Serving Strategy: Attacking Zone 1

volleyball serve

In the Fall 2014 edition of Volleyball USA, Matt Sipes talks about serving in an interesting context. He drills down on using the serve to create out-of-system offensive situations for the opposition. It’s a more specific discussion of how you do that – beyond just being aggressive. In particular, Matt talks about things like interfering with the movement patterns of the setter and opposing hitters. Or forcing the front row OH to pass to put them under pressure. All of these things are important ideas when thinking about how you want your team to serve. That’s a key reason to work on players being able to serve all areas of the court.

I want to focus in particularly here on the idea of serving specifically to Zone 1. Matt brings this up from two potential perspectives. One is to serve the ball into the area where the setter is coming in serve receive. That is often the case when they are in Rotation 1. The other is to force the setter to have to look over their shoulder to track the ball coming in – meaning the ball is not coming at them from the front (Zones 5 and 6). He makes the case that setters are often not comfortable dealing with those balls and therefore can become very predictable when being forced to do so.

This is very true. It’s something you can pick out quite often if you pay attention. For example. some setters will set to Zone 2 or back row to Zone 1 more frequently when the pass is coming from Zone 1.

I’ll take it a step further and give you a very specific example of something I picked out back in my Brown coaching days. While scouting Yale one season I noticed their setter – who was quite good – set with a much faster tempo when passes were coming from Zone 5/6 than she did when the pass was coming from Zone 1. The latter sets tended to be markedly higher, giving the block more time to move to the point of attack.

So guess what we did the next time we played them?

Yup. We pounded Zone 1. I can’t recall whether we won that match or not, but we certainly slowed their offense down considerably.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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