MONEY BALL: Concordia Lutheran’s Smeltzer winning by crunching numbers

MONEY BALL: Concordia Lutheran's Smeltzer winning by crunching numbers (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

New Concordia Lutheran coach Branden Smeltzer is a self-proclaimed numbers nerd.

He sees the game in percentages and as a chess match.

"If you understand the numbers, you will have success," Smeltzer said. "We are very detailed in the data. Our serve retrieve numbers were down in the middle of the season, so worked on passing all that week. Setting our middle percentages should be higher so we do a ton of reps slow down our offense to get those up.

"If you don't know the numbers, you don't know what to work on. It's like the 'Money Ball' movie."

Smeltzer has also brought a new culture inside the locker room of accountability and learning.

"We teach the game much more," he said. "Look, I'm a player's coach but I have very defined boundaries. For instance, if you are late to practice or the bus, you sit. If you don't pick up the classroom after our pregame meal, it's burbies for everyone. That just the deal."

His stars are shining even more brightly as well. Sophia Keene is doing "Sophie Keene" things. The Baylor-commit had 22 kills in three-set win over The Village School. Sydney Whitfield is becoming a "breakout star" this season before heading to Liberty University.

The surprise has been hitter Caitlin Stein.

"She has been a stud," he said. "Everyone focuses on Sophie and Sydney but now you have to deal with Caitlin. She has been killing it."

The setters, Addy Polk and Anna Schatz, have improved greatly and will be key on the 'Saders playoff run.

In the middle are Haley Manjack and Faith Wilkins, who could be difference-makers as they get fed more with sets.

"They are way under set. They are set 18-percent of the time and I need that about 30-percent," he said. "That middle-setter relationship is really improving."

He's happy with his defense.

"Kylie Bray a beast on defense and Brooke Austin comes in to help," he said.

The numbers don't lie as Concordia Lutheran is 30-7 and wrapping up regular season play. Their only loss came to state-power St. Agnes in a 5-set classic. They could meet again in the postseason.

“I think we are a dark horse for state,” he said. “We should get to the show but there is some improvement we still have to make to get there.”