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Volleyball Terms

GLOSSARY – Learn the Terms

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– A serve that is not passable and results immediately
in a point.


– The vertical rods (normally white and red)
mounted near the edges of the net. The antennas are mounted
directly above the sidelines and are not-in-play. Antennas
are not usually used on outdoor nets.


– Fast stride toward the net by a spiker
before he jumps in the air.


– Passing or setting the ball to a teammate
who attacks the ball for a kill. This stat is normally only
logged for high school, college, and National/Olympic team


– The offensive action of hitting the ball.
The attempt by one team to terminate the play by hitting the
ball to the floor on the opponent’s side.


– Receiving players’ aggressive attempt
to block a spiked ball before it crosses the net.


– An unsuccessful attack which does one
of the following: 1) the ball lands out of bounds, 2) the
ball goes into the net and terminates play or goes into the
net on the third hit, 3)the ball is blocked by the opposition
for a point or sideout, 4) the attacker is called for a center
line violation, or 5) the attacker is called for illegal contact
(lift, double hit…) on the attack.


– Also “hitter” or “spiker.” A player who
attempts to hit a ball offensively with the purpose of terminating
play in his or her team’s favor.


– A line 3m from the net that separates
the front row players from the back row players. Commonly
referred to as the “10-foot line.”


– The area from the endline to the attack


– A set delivered behind the setter’s back,
which is subsequently hit by an attacker.


– When a back row player attacks the
ball by jumping from behind the 3m line before hitting the
ball. If the back row player steps on or past the 3m line
during take-off, the attack is illegal.


– An open hand receive of the ball, also
called a “Deep Dish”


– A defensive play by one or more players meant
to deflect a spiked ball back to the hitter’s court. It may
be a combination of one, two or three players jumping in front
of the opposing spiker and contacting the spiked ball with
the hands.


– a common term for forearm passing.


– Any time the official calls
a double hit, a thrown ball or a lift (except on a serve reception
or attack). For our purposes, this category also includes
any blocking errors (when an official calls a blocker for
a violation such as going into the net, centerline violation,
reaching over the net, etc.).


– The use of joined forearms to pass or
set a ball in an underhand manner.


– A ball that falls to the floor in an area
that’s surrounded by two, three, four or more players. At
the instant after the ball hits the floor, it appears as if
the players are encircling and staring at a campfire.


– The boundary that runs directly under
the net and divides the court into two equal halves.


– The responsibility of the assisting
blocker(s) to join the primary blocker and create an impenetrable
block in which a ball cannot fit between the two individual


– An individual attack directed at
an angle from one end of the offensive team’s side of the
net to the opposite sideline of the defensive team’s court.


– A spike from the hitter’s strong side that
travels at a sharp angle across the net.


– An offensive play meant to disguise the spiker
who will receive the set.


Set to be hit away from the net to confuse
or disrupt the timing of the blockers.


– Passing a spiked or rapidly hit ball. Slang
for the art of passing an attacked ball close to the floor.


– A legal push of the ball around or over blockers.


– Two players working in unison to deflect
an attacked ball at the net back to the hitter’s side.


– Successive hits or contacts by the same
player. (Illegal)


– Two hitters approaching the setter
for a quick inside hit.


– A game with two players on each side, most
commonly played on a sand court.


– A ball the blockers elect not to attempt
to block because it has been set too far from the net or the
hitter is not under control. A “Down Ball” is hit
overhand and driven over the net with topspin while the player
remains standing. “Down Ball,” is usually called
aloud by the defense when it becomes apparent the attacker
has no chance of hitting a powerful spike.


– A 6-player offensive system that uses five
hitters and one setter.


– A back set to the right front hitter.


– Inside-out path of an outside spiker who hid
behind a quick hitter.


– A serve which does not spin or rotate and
therefore moves in an erratic path. This is similar to a “knuckle
ball” pitch in baseball.


– Join your arms from the elbows to the
wrists and strike the ball with the fleshy part of your forearms
in an underhand motion.


– A violation of the rules.


– A set 1′ from the sideline, and 1’ to 2′
above the net.


– A 6-player offensive system using four
hitters and two setters.


– A ball that will be returned by a pass
rather than a spike. This is usually called aloud by the defense
instructing players to move into serve receive positions.


– A ball that comes to rest during contact
resulting in a foul.


– To jump and strike the ball with an overhand,
forceful shot.


– Also “spiker” or “attacker


– kills vs. attempts


– A playset or a 33.


– Designed to isolate the attacker
on a specific defender, normally to exploit a weakness or
give a hitter a chance to hit against a single block.


– Any volleyball game with people who
don’t really know how to play volleyball. A common euphemism
for this type of game is “Picnic Volleyball.”


A serve that is started by the server
tossing the ball into the air and jumping into and hitting
the ball in its downward motion.


– When 2 opposing players are simultaneously
attempting to play a ball above the net.


– To predict a team’s next play by observation
of patterns or habits.


– An attack that results in an immediate point
or side out.


– The marks that serve as boundaries of a court.


– A ball spiked down an opponent’s sideline,
closest to the hitter and outside the block.


