A diversified offense is an integral part of any competitive indoor volleyball team. Expanding your team's options at the net will not only increase your kill ratio, but also keep your opponent's blockers guessing, often causing holes in the blocks and leaving the other team's back row defense to foot the bill.
The simplest way to fool your opponent is to add more offensive attack options for your hitters.
As most people know, there are three hitters in indoor volleyball: the outside hitter, middle hitter and right side (or weak side) hitter. Each one of these positions holds the possibility for numerous hitting options at various points on the net in changing speeds and tempos.
Amateur or novice teams will typically stick to a 3-point offense, with the setter tossing up high sets on the outside, middle or right side of the net. These higher sets and slower attacks are easy to track for the defense, and gives the defense enough time to set up a double or triple block, plus time to line up their defensive specialists in the back row with ample time to put up a good pass.
As the offensive team, this is not ideal. So, what you will learn today is a breakdown of various types of sets for each hitting position that will add bulk and variety to your front row offense.
Volleyball attack systems are broken down numerically. What you'll see here is what each number means for each hitting position, based on height and tempo of the set and hitting position. The reasoning behind the numbers is so that each hitter can call out a number so the setter knows exactly what set to throw up and where to place it for each hitter.
Outside Hitter (OH) Sets
5 – A five set is an outside set, set at a lower height where the ball "dies" mid-antenna. This means the setter must push this set at a faster tempo (however not as fast as a shoot tempo) so that the ball begins its descent to the ground once it crosses the mid to high mark on the antenna. This set can be hit line or cross as long as the OH takes the right approach to catch the ball at its peak before it begins to descend.
4 – A four set is a higher set ball (approx. 10 feet in the air) placed about 3 feet to the right of the OH antenna. This is a slower tempo set so the OH can transition off their normal platform, take their approach, read the defense, and place the ball.
2 – A two set for an OH is meant to be set in the Middle Hitter spot, high but behind the MH. This means the MH will go in for a 1 set (to be further explained momentarily) while the setter sets up as if they're going to set the MH 1, but instead throws up a higher ball slightly behind the approaching MH. The set must be about 10-12 feet in the air to allow the MH to go in for their quick set, fake out the blockers, so that when the 2 set is hit by the OH, the blockers are already landing from blocking the MH's 1.
Middle Hitters (MH) Sets
1 – A one set, also known as a quick set, is a fast-paced set, placed only 1-2 feet above the net. Timing for the hitter on this set is for the MH to start their approach as the ball crosses past their shoulder. The MH should watch the ball as it crosses their shoulder, then approach directly in front of the setter, jumping and swinging down quickly. If done right, the setter places the ball directly in line with the MH's arm swing. The tempo is fast in this set so as to not give the other team's OH and OPP blockers time to come in, leaving a single block only, if any.
7 – A seven set is similar to a 1 set for a MH, however the set is directly behind the setter. Again, we're talking a fast-paced approach, ball is placed 1-2 feet above the net and the MH approaches directly behind the setter. Again, because of the fast tempo of this attack, the defense's OH and OPP will not have time to come in for the triple block. While simultaneously, the MH blocker is often fooled into thinking the setter is setting a quick 1 set, so will set up to block in front of the setter, when in fact, the MH is approaching directly behind the setter, leaving the net wide open for the kill.
3 – A three set is a shoot set where the ball rides about 2 feet above the net before the MH attacks it. The MH will adjust their starting point of approach heading straight in from the halfway point between the OH and MH spot. The tempo for this set is fast which means the hitter's approach must match that. A 3 set for a MH, if done right, means there should be no block from the defense.
9 – A nine set is the same set for both the MH and the right side (OPP) hitter. But the approach, attack and ball contact are different between the two hitters. A 9 set is a back set that is placed high (10-12') close to the right-side antenna (pin). The MH "chases" the set out and slams it as a slide (going off of their left foot) and hitting cross or line. It's important the OPP hitter knows the MH is calling and going out for the 9 set so that the two of them are not going in for the same ball. This is why this attack is often run mostly when the offensive team is running a 5-1 and the setter is front row.
Right Side a.k.a Opposite Hitter (OPP) Sets
9 – As mentioned above, the set for the OPP and the MH nine is the same. However, the OPP will take their approach from off the court (in or near the hash marked 10-foot line extension). The idea of the 9 set for the OPP hitter is to set high and be able to hit above and over the block to the deep back corners.
7 – Similar to the 7 set for the MH, this set is placed directly behind the setter about 1-2 feet up, usually the OPP hitter will call for a 7 as the MH is calling for the 9 so that their approach paths cross and confuse the defense leaving zero blocks and a wide-open net.
All of these hitting options can be taught at any level. I currently run these options with my Division II Women's college team, but I've taught it successfully at the junior high and high school levels, as well.
When teaching offensive variants, there are many helpful tools to create a visual template for your players. I've used pool noodles (threaded through the net) to mark stopping or approaching points for both setters and hitters and to learn and understand placement of the ball as well as approach patterns. Rubber floor dots are a great way to show hitters where to start their approach and what angle to take, as well as to mark placement and landing spots for set balls.
However, the most important thing for your players to learn to run this expanded 8-point offense successfully is footwork.
If setters are effectively getting their feet set up under the pass and squaring their shoulders to their target, they can run all of these hitting options from almost anywhere near the 10-foot line.
But it is the hitter's job to own, conquer and memorize the footwork steps to be able to crush the sets at the correct time and spot on the net. Be sure to break down the footwork with your hitters. For each transition-type hit, be sure to hit on the following:
- Where on the court do they start their approach?
- How fast should their approach to the net (or setter) be?
- Should they jump off of two feet, or are they running a slide and jumping off of one?
- Is their arm swing going to be straight down or across their body?
These are all important details to master the 8-point offense as a team. However, if done right, and practiced thoroughly, your team will undoubtedly start reeling in more kills and more wins with this approach.
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