2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports

Volleyball is an Olympic sport in which two teams separated by a high net use their hands, arms, or (rarely) other parts of their bodies to hit a ball back and forth over the net. Each team is allowed three hits to get the ball over the net to the other team. A point is scored if the ball hits the ground in the opponents' court, if the opponents commit a fault, or if they fail to return the ball properly.

Volleyball game
Volleyball game

Volleyball can be a very active sport that can be an excellent source for aerobic exercise. It also helps players improve their hand-eye coordination and the ability to override the instinctive desire to dodge a fast-moving object such as a ball.

History of the game

On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played preferably indoors and by any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles (sixteen kilometres) away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts only four years before. Mintonette (as volleyball was then known) was designed to be an indoor sport less rough than basketball for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort.

The first rules, written down by William G. Morgan, called for a net 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 metres) high; a 25 × 50 foot (7.6 × 15.2 metre) court; and any number of players. A match was composed of 9 innings with 3 serves for each team in each inning; and no limit to the number of ball contacts for each team before sending the ball to the opponents’ court. In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed while a ball hitting the net was to be considered a foul (with loss of the point or a side-out) — except in the case of the first-try serve. To protect the fingers of the ladies, they were allowed to catch the ball and then throw it back into play.

After an observer, Alfred Halstead, noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896 played at the Springfield YMCA, the game quickly became known as volleyball (originally spelled as two words volley ball). Volleyball rules were slightly modified by the Springfield YMCA and spread around the country to other YMCA locations.

An international federation, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), was founded in 1947, and the first World Championships were held in 1949 for men and 1952 for women. Volleyball was added to the program of the Olympic Games in 1964, and has been part ever since. Beach volleyball became a FIVB-endorsed variation in 1986 and was added to the Olympic program at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

It was not until 1900 that a ball was made specifically for the new game, and the rules were not how we know them today. It took until 1916 for the skill and power of the set and spike to be introduced, and four years later a "three hits" rule and back row hitting guidelines were established. In 1917, the game was changed from 21 to 15 points. In 1919, American Expeditionary Forces distributed 16,000 volleyballs to their troops and allies: this provided a stimulus for the growth of volleyball outside the United States.

The first country outside the United States to adopt volleyball was Canada in 1900. The sport is now popular in Brazil, all of Europe (where especially Italy, Netherlands and Serbia are major forces since the late Eighties), Russia, other countries including China and the rest of Asia, as well as the United States. The FIVB estimates that 1 in 6 people in the world participate in or observe indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, or backyard (recreational) volleyball.


Volleyball court
Volleyball court


The game is played on volleyball courts 18 metres long and 9 metres wide, divided into two 9 x 9 metre courts by a one-metre wide net placed so that the top of the net is 2.43 metres above the centre of the court for men's competition, and 2.24 metres for women's competition (these heights are varied for veterans and junior competitions). There is a line 3 metres from and parallel to the net in each team court which is considered the "attack line". This "3 metre" line divides the court into "back row" and "front row" areas. These are in turn divided into 3 areas each: these are numbered as follows, starting from area "1", which is the position of the serving player:

4 3 2
5 6 1

After a team gains the serve (also known as siding out), its members must rotate in a clockwise direction, with the player previously in area "2" moving to area "1" and so on, with the player from area "1" moving to area "6" (see also the Errors and Faults section).

The team courts are surrounded by an area called the free zone which is a minimum of 3 metres wide and which the players may enter and play within after the service of the ball. All lines denoting the boundaries of the team court and the attack zone are drawn or painted within the dimensions of the area and are therefore a part of the court or zone. If a ball comes in contact with the line, the ball is considered to be "in". An antenna is placed on each side of the net perpendicular to the sideline and is a vertical extension of the side boundary of the court. A ball passing over the net must pass completely between the antennae (or their theoretical extensions to the ceiling) without contacting them.

The volleyball is made of leather or synthetic leather and inflated with compressed air. It is round and 65-67 cm in circumference.

Game play

Each team consists of six players, three located in front of the attack line and three behind.

To get play started, a team is chosen to serve by coin toss. A player from the serving team (the server) throws the ball into the air and attempts to hit the ball so it passes over the net on a course such that it will land in the opposing team's court (the serve). The opposing team must use a combination of no more than three contacts with the volleyball to return the ball to the opponent's side of the net. These contacts usually consist first of the bump or pass so that the ball's trajectory is aimed towards the player designated as the setter; second of the set (an over-hand pass using wrists to push finger-tips at the ball) by the setter so that the ball's trajectory is aimed towards one or more players designated as the attacker and third by the attacker who spikes (jumping, raising one arm above the head and hitting the ball so it will move quickly down to the ground on the opponent's court) to return the ball over the net. The team with possession of the ball that is trying to attack the ball as described is said to be on offense.

