Stephen Lee - BeachStats Analyst In September 2022 the King of the Court returned to Utrecht for the European Finals. Featuring some of the best teams European beach volleyball has to offer, the competition was fierce. In a game all about offense and creating opportunities to score, what does the breakdown look like between the type of attacks used that makes the best players so successful? We examined the balance of soft attacks (shots and cut attacks) and hard-swing attacks that players utilized. In this last article we take a look at the hard attack.
Let's examine the other side now--the hard hits and attacks. These percentages tell us the players' offensive tendencies from the event. First on the list is Sergiy Popov, who favored the hard attack the most, with 68.9%. Very close behind is Mart Van Werkhoven from the Netherlands, who had a 68.4% hard attack usage. Not that far behind, and tied, are Robert Meeuwsen and Jonatan Hellvig, with a 67.8% hard attack usage. Both made deep runs in the tournament, so they have sizable sample data giving us a more accurate idea of that true number. Tied for fifth is Mol--but not the one you may be thinking of. Markus Mol, the younger brother of Anders and Hendrik, went with the hard attack 64.3% of the time and scored 44.4% of those attacks. The Norwegian team made a good run before exiting in the quarterfinals playoffs. The other player tying with Markus Mol is Frederick Bialokoz with the same 64.3%, going to the hard attack frequently but did have a small sample size overall.
The women's hard attack usage numbers have a wider spread when it comes to the highest and lowest of their top 5. Clara Windeleff from the Danish team went with the heavy hard attack 81.8% of the time! The Danish women survived playoffs and pushed through the quarterfinals before finishing 6th in the semifinals. Tanja Hüberli had the second-highest hard attack usage, and we see a big difference between the top two. She had a 62.6 percentage during the event, and of those hits, she scored 53.2% of the time. Separated by only .10 Barbora Hermannova is third, the Czech had a 62.5% hard attack usage. Fourth is French player Lézana Placette who was playing with long-time partner Alexia Richard. The pair did not find the finish they wanted but stayed in the mix, with Placette favoring the hard attack 60.5% of the time. Lastly, Anouk Vergé-Dépré had a 56.3% hard attack usage, which is still significantly higher than the overall women's average of 38.9%.
Now that we’ve identified the players that chose the hard attack most often, let us look at the players that had the most success with the hard attack. The consistency is much different than the percentage of successful soft attacks examined before. There is a much wider spread, and the average successful hard attack percentage for the Men was 44.1%. Alfred Brink had the highest percentage of successful hard attacks at 80.0% but had a small sample size with 5 recorded hard hits. Latvian Janis Smedins is second and very familiar with the King of the Court format he had a 75% success percentage with his hard swing. Phillipp Waller is next with a 60.0% successful hard attack percentage but only went with that hard hit on 37.0% of his attacking opportunities. Fourth we have a player that made the top lists for both soft and hard attacks, Alexander Brouwer who hit a top hard attack percentage of 57.7%! Rounding out our top 5 here is Audrius Knasas with 57.1%, which is 12.0 higher than the combined average.
We can see the same spread in the percentage of successful hard attacks with the women as well. Mexime Van Driel had the highest hard attack percentage of anyone at the tournament with 100%. Though this is very exciting to see, she only had one hard attack, which is the same one she scored on. This is a very small sample size, as the team exited in the first round of pool play and playoffs. Heleene Hollas is second with a 75.0% hard attack success rate. Hollas and Soomets were knocked out of pool play in the second round before making it to the third stage of playoffs and getting a seventeenth-place finish. Thirdly, Swiss player Anouk Vergé-Dépré makes both top 5s for hard attacks. Of all her attacks, she went with the hard swing 56.3% of the time and successfully scored on 65.3% of them. Following close behind is Ievgeniia Baieva, who made a good run with partner Valentyna Davidova for a sixth-place finish. Along the way, Ievgeniia had a 64.0% successful hard attack rate. Rounding out our list is Katja Stam, who has had a fantastic year. In this King of the Court event, she recorded a 60.0% successful hard attack percentage.
This European Championship was very offensively focused. King and Queen side-out rates were high, as were the averages. Successful challenge rates were low because the successful teams were finding on the King's side. Both the men and women had tight spreads in those top 5s for the soft shots/cuts but compared to the hard attacks, there is a large discrepancy. There is a wide variety in the percentage of successful hard attacks, but unlike the other data, those outliers are due to small sample sizes.
There are a lot of intangibles that play into the game we call beach volleyball and King of the Court. Tendency data and scouting reports play into game preparations, but in the game, anything can happen as strategy shifts and players adapt. With the different lists we examined above, one of the things that stand out is that not many players that were able to perform highly in both categories of soft and hard attacks. Each player may have different focuses or strategies with their partners, but being only one event, it's hard to know how this would play out over a season-long sample size. Are players more likely to favor one kind of hit over another? Probably so, and that could be more likely in different situations, but the cool thing about data like this is it opens up that side of the game fans don’t see. Next time you watch King of the Court, look for those swings and hits, what works for a team or doesn't, and watch the game shift and move to adapt to each player's strengths or sometimes weaknesses.