Top 10 Bad Boys (and Girls) of Beach Volleyball

Evaluating Bad Boys (and Girls) as Judged by Referee Calls (Part 1)

Beach Volleyball has a different kind of vibe than the respectful, hushed crowds of tennis or golf. Smack talk, intimidation, flexing, and gamesmanship are fairly common. But how can we quantify the biggest, baddest players of the game? While not perfect, I judged “bad boys” and “bad girls” based on illegal actions called by referees. This “% Faults” ratio identifies the likelihood that on any given point a player might commit an illegal action which is called by the referee.

The data is from recent FIVB 5 Star events (more info here) and filtered to players who played at least 200 points. Illegal faults include: net touches, double touches, lifts, reaching beyond, 4 touches, foot faults, and generic faults.

Bad Boys

Without further ado, on the men’s side, Markus Bockermann (GER) is the #1 bad boy of men’s volleyball, getting a fault on 2.9% of points played. Konstantin Semenov (RUS) and Nikita Liamin (RUS) are #2 and #3, getting a fault on 2.7% and 2.5% of points played, respectively.

Most of the referee calls come from net touches. Of the 14 Juan Virgen faults, 12 were from a net touch or reaching beyond. Other players also get many more net touches than other kinds of calls. For Bockermann, 3 were lifts (the most of the group), 2 were net touches, and 2 were general faults. Of Ryan Doherty’s 10 faults, 3 were double touches (the most of the group), which was followed by 2 from Walkenhorst, McHugh, and Ingrosso. 

Both Doherty and Walkenhorst are the blockers on their team and get served relatively few balls. This requires them to set often, including on transition defense, which means they likely have more attempts at hand setting than the average player. It’s great to see them continue to hand set even in the face of the referee calls. Plus, they’ll gain even more of an advantage as the AVP and FIVB continue to loosen the restrictions around double touches and lifts.

Bad Girls

Kristina May (CAN) is the #1 bad girl of women’s volleyball with 1.4% Faults, considerably lower than the men’s top 10 players. Carolina Salgado (BRA) and Ilka Semmler (GER) come it at #2 and #3, with 1.4% and 1.2% Faults, respectively.

Most of the faults are also generated from net touches. However, Isabel Schneider leads the group with 3 double touches, 2 lifts and one 4 touches call. Talita Antunes has 10 net touches, 1 lift, and 2 foot faults (the only one in the group with a foot fault).

Distribution of Faults

When comparing the distribution of faults between men and women, there are many more players on the men’s side with fault percentages over 1.5%. This is similar to what we saw in our Battle of the Sexes analysis, where women had less lifts, double touches, net touches, 4 touches, and reaching beyond calls while having more foot faults.

More women are on the left hand side of the distribution than men, achieving totally fault free gameplay.

Next week, we’ll look at the top players with fault free play. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!

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