Before going into the sets and strategies, there are a few things to pay attention to: We play positional defense. The position changes happens at the moment of the serve when the team is playing defense. If the team is returning serve,then we stay for the first rally. In positional defense, OH is always playing left, MH is always playing middle, and S/Opp always plays the right of the court. Players in the front row have to pay attention to the opponent’s hitters and try to block the ball in every attack on us. Target the one close to you and see how you can defeat him/her by successfully blocking the shots. Get help/advice whenever necessary if you can not be successful.
Following is the diagram for a 5-1 starting formation:
Set Codes and Positions:
Note that our codes maybe different than others if you are playing with American players. Remember the sets we talked about? #2 is one feet away from the setter about 4 ball higher than the net. #3 is the same like #2 only it’s behind the setter. These are based on the setter’s position at the time of the set, wherever the setter goes, #2 and #3 is next to the setter. The key to this set is exact height and close to the setter. Timing to hit this set is to start your 3-step approach when the ball reaches the setter’s hands. Please check the diagram for more details on the sets.
#1 is high and long to the left side for open hit, great for hitters who’s got hang time. #5 is a little lower than #1 and to the left for open hit. The advantage of #5 is it’s low above the net so the hitter has a wider range for the kill and avoid the blocks. #4 is in the back of the setter to the right for open hit, while #6 is flat to the right side. For back row sets we add “BIG” to the codes, so we have BIG1, BIG2 and BIG3 respectively. For back row sets, we try to set the ball as high as a #2 set and keep the ball around the 7 feet range. (Please see “Set Position Diagram for more details.) “A”, “B” and “C” are quick sets which we will try to play if we could get good return serves. Reminder: The setter has to try his/her best to make a good set, i.e. pass the set parallel with the net and to the correct position. Be precise!
The key is when we call sets (either the setter or the hitter calls before the serve), you know where the ball is going and you can prepare yourself and expect the ball to be there. The setters have the responsibility to put the ball to where it should be and the hitters have to get themselves ready to hit the ball. The hitter has to read the blockers and pick a set that could break their defense, trying to mix up the attack styles can always mean success in games. In a team that has good return serves, playing all the set combination became possible and very flexible during the games.
Following is the diagram for a 5-1 formation before receiving serves: notice that front row are presented in color blue while back row are in black.
As for defense, generally, we play center back, and the players on both sides go up for short balls and tips. The player behind the blockers has to go up to cover the tip ball behind and around your blockers. Make sure you move up to within the 10 feet line whenever your blocker goes for a block. The player in the back row on the cross has to pay attention for long hits from the hitter, this is a tough angle to defense but a tough angle to hit, too. Please take a look at Defense Diagram for more details on the play. We play positional defense. The position changes happens at the moment of the serve when the team is playing defense. If the team is returning serve, then we stay for the first rally, we change to our designated position at moment we play defense. In positional defense, OH is always playing left, MH is always playing middle, and S/Opp always plays the right of the court.
Notice that our defense scheme is flexible, we adjust as the games go along. Situations changes when we meet different opponents, especially typical players who can only hit the ball in one direction (mostly cross) or certain spot. Then you should adjust your position to expect the hits when you are facing the same player again. Our defense is about the same when the attack changes from the right to the left or in the middle. The center always stay back and run up to defense. Remember center back is the last line of defense, you have to go for any ball coming long. Blockers try to close up to avoid attack ball coming through between the blocks. Both back row sides get the tips, and the cross get the strong hits, too. That’s the idea. Following are some highlight of things to pay attention to:
- The goal for blockers is to keep the balls from being driven into certain areas of the court, — you are blocking a zone, and leave the rest to the defense behind them.
- Both sides covering the tips (either a back row player or the free front row player), must stay low and run after every tipped ball. This frees the back-row center player to worry only about driven balls.
- Cross-court diggers must position themselves so that they can clearly see the ball and the attacker around the outside of the block.
- Middle back players must be prepared to run after any long soft/strong shots and the balls that got tipped off the blocker’s hands.
- Call free balls loudly and early. Free ball is your team’s best chance to get points.
Move to the appropriate position quickly. Don’t relax on free balls, pass the ball high to the setter, make sure the setter never passes the ball.
The following are the 3 situation of positional defense you will see. Attack from right, middle and left. I am using diagrams to show you how the defense should work. This example assumes Setter is at the front row. Simply swap the S position with MH when Setter is at the back row. Please take a look at the diagrams and the descriptions along with them. First, defending attack from the right:
Second, defending attack from the middle:
Third, defending attack from the left:
Good offense comes from good return serves. I can not stress on this enough. Passing the ball high to the setter is very important, by doing so you give time for the setter to get ready for the set and have time to peak at the blockers before making the set. As you can see from our set position diagram, there are ways for a hitter to do offense. Finding your strongest sets is very important in practice, so you can rely on the set when you really need a point during the games. There are some video clips for reference on this web site. I draw up some basic and advanced formation for you guys below. There could be a lot of different ways to execute your plays. It’s very important to get your players to practice and know what they are good at and work on making your plays the strongest combinations of all.
Following are three simple examples of the most frequently used offensive plays executed by 3 hitters (on a 5-1 or 6-2 formation with a back row setter):
Again, we play 5-1, positional defense. The position changes happens at the moment of the serve when the team is playing defense. If the team is returning serve, then we stay for the first rally, we change to our designated position at moment we play defense. In positional defense, OH always plays at the left side, MH plays in the middle, and S/Opp plays the right side of the court regardless of front row or back row.
Comments, questions and feedback are welcome. Have fun and be safe on the courts.