The video below features three examples of setting counter-flow. That’s when the setter sets in the opposite direction of the one the pass takes them. You may also hear it referred to making the long set, or something like that.
There’s no question these long sets come with greater risk. They aren’t as easy as shorter ones, resulting in less consistency. Back sets especially have a tendency to end up well inside the antenna. So why is it worth doing?
The answer is simple – hitting against a much weaker block. The whole principle of counter-flow is based on the opposing Middle Blocker tending to flow with the pass. Doing so means they have a long way to go if the set is in the reverse direction. As a result, the hitter generally only faces a single blocker. And because counter-flow sets tend not to be as consistent, that blocker often ends up out of position and trying to chase the hitter.
Going the short way
I should note here that we should think of counter-flow/long sets in conjunction with short sets based on the same principle of Middle Blocker positioning. If that player doesn’t, in fact, flow in the direction of the pass, then the short set is likely to be the best choice. This is especially true if it’s relatively fast. That makes it very hard for them to close.
So when you’re working with your setter on this element of the offense, don’t just tell them to counter-flow set. Teach them to pick up the movement – or lack thereof – of the opposing MB so they can make the right choice of long vs. short.