A geek’s guide to Indoor Volleyball

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A good team can win a volleyball game when they are ahead, a great team can win when they are behind. Separated by a net, with two sets of teams, volleyball is a true team game that requires intense organisational teamwork to win a match. If you are new to volleyball, you’ll learn there are no prima donnas in this sport!

Volleyball Basics

The Great Britain team building up to a shot during the FIVB World Championship 2010 The Great Britain team building up to a shot during the FIVB World Championship 2010

Volleyball matches contain two teams of six on an indoor court measuring 9m by 18m. The teams are divided by a high net that is set at 2.24m for women and 2.43m for men.

During play, each team is permitted three touches to return the ball back over the net into the opposition's court. Although each player is not allowed to consecutively touch the ball.

Points are scored when the ball hits the opposing teams floor within their half of the court, with on the line counting as in their half. The opposition team do everything they can to avoid the ball hitting the floor and seek to return to the other team's half of the court.

Should the team win a point, then they will serve next. If the team won the previous point, then the same player will continue to serve the ball to the opposition, if not, then the server is rotated around the teams of six players.

The six players in each team are set up into two rows of three and rotate clockwise when they serve. The front rows are the offence and the back row, the defence.

Volleyball matches typically last between 60 and 90 minutes, with each game within the match lasting around 20 minutes. The clock is stopped during games, so there are no opportunities to run down the clock and time-waste. One team must win three games to win the match.

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Volleyball Offence & Defence Hits and Scoring

Opposition players receiving the serve have three hits to return the ball back across the net. Typically, a team will do this in a unique sequence known as "bump, set and spike" without the ball touching the court floor.

Once the ball has been served, the first player to touch the ball (usually in the back row) uses a controlled hit called a bump that hits the ball high in the air - thus allowing the other players a short period of time to logically think about the next move. This is where the "setter" comes in and "sets" the ball in a position just above the net on their courtside. Lastly, an attacking player will then hit the ball hard, down towards the opposing team's court so that they cannot return the ball. The strike of this ball is known as a "spike."

Great Britain's Grace Carter attacks against Austria's Valerie Teufl and Cornelia Hofmeister Great Britain's Grace Carter attacks against Austria's Valerie Teufl and Cornelia Hofmeister

The opposing team will attempt to block the spike, but if this is missed then the team's defensive players will try to perform a bump and the cycle sequence of bump, set, and spike continues until the ball touches the floor and a point is scored.

The team serving continues to serve until they lose a point, then the opponent begins to serve the ball.

Within each game, teams must accumulate 25 points and win by at least two points. The first team to win three games will win the match. Should each team have won two games, then the deciding fifth game is played but only to 15 points (still winning by two points).

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Volleyball plays

In volleyball there are four types of play that teams prepare and execute against opponents. They are as follows:

The Serve

USA setter Courtney Thompson (3) serves against Italy during women's team volleyball group play USA setter Courtney Thompson (3) serves against Italy during women's team volleyball group play

This when a player stands behind the back line and serves the ball with the aim to drive it into the opponent's court. The serve can be a softer (and less fast) underarm action or thrown in the air and "struck" harder to reach further. Just like a tennis ace, if the ball directly hits the court or an opposition player touches it, and the ball travels outside of the court.

The Bump, or Pass

Korea middle blocker Su Ji Kim (11) bumps the ball during a volleyball match between Korea and Argentina Korea middle blocker Su Ji Kim (11) bumps the ball during a volleyball match between Korea and Argentina

The pass is the attempt by one team to receive the opponents serve and prepare the ball for returning across the net. Hence, not only has the defensive play ensure the ball does not hit the court floor, but it must be "bumped" well so setters can prepare a ball for a strike.

The Set

China setter Xia Ding (16) hits the ball against The Netherlands during the women's volleyball semifinals in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games China setter Xia Ding (16) hits the ball against The Netherlands during the women's volleyball semifinals in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games

When done right, this technique looks effortless. The main aim of the setter is to place the ball in the air in such a way that it can be struck hard by an attacker so that the ball can be driven into the opponent's court where they find it hard to return.

The Spike

Vakifbank player Zhu Ting (1st R) spikes the ball during the 2017-2018 Turkish Women Volleyball League Playoffs Semi-final Vakifbank player Zhu Ting (1st R) spikes the ball during the 2017-2018 Turkish Women Volleyball League Playoffs Semi-final

The spike, is typically the third and final contact one team makes with the ball. The goal is to handle the ball in such a way so that the ball lands in the opponent's court and cannot be returned or returned easily. A player who will make the spike will make a series of steps as part of their "approach" - jumping and then striking the ball.

Volleyball rotation & switching

Within volleyball, the player's positions are numbered one through six. The server is always placed in the right-hand back corner. Should the serving team lose the point, then the players move one position to their right (in a clockwise rotation).

As mentioned, there are two banks of three players, the front line being the "attack" or offence and the back row being the defence. Players that are rotated in the back row are not permitted to "attack" the ball unless they are part of the third contact, the "spike." This is to ensure that big hitters do not dominate the game.

Ukraine - Players of Ukraine (yellow kit) and Austria (black) are seen in action during the 2nd International Volleyball Tournament Ukraine - Players of Ukraine (yellow kit) and Austria (black) are seen in action during the 2nd International Volleyball Tournament

Although it's possible for teams to not switch positions if they win consecutive points, it is essential to know that no player can switch to another place until the ball goes over the net.

With this geeks guide to indoor volleyball, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first volleyball match. If you crack these basics, and you'll find yourself demanding to get involved and bet on this fast-paced and intricate team game.

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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