The team on defense attempts to prevent the attacker from directing the ball into their court by having players at the net jump and reach above the top (and if possible, across the plane) of the net in order to block the attacked ball. If the ball is hit around, above, or through the block, the defensive players arranged in the rest of the court attempt to control the ball with a dig (a fore-arm pass of a hard-driven ball). After a successful dig, the team transitions to offense.

The game continues in this manner until the ball touches the court within the boundaries or until an error is made.

Errors and faults

  • The ball lands out of the court, in the same court as the team that touched it last, under the net to the opposing team's court, or the ball touches the net "antennas". The ball also may not pass over or outside the antennas even if it lands in the opponents' court1.
  • The ball is touched more than three times before being returned to the other team's court2.
  • The same player touches the ball twice in succession3.
  • A player "lifts" or "carries" the ball (the ball remains in contact with the player's body for too long).
  • A player touches the net with any part of his or her body or clothing while making a play on the ball (with the exception of the hair).
  • The players of one team do not manage to touch the ball before the ball lands in their half of the court.
  • A back-row player spikes the ball while it is completely above the top of the net, unless he or she jumped from behind the attack line (the player is however allowed to land in front of the attack line).
  • A back-row player attempts to block an opposing team's attack by reaching above the top of the net.
  • The libero, a defensive specialist who can only play in the back row, makes an "attacking hit", defined as any shot struck while the ball is entirely above the top of the net.
  • A player completes an attack hit from higher than the top of the net when the ball is coming from an overhand finger pass (set) by a libero in the front zone.
  • A player is not in the correct position at the moment of serve, or serves out of turn. This type of foul is related to the position currently occupied by the players (see the table in the Equipment section). When ball is served, players can place themselves freely on the field (e.g. a "back-row" player can be close to the net) so long as they obey the following rules: The area "1" player must be behind the area "2" player and to the right of the area "6" player. The area "6" player must be behind area "3" player, to the left of area "1" player and to the right of area "5". The area "5" player must be behind the area "4" player and to the left of the area "6" player. Symmetric rules must be respected by the front-row players (those in areas "2", "3" and "4").
  • When hitting, a player makes contact with the ball in the space above the opponent's court (in blocking an attack hit, this is allowed).
  • A player touches the opponent's court with any part of his or her body except the feet or hands4.
  • When serving, a player steps on the court or the endline before making contact with the ball.
  • A player takes more than 8 seconds to serve.
  • At the moment of serve, one or more players jump, raise their arms or stand together at the net in an attempt to block the sight of the ball from the opponent (screening)5.

Notes: 1 If the ball passes outside the antennas on the first contact for the team, e.g. as the result of a bad pass or dig, a player is allowed to go after the ball as long as he or she does not touch the opponent's court and the ball travels back to his or her team's court also outside the antennas.

2 Except if a player blocks (touches a ball sent over the net by the opposing team, while reaching above the top of the net) a ball that stays in the blocker's side of the net. In such an instance the blocker may play the ball another time without violating the rule against playing the ball twice in succession. If the ball is touched during a block, that contact is not considered one of the team's three contacts.

3 At the first hit of the team, the ball may contact various parts of the body consecutively provided that the contacts occur during one action. Also, when a player touches the ball on a block, he or she may make another play on the ball.

4 Penetration under the net with hands or feet is allowed only if a portion of the penetrating hands or feet remains in contact with or directly above the player's court or centre line.

5 Screening is only a fault if the players stand directly next to each other in a way that clearly impedes vision, and the serve is a low line drive over their heads. (This is a judgment call by the referee. Teams are generally given a warning before being sanctioned for screening.)


When the ball contacts the floor within the court boundaries or an error is made, the team that did not make the error is awarded a point, whether they served the ball or not. The team that won the point is awarded the right to serve for the next point. If the team that won the point served the previous point, the same player serves again. If the team that won the point did not serve the previous point, the players of the team rotate their position on the court in a clockwise manner. The game continues, with the first team to score 25 points (and be two points ahead) awarded the set. Matches are best-of-five sets and the fifth set (if necessary) is usually played to 15 points. (Scoring differs between leagues, tournaments, and levels; high schools sometimes play best-of-three to 30; in the NCAA games are played best-of-five to 30.)

