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Volleyball Terms Decoded

What is the volleyball announcer talking about? We’ll tell you here

Scott Bruhn

In an effort to get ready for a big week of volleyball, here is a study session, or a review session if you are a volleyball smarty. These are terms that announcers, coaches or players use at they talk about volleyball. You, too, can use them to impress your friends!

Libero - The player wearing the opposite color jersey than her team. She is inserted into the match to improve floor defense and serve receive passing. She should be the best at both of these skills on her team. She may serve in the place of one other player on the team. She does not count as a substitute of the 15 substitutions that are allowed per set for each team. A libero cannot block, set an attack from the front court, or attack the ball above the height of the net.

Side out - A side out is when the serving team fails to score a point. When a side out happens, the players have to rotate, and the other team now serves.

In system/out of system - The system is the offense. When a ball is passed “in system” any offensive option is available. An “in system” pass is very close to where the setter stands and does not require her to move very much. An “out of system” pass is not close enough to the setter, or whoever is going to hit the second ball, to run a middle attack or a slide attack. The second contact ball will likely be set higher and to an outside attacker, giving the defense an advantage because of this predictability.

Rotation - After a side out occurs, players must rotate clockwise around the court. A team must be in correct rotation order before the serve is put into play. Once the ball is served, the players can move around the court, but the backcourt players cannot attack above the net in front of the ten foot line. Back row players have to attack from behind the ten foot line. Check out a previous article on the back row attack: The Back Row Attack Explained and Court Rotations Explained

Pancake - a floor defender reaches a ball just before it hits the ground. She places her hand flat, under the ball like a pancake, to dig the ball up. Note: if any part of the ball misses the hand and touches the ground then this ball is ruled down and point goes to the other team. This play is one that can be challenged and reviewed in volleyball.

Tool - When an attacker takes the ball and hits it off the blockers hands. She is using the block as a “tool” in an effort to earn a kill.

Hitting percentage - (Kills-Errors) / Attempts. Hitting percentage is the number of kills minus hitting errors, divided by the total number of hitting attempts during the game or season. Compare this to a baseball hitting percentage. When a hitter is above .300, she is hitting efficiently and well.

Ace - A serve that directly results in a point for the serving team.

There they are; volleyball terms decoded. Use them freely as you watch Nebraska tool the block to earn a high hitting percentage after they ace the opposing team or at least force them out of system. GBR!

Drop more terms below in the comments.