I had this Ohio State vs Wisconsin match on while I was working. As a result, I wasn’t fully locked in when I saw this play, but it caught my attention. Let’s see if you can figure out why.

Did you catch what happened there?

If not, take a look at the starting positions. OSU is in a 5-1. The Setter is in Position 4, standing near the net. The Middle (Position 3) is also over there in a stack. In this kind of set up you normally see the front row Outside Hitter pulled back in Position 5 to pass. That is not the case here.

Instead, the front row OH is in Position 2, ready to play a short ball. The three back row players are lined up to receive serve in their respective positions. That puts the back row OH in Position 5 when she’d normally pass in 6.

As the play unfolds, the MB comes inside to run a quick. The front row OH stays on the right to hit a back set in Position 2. Normally, that would leave no one to hit outside. OSU, however, makes up for that by running the back row OH on a wide back row attack. Not something you see very often!

I should note that OSU wasn’t trying to go for a match-up with this set. Wisconsin’s big OPP was front row, not the setter. The MB run, however, held the Wisconsin MB, resulting in OSU getting probably their best hitter in a 1-on-1 where the attack is coming from an unusual position for the blocker. We can see the result.

Obviously, you need a couple factors to make this work. It starts with a good back row hitter. The front row OH has to be a legit threat on the right to keep the block honest. And you need a good pass to make the MB a threat on the quick (see my post on doing the back row attack right).

Ideally, that set would be a little closer to the net than it was. Set accuracy is a risk in this situation. It’s a longer set than you’d normally see for a back row attack in-system. That means more potential variation in set location. A good hitter can make up for that, though, as we can see

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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