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The Lo-Down: When Setters Attack
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The Lo-Down: When Setters Attack

August 29, 2017

Setter, in my opinion, is the hardest position to play in volleyball. You have to know where everyone is at on the court, you have to know who has the hot hand at the moment, you have to be able to recognize what is going on across the net, you have to pay attention to scheming from the other team and then you have to worry about yourself: serving, defense, setting, and, of course, attacking.

Setting is a game of perfection. You have to set the ball in the right direction in hopes of keeping your opponent guessing. You have to set the ball at the right time and with the right speed based on when your hitter is beginning her approach. You have to set the ball in the right location so the hitter doesn’t have to think about where the ball will be, but rather what she will do with it. And you have do it all in a matter of seconds. Less than seconds actually.

There’s one more split-second decision setters have to make: when to attack in hopes of stealing a quick point. Before we get to when, however, here’s a quick rundown of the different attack methods for a setter:

TWO-CHUTE: This usually happens when a setter is back row. The rules prevent her from jumping above the net to attack, so she can stay on the ground or do a baby jump set. It looks like she is going to set the ball, and, at the last minute, she side-sets over her right shoulder, over the net and into the middle of the court. This happens on the second touch.

SETTER DUMP: Here the setter is in the front row, and she can attack above the net without worrying about any violations. She goes up with two hands like she is going to set the ball and then at the last minute drops her right hand and essentially throws the ball down with her left. She can throw the ball down to the middle of the court, right front or behind her head to left front.

PINEAPPLE: Setter is front row again and can attack above the net. She goes up with two hands, brings her right hand down at the last minute like she is going to dump and then uses all of her strength to push the ball deep to zone five, over the head of the left back defender on the other side.

TURN-AND-ATTACK: You see this more from left-handed setters. When she is front row, she will act like she is going to set and at the last minute, turn her body in the air and attack with her hitting shoulder like she is an attacker. An example of a player who recently played against Nebraska and did this often was Micha Hancock from Penn State.

Now that you know the methods, we can tackle the key question: When should a setter attack? There were three scenarios where I would often look to go on the attack as a setter and those attempts were successful about 98 percent of the time.

One, when the middle blocker served and had to play left-back defense until the libero subbed into the game. Middles typically aren’t the best back-row defenders and a setter could use pineapple, two-chute or a dump to attack left back.

Two, when the middle blocker starts to cheat one way instead of staying in the middle. This usually happens when you have a hot hitter. For example, if your outside attacker is on fire, the middle will start cheating to her right so she can be there to help block with the right-side attacker on the other team. Attacking the middle of the court on the second hit in that scenario doesn’t just have the potential to win you a quick point, it forces that middle blocker to stay honest, making things easier for your outside attacker.

Three, when the defense starts cheating out of its base. Defenders usually do this when they have been beat a few times by an attack. When they are, they usually are beat deep, so they back up more and more leaving a bigger hole in the middle of the court.

Overall, the setter attack is a high-risk, high-reward play. You are jeopardizing a point if your attack gets blocked or if it gets picked up easily by the other team. Most of the time, however, the defense isn’t ready for the ball to come over on the second hit, especially to the middle of the court. It is one of the hardest places to defend because it is always so open and defenders have to communicate who is covering the middle of the court while also covering their side of the court.

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