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The Lo-Down: When to Tip, When to Attack

September 05, 2017

Even the biggest, most powerful hitters in volleyball go to the change-up every now and then. At least if they’re good they do.

The tip can be one of the most effective plays in volleyball, and, despite its appearance as a split-second decision, it is often a well-thought-out strategy. Coaches will occasionally call one in from the sidelines, but experienced hitters can decide when a tip might be more effective than an all-out attack. And when they do make that call, they’re calling on years of experience and their court awareness.

So how does a hitter decide to hit or attack?

There are some situations where she may not have much of a choice. Sets too tight to the net or too far from it, where the hitter can’t get her feet and arm into the swing, set up an easy block for the defense. A tip is often the only choice in those scenarios.

But the goal is for the tip to be an effective bit of strategy. The key for a hitter is to make it look exactly like an attack. She should drive towards the net with her feet, jump and pull her arm back like she’s going to swing. At the last second, she will open her hand and tip the ball based on her read of the defense. She can go right over the block, try to find space in the middle of the floor if the defense is on its heels or send the ball deep if she sees the defenders creeping up in anticipation of a short tip. It’s a versatile way to get a point.

Sometimes, of course, you just want to go with the fastball, however. When the set is good, the hitter has the full array of options. If she’s one-on-one against a lone blocker she should have plenty of room to attack and good odds of getting the kill. If she’s one-on-none, put that ball straight down. A hitter wouldn’t tip in those situations.

There’s also another tool in the hitter’s toolbox. Against a tough block a hitter can try to “tool” the block, a term that’s probably familiar to most volleyball fans. It simply means the hitter will attack and try to play the ball off the block and out of bounds.

Most teams will work on hitting and tipping drills every day. Nebraska definitely does. On average, a coach is going to want the hitters to attack about 80 percent of the time and tip the other 20 percent. Veteran players often have the best sense of when to use each approach.

That’s what makes them so successful. They know how to get a point for their team, no matter what.

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