– A serve that contacts the net. If the ball dribbles over, it’s playable just like any other ball that contacts the net on the way over. If the ball fails to clear the net, it will become dead when it either hits the serving team’s court, or is contacted by a player on the serving team.


– A defensive system that uses the middle
back player to cover deep spikes.


– A defensive system that uses the middle
back player to cover dinks or short shots.


– The original name of the game of volleyball,
created by William Morgan.


– A system of play using different
types of sets other than just normal outside sets.

OFFSIDE BLOCK – Player at the net, which is on the side away from the opponent’s attack.

OFF-SPEED HIT – Any ball spiked with less than maximum force but with spin.

OUTSIDE HITTER – a left-front or right-front attacker normally taking an approach which starts from outside the court

OVERHAND PASS – A pass executed with both hands open, controlled by the fingers and thumbs, played just above the forehead.

OVERHAND SERVE – Serving the ball and striking it with the hand above the shoulder.

OVERLAP – refers to the positions of the players in the rotation prior to the contact of the ball when serving.

PANCAKE – A one-handed defensive technique where the hand is extended and the palm is slid along the floor as the player dives or extension rolls, and timed so that the ball bounces off the back of the hand.

PASS see “Forearm Pass


– The act of reaching across and breaking
the plane of the net during blocking.


– A serve that results in a point
(an ace by NCAA standards) as the serve is not returnable
due to a bad pass by the receiver, this number includes aces.


– A cross-court hit traveling away from
the spiker to the farthest point of the court.


– A ball that is pushed or directed with
force by an attacking team.


– A competitive style of volleyball
started by the Japanese.

QUICK – a player approaching the setter for a quick inside hit

QUICK SET – a set (usually 2’ above the net) in which the hitter is approaching the setter, and may even be in the air, before the setter delivers the ball. This type of set requires precise timing between the setter and hitter.

READY POSITION – The flexed, yet comfortable, posture a player assumes before moving to contact the ball.

RECEPTION ERROR – A serve that a player should have been able to return, but results in an ace (and only in the case of an ace). If it is a “husband/wife” play (where the ball splits the two receivers), the receiving team is given the reception error instead of an individual.

RED CARD – a severe penalty in which an official displays a red card. The result of a red card may be a player is disqualified, the team loses the serve, or the team loses a point. A red card may be given with or without a prior yellow card as a warning; it is up to the official’s discretion.

ROLL – a certain way to pass a ball in which the digger, or passer lays out an arm, passes the ball, and rolls over the shoulder (over the shoulder roll) or back (barrel roll) after passing the ball. This is a quick way to return to action after the play.

ROOF – A ball that when spiked is blocked by a defensive player such that the ball deflects straight to the floor on the attacker’s side.

ROTATION – The clockwise movement of players around the court and through the serving position following a side out.

SERVE – One of the six basic skills; used to put the ball into play. It is the only skill controlled exclusively by one player.

SERVER – The player who puts the ball into play.

SERVICE ERROR – An unsuccessful serve in which one or more of the following occurs: 1) the ball hits the net or fails to clear the net, 2) the ball lands out of bounds, or 3) the server commits a foot fault.

SERVICE WINNER – A point the serving team scores when this player has served the ball. The point can be an immediate (in the case of an ace) or delayed (a kill or opponent attack error after a long rally). Therefore, the sum of the team’s service winners equals their score.

SET – The tactical skill in which a ball is directed to a point where a player can spike it into the opponent’s court.

SETTER – the player who has the 2nd of 3 contacts of the ball who “sets” the ball with an “Overhand Pass” for a teammate to hit. The setter normally runs the offense.

SIDE OUT – Occurs when the receiving team successfully puts the ball away against the serving team, or when the serving team commits an unforced error, and the receiving team thus gains the right to serve.

SIX PACK – Occurs when a blocker gets hit in the head or face by a spiked ball.

SIX-TWO – A 6-player offense using 2 setters opposite one another in the rotation. Setter 1 becomes a hitter upon rotating into the front row as setter 2 rotates into the back row and becomes the setter.

SPIKE – Also hit or attack. A ball contacted with force by a player on the offensive team who intends to terminate the ball on the opponent’s floor or off the opponent’s blocker.

STRONG SIDE – When a right-handed hitter is hitting from the left-front position or when a left-handed hitter is hitting from the right-front position.

STUFF – A ball that is deflected back to the attacking team’s floor by the opponent’s blockers. A slang term for “block.”

TURNING IN – the act of an outside blocker turning his/her body into the court so as to ensure the blocked ball is deflected into the court and lands in-bounds.

UNDERHAND SERVE – a serve in which the ball is given a slight under-hand toss from about waist high and then struck with the opposite closed fist in an “underhand pitching” motion.

WEAK SIDE – When a right-handed player is hitting from right-front position or when a left-handed player is hitting from the left-front position.

WIPE – when a hitter pushes the ball off of the opposing block so it lands out of bounds

YELLOW CARD – a warning from an official indicated by the display of a yellow card. Any player or coach who receives two yellow cards in a match is disqualified. A single yellow card does not result in loss of point or serve.