Thursday, April 26, 2012

Volleyball for Dummies

Bump / Dig
As I sit watching the BYU volleyball team play in the MPSF semi-finals, I've decided to post sports for dummies #4: Volleyball!

A volleyball game (or "match") is played on a court with two teams of six players each. A net (8' high for men and 7'4" for women) sits between them. At the beginning of the match, a coin toss determines which team will "serve" first. A player from the serving team stands behind the back boundary line, throws the ball into the air and hits it over the net. The other team must then use a combination of no more than three hits to return it back over the net to the serving team's side. Typically, they will first "bump" the ball (clasp their hands together and hit it with their wrists or forearms), then "set" (using the fingertips to push the ball upward), and then a "spike" (jumping and hitting the ball with one fist to the other side of the net).

The players on the other side try to "block" spikes by jumping in the air with their arms straight up. A block doesn't count as one of the three allowed contacts if the ball does go over the net. If the block doesn't work, the players will try to save it from hitting the ground with a "dig". One fun fact I didn't know before writing this post-- when a player slides his or her hand under a ball so that it bounces off their hand instead of the floor, it is called a "pancake." :)

The bump, set, spike process continues back and forth between the two teams until the ball hits the ground in bounds (called a "kill" for the opposite team) or a player commits an error. When that happens, it is the end of one "rally", and one point is rewarded to the team that did not make the error or did not let the ball touch the ground on their side of the court. Errors include:
  • Failing to return the ball to the other side of the net within three hits
  • Hitting the ball out of bounds
  • One player hitting the ball twice in a row
  • Catching the ball or carrying it (instead of hitting it)
  • Touching the net (the ball can touch the net, but the players can't)
  • Any part of a player's body going underneath the net
  • Stepping over the back boundary line when serving (called a "foot fault")

Spike / Block
The team that won the point then serves for the next rally. If the team that won the point did not serve on that rally, it is called a "side out" and the players on the new serving team rotate clockwise in their positions on the court.

The "set" ends when the one team scores at least 25 points and is at least two points ahead. The first team to win 3 sets wins the "match" and the game. If the game goes into a tie-breaking fifth set, the first team to reach 15 points wins (instead of 25).

So that's volleyball in a nutshell. The BYU men's volleyball team is especially fun to watch, whether you know the details of the game or not. If you've never been to one of their matches, you should definitely put that on your to-do list.

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