Before 1999, points could be scored only when a team had the serve (side-out scoring) and all sets went up to only 15 points. The FIVB changed the rules in 1999 (with the changes being compulsory in 2000) to use the current scoring system (formerly known as rally point system), primarily to make the length of the match more predictable and to make the game more spectator- and television-friendly.

The Libero

In 1998 the libero player was introduced internationally, the term meaning free in Italian; the NCAA introduced the libero in 2002. The libero is a player specialized in defensive skills: the libero must wear a contrasting jersey colour from his or her teammates and cannot block or attack the ball when it is entirely above net height. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any back-row player, without prior notice to the officials. This replacement does not count against the substitution limit each team is allowed per set, although the libero may be replaced only by the player whom they replaced.

The libero may function as a setter only under certain restrictions. If she/he makes an overhand set, she/he must be standing behind (and not stepping on) the 3-metre line; otherwise, the ball cannot be attacked above the net in front of the 3-metre line. An underhand pass is allowed from any part of the court.

Furthermore, a libero is not allowed to serve, according to international rules, with the exception of the NCAA women's volleyball games, where a 2004 rule change allows the libero to serve, but only in a specific rotation. That means, the the libero can only serve for one person, not all the people that he/she goes in for.

Other recent rule changes

Other rule changes enacted in 2000 include the introduction of the let serve which allows play to continue even if a served ball touches the net as long as it continues into the opponents' court. Also, the service area was expanded to allow players to serve from anywhere behind the end line but still within the theoretical extension of the sidelines. Other changes were made to lighten up calls on faults for carries and double-touches, such as allowing multiple contacts by a single player ("double-hits") on a team's first contact. From 2006 there are plans for trying new rule changes, such as having a second serve option when failing the first (as in tennis) or a second alternative libero in the team.


Competitive teams are supposed to master six basic skills: serve, pass, set, attack, block and dig. Each of these skills comprises a number of specific techniques that have been introduced along the years and are now considered standard practice in high-level volleyball.


Setting up for an overhand serve.
Setting up for an overhand serve.
A man making a jump serve.
A man making a jump serve.
A woman making an underhand pass or bump.
A woman making an underhand pass or bump.

A player stands behind the baseline and serves the ball, in an attempt to drive it into the opponent's court. His or her main objective is to make it land inside the court; it is also desirable to set the ball's direction, speed and acceleration so that it becomes difficult for the receiver to handle it properly. A serve is called an "ace" when the ball lands directly onto the court or travels outside the court after being touched by an opponent.

In contemporary volleyball, many types of serves are employed:

  • Underhand and Overhand Serve: refers to whether the player strikes the ball from below, at waist level, or first tosses the ball in the air and then hits it above shoulder level. Underhand serve is considered very easy to receive and is rarely employed in high-level competitions, and is used if a player is disabled or as a strategy.
  • Sky Ball Serve: a specific type of underhand serve, where the ball is hit so high it comes down almost in a straight line. This serve was invented and employed almost exclusively by the Brazilian team in the early 1980s and is now considered outdated.
  • Line and Cross-Court Serve: refers to whether the balls flies in a straight trajectory parallel to the side lines, or crosses through the court in an angle.
  • Spin Serve: an overhand serve where the ball gains topspin through wrist snapping.
  • Floater: an overhand serve where the ball is hit with no spin so that its path becomes unpredictable. This type of serve can be administered while jumping or standing. This is akin to a knuckleball in baseball.
  • Jump Serve: an overhand serve where the ball is first tossed high in the air, then the player makes a timed approach and jumps to make contact with the ball. There is usually much topspin imparted on the ball. This is the most popular serve amongst college and professional teams.
  • Round-House Serve: the player stands with one shoulder facing the net, tosses the ball high and hits it with a fast circular movement of the arm. The ball is hit with the palm of the hand, creating a bounce off spin.


Also called reception, the pass is the attempt by a team to properly handle the opponent's serve or "free ball". Proper handling includes not only preventing the ball from touching the court, but also making it reach the position where the setter is standing quickly and precisely.

The skill of passing involves fundamentally two specific techniques: underarm pass, or bump (“ bagher” in European terminology), where the ball touches the inside part of the joined forearms or platform, at waist line; and overhand pass, where it is handled with the fingertips above the head and is common of setters.


