looked at how different setters worked. You can see the full charts if you scroll down. There is a lot of stuff there to digest, so I invite you to peruse at your leisure but a couple of things do pop up. The two French setters, who both played a lot, used the K7 call the exact opposite way (Brizard played over the first tempo, Toniutti used it to open the space for the back set) with the same overall effect. Luciano De Cecco seems to be much more effective when calling the K1. However, I’m not sure that is exactly true. The Argentinians floating first tempo makes it very difficult to distinguish exactly what is K1 and what is K7. That would need a different approach to the analysis from the start, and I am not even sure how I would begin with that. The Japanese setter Sekita had a lot more success when calling K7, as did Brizard. Other setters such as Toniutti, Bruno, Kobzar seem to be able to switch back and forth with equal effectiveness. Anyway, those are my thoughts. I just leave it here with you.