I want to share something from the 2022 Radford season that speaks to strategy – particularly serving strategy. It’s an example of how simply looking at passing stats doesn’t give you the full story.

What if I told you that we regularly served the libero in conference play?

Sounds crazy, right? “Why would anyone do that?” you might be thinking. It certainly goes against conventional wisdom.

Now, in some cases a team’s libero was statistically their worst passer based on the standard 3-point passer ratings. Of course they are a target in that case (see the calling service targets post for more on the topic).

Here’s the thing, though. The libero from one of the top teams in the league passed a 2.43 against us (according to VolleyMetrics). That didn’t stop us serving her, though. Why? Because they only sided out on the first ball (FBSO) at 11.6% when she received the serve. That’s WAY lower than for any other passer on the team (the next worst was >30%). In other words, we got a lot more transition opportunities serving her than anyone else.

Now, if you’re not good at scoring in transition, then maybe something like this isn’t ultimately beneficial (which is why overall SO% is important). In that case, you may need to serve more aggressively to score more points from aces, create better opportunities for your block to score, and the like. Very little in volleyball can be looked at in isolation.

That’s why it’s important to not just take a surface view.

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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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