The set is usually the second contact that a team makes with the ball. The main goal of setting is to put the ball in the air in such a way that it can be driven by an attack into the opponent's court. The setter coordinates the offensive movements of a team, and is the player who ultimately decides which player will actually attack the ball.

As with passing, one may distinguish between an overhand and a bump set. Since the former allows for more control over the speed and direction of the ball, the bump is used only when the ball is so low it cannot be properly handled with fingertips, or in beach volleyball where rules regulating overhand setting are more stringent. In the case of a set, one also speaks of a front or back set, meaning whether the ball is passed in the direction the setter is facing or behind the setter. There is also a jump set that is used when the ball is too close to the net. In this case the setter usually jumps off his or her right foot straight up to avoid going into the net. The setter usually stands about ⅔ of the way from the left to the right of the net and faces the left (the larger portion of net that he or she can see).

Sometimes a setter refrains from raising the ball for a teammate to perform an attack and tries to play it directly onto the opponent's court. This movement is called a "dump". The most common dumps are to 'throw' the ball behind the setter or in front of the setter to zones 2 and 4. More experienced setters toss the ball into the deep corners or spike the ball on the second hit.


An attack in progress
An attack in progress

The attack (or spike, the slang term) is usually the third contact a team makes with the ball. The object of attacking is to handle the ball so that it lands on the opponent's court and cannot be defended. A player makes a series of steps (the "approach"), jumps, and swings at the ball.

Ideally the contact with the ball is made at the apex of the hitter's jump. At the moment of contact, the hitter's arm is fully extended above his or her head and slightly forward, making the highest possible contact while maintaining the ability to deliver a powerful hit. The hitter uses arm swing, wrist snap, and a rapid forward contraction of the entire body to drive the ball. A 'bounce' is a slang term for a very hard/loud spike that follows an almost straight trajectory steeply downward into the opponent's court and bounces very high into the air.

Contemporary volleyball comprises a number of attacking techniques:

  • Backcourt attack: an attack performed by a back row player. The player must jump from behind the 3-metre line before making contact with the ball, but may land in front of the 3-metre line.
  • Line and Cross-court Shot: refers to whether the ball flies in a straight trajectory parallel to the side lines, or crosses through the court in an angle. A cross-court shot with a very pronounced angle, resulting in the ball landing near the 3-metre line, is called a cut shot.
  • Dip/Dink/Tip/Cheat: the player does not try to make a hit, but touches the ball lightly, so that it lands on an area of the opponent's court that is not being covered by the defense.
  • Tool/Wipe/Block-abuse: the player does not try to make a hard spike, but hits the ball so that it touches the opponent's block and then bounces off-court.
  • Off-speed hit: the player does not hit the ball hard, reducing its acceleration and thus confusing the opponent's defense.
  • Quick hit/"One": an attack (usually by the middle blocker) where the approach and swing begin before the setter contacts the ball. The set (called a "quick set") is placed only slightly above the net and the ball is struck by the hitter almost immediately after leaving the setter's hands.
  • Slide: a variation of the quick hit that uses a low back set. The middle hitter steps around the setter and hits from behind him or her.
  • Double quick hit/"Stack"/"Tandem": a variation of quick hit where two hitters, one in front and one behind the setter or both in front of the setter, jump to perform a quick hit at the same time. It can be used to deceive opposite blockers and free a fourth hitter attacking from backcourt, maybe without block at all.


A triple block
A triple block

Blocking refers to the actions taken by players standing at the net to stop or alter an opponent's attack.

A block that is aimed at completely stopping an attack, thus making the ball remain in the opponent's court, is called offensive. A well-executed offensive block is performed by jumping and reaching to penetrate with one's arms and hands over the net and into the opponent's area. The jump should be timed so as to intercept the ball's trajectory prior to it crossing over the net. Palms are held deflected downward about 45-60 degrees toward the interior of the opponents court. A "roof" is a spectacular offensive block that redirects the power and speed of the attack straight down to the attacker's floor, as if the attacker hit the ball into the underside of a peaked house roof.

You can also use a "swing block" in which the blocker wants to stay very close to the net (like in a regular block) and will use his/or arms to "swing" and block the ball. With all blocking, timing is very important. If you don't start at the right time, the block will not work. You want to start your blocking approach when the hitter begins to start their hitting approach.

By contrast, it is called a defensive, or "soft" block if the goal is to control and deflect the hard-driven ball up so that it slows down and becomes more easy to be defended. A well-executed soft-block is performed by jumping and placing one's hands above the net with no penetration into the opponent's court and with the palms up and fingers pointing backward.

Blocking is also classified according to the number of players involved. Thus, one may speak of single (or solo), double, or triple block.

Successful blocking does not always result in a "roof" and many times does not even touch the ball. While it’s obvious that a block was a success when the attacker is roofed, a block that consistently forces the attacker away from his or her 'power' or preferred attack into a more easily controlled shot by the defense is also a highly successful block.

At the same time, the block position influences the positions where other defenders place themselves while opponent hitters are spiking.


Woman going for a dig.
Woman going for a dig.

Digging is the ability to prevent the ball from touching one's court after a spike, particularly a ball that is nearly touching the ground. In many aspects, this skill is similar to passing, or bumping: overhand dig and bump are also used to distinguish between defensive actions taken with fingertips or with joined arms.

Some specific techniques are more common in digging than in passing. A player may sometimes perform a "dive", i.e., throw his or her body in the air with a forward movement in an attempt to save the ball, and land on his or her chest. When the player also slides his or her hand under a ball that is almost touching the court, this is called a "pancake".

Sometimes a player may also be forced to drop his or her body quickly to the floor in order to save the ball. In this situation, the player makes use of a specific rolling technique to minimize the chances of injuries.


Basic principles

Coaching for volleyball can be classified under two main categories: match coaching and developmental coaching. The objective of match coaching is to win a match by managing a team's strategy. Developmental coaching emphasizes player development through the re-enforcement of basic skills during exercises known as "drills". Drills promote repetition and refinement of volleyball movements, particularly in footwork patterns, body positioning relative to others, and ball contact. A coach will construct drills that simulate match situations thereby encouraging speed of movement, anticipation, timing, and team-work. At the various stages of a player's career, a coach will tailor drills to meet the strategic requirements of the team.


An image from an international match between Italy and Russia in 2005. A Russian player on the left has just served, with three men of his team next to the net moving to their assigned block positions from the starting ones. Two others, in the back-row positions, are preparing for defense. Italy, on the right, has three men in a line, each preparing to pass if the ball reaches him. The setter is waiting for their pass while the middle hitter with no. 10 will jump for a quick hit if the pass is good enough. Alessandro Fei (no. 14) has no passing duties and is preparing for a back-row hit on the right side of the field. Note the two liberos with different color dress. Middle hitters/blockers are commonly substituted by liberos in their back-row positions.
An image from an international match between Italy and Russia in 2005. A Russian player on the left has just served, with three men of his team next to the net moving to their assigned block positions from the starting ones. Two others, in the back-row positions, are preparing for defense. Italy, on the right, has three men in a line, each preparing to pass if the ball reaches him. The setter is waiting for their pass while the middle hitter with no. 10 will jump for a quick hit if the pass is good enough. Alessandro Fei (no. 14) has no passing duties and is preparing for a back-row hit on the right side of the field. Note the two liberos with different colour dress. Middle hitters/blockers are commonly substituted by liberos in their back-row positions.

Player specialization

Players do not usually master all six skills, but rather focus on one or more of them in connection with the tactics employed by each team. The most common specialization comprises three positions: attacker/blocker (also differentiated in "outside" and "middle"), setter and liberos (defensive specialist).

Generally, taller players with the ability to jump high are utilized as attackers/blockers, where they attempt to block or spike opponents' initial hits and return the ball at high speed on steep trajectories so that the ball lands before the other team has time to react.

  • Setters have the task for orchestrating the offense of the team. They aim for second touch and their main responsibility is to place the ball in the air where the attackers can hit the ball into the opponents' court in the easiest way possible. They have to be able to operate with the hitters with variety and break up the enemy's block. Setters need to have swift and skillful appraisal and tactical accuracy, and must be quick at moving around the court.
  • Liberos are defensive specialists, who are responsible for receiving the attack or serve (the dig) and are usually the players on the court with the quickest reaction time and best passing skills. Liberos do not necessarily need to be tall, as they never play at the net, allowing shorter players with strong passing skills to excel. A player designated as a libero for a match may not play other roles during that match.
  • Middle blockers or Middle hitters are players that can perform very fast attacks that usually take place near the setter. They are specialized in blocking, since they must attempt to stop equally fast plays from their opponents and then quickly set up a double block at the sides of the court. In general they are the tallest players, but are often less skillful defensive players.
  • Outside hitters, also known as power hitters, attack from near the antennas. Since most sets to the outside are high, the outside hitter may take a longer approach, sometimes even starting from outside the court sideline. An outside hitter generally relies on a powerful swing to score, but some offensive plays may call for an angled approach and/or quick attacks to confound the defense. Outside hitters must also master passing, since they generally help the libero in receiving the opponent's serve. A strong-side hitter is an outside hitter that specializes in attacking from the front-left position. This hitting position is advantageous for a right-handed hitter, because the set will come from the right, and can therefore be delivered efficiently to the hitting arm. Conversely, the attacker in the front-right position is the weak-side hitter. Since the set is coming from his left, a right-handed hitter in the weak-side position will have to swing across his body to attack. Thus, left-handedness can be a desirable quality in a weak-side hitter.


The three standard volleyball formations are known as "4-2", "6-2" and "5-1", which refers to the number of hitters and setters respectively. 4-2 is a basic formation used only in beginners' play, while 5-1 is by far the most common formation in high-level play.


The 4-2 formation has four hitters and two setters. The setters usually set from the middle front position. (In the rare competitive 4-2, the setters more often set from the right front position.) The team will therefore have two front-row attackers at all times.

The setters line up opposite each other in the rotation. The typical lineup has two outside hitters. By aligning like positions opposite themselves in the rotation, there will always be one of each position in the front and back rows. After service, the players in the front row move into their assigned positions, so that the setter is always in middle front. Alternatively, the setter moves into the right front and has both a middle and an outside attacker; the disadvantage here lies in the lack of an offside hitter, allowing one of the other team's blockers to "cheat in" on a middle block.

The clear disadvantage to this offensive formation is that there are only two attackers, leaving a team with fewer offensive weapons.

Another aspect is to see the setter as an attacking force, albeit a weakened force, because when the setter is in the front court they are able to 'tip' or 'dump', so when the ball is close to the net on the second touch, the setter may opt to hit the ball over with one hand. This means that the blocker who would otherwise not have to block the setter is engaged and may allow one of the hitters to have an easier attack.


In the 6-2 formation, a player always comes forward from the back row to set. The three front row players are all in attacking positions. Thus, all six players act as hitters at one time or another, while two can act as setters. So the 6-2 formation is actually a 4-2 system, but the back-row setter penetrates to set.

The 6-2 lineup thus requires two setters, who line up opposite to each other in the rotation. In addition to the setters, a typical lineup will have two middle hitters and two outside hitters. By aligning like positions opposite themselves in the rotation, there will always be one of each position in the front and back rows. After service, the players in the front row move into their assigned positions.

The advantage of the 6-2 is that there are always three front-row hitters available, maximizing the offensive possibilities. However, not only does the 6-2 require a team to possess two people capable of performing the highly specialized role of setter, it also requires both of those players to be effective offensive hitters when not in the setter position. At the international level, only the Cuban National Women's Team employs this kind of formation. It is also used in Women's NCAA play, partially due to the variant rules used which allow 15 substitutions per set (as opposed to the 6 allowed in the standard rules).


The 5-1 formation has only one who assumes setting responsibilities regardless of his or her position in the rotation. The team will therefore have three front-row attackers when the setter is in the back row, and only two when the setter is in the front row, for a total of five.

The player opposite the setter in a 5-1 rotation is called the opposite hitter. In general, opposite hitters do not pass; they stand behind their teammates when the opponent is serving. The opposite hitter may be used as a third attack option (back-row attack) when the setter is in the front row: this is the normal option used to increase the attack capabilities of modern volleyball teams. Normally the opposite hitter is the most technical skilled hitter of the team. Back-row attacks generally come from the back-right position (position 1), but are increasingly performed from back-centre in high-level play.

The big advantage of this system is that the setter always has 3 hitters to vary sets with. If the setter does this well, the opponent's middle blocker may not have enough time to block with the outside hitter, increasing the chance for the attacking team to score.

There is another advantage: when the setter is a front-row player, he or she is allowed to jump and "dump" the ball onto the opponent's side. This too can confuse the opponent's blocking players: the setter can jump and dump or can set to one of the hitters. A good setter knows this and thus won't only jump to dump or to set for a quick hit, but as well to confuse the opponent.

The 5-1 offense is actually a mix of 6-2 and 4-2: when the setter is in the front row, the offense looks like a 4-2; when the setter is in the back row, the offense looks like a 6-2.


There are many variations on the basic rules of volleyball. By far the most popular of these is beach volleyball, which is played on sand with two people per team, and rivals the main sport in popularity.

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