A volleyball coach posed a question about a decision they are making with respect to where to position their libero. In this case it is considered from the perspective of who takes the second ball if the setter plays the first.

I am toying with the idea of moving the Libero to middle back. This way my outside/ds can hand set the ball to a hitter while in front of the attack line. Has anyone made the switch who would like to report on their level of success with this? My biggest hesitation is the statistical fact that most outside hitters hit the ball cross court most of the time. Therefore, having the Libero in that position (left back) seems to make the most sense. Just weighing which would serve the team better.

If I were speaking to this coach on the subject, I would ask a few of questions.

  1. How many first balls do you expect the setter to take?
  2. How many of those setter digs end up in front of the 3m line?
  3. Are your OHs’ hands much better than your libero’s bump set?
  4. How much difference is there in the digging ability of your libero and your OHs?

Another consideration in here is the defensive strengths of the players involved. By that I mean certain types of players are more oriented toward playing forward. That tends to suit playing defense in 5. Other types of players are better moving laterally. This suits playing in 6 when in a standard perimeter defense system. See also the Libero in 5 or 6? post.

And of course there’s the question of offense. Would having the setter taking the second ball negatively impact the team’s ability to score in transition?

For a bit more of an expansive discussion have a look at Thoughts on second contact when setter-out.

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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.

    3 replies to "Who takes the second ball on a setter dig?"

    • Michael Borga

      I believe your point number 4 (How much difference is there in the digging ability of your libero and your OHs?)would be the most critical criteria determining where the libero should be positioned adding in the heat map of your opponent’s hitting tendencies. Put your best defensive player in the hottest spot on your heat map of your opponent’s tendencies.

      Do you agree?

      • John Forman

        I would agree all else being equal. It depends on the potential trade-off, though. How much do you gain by putting your libero in 6 vs. what you lose in attack out of the back row by not having your OHs there, for example?

    • Jim Mercer

      Several years ago when the Shoji boys on Stanford’s men’s team (great to see what the alumnae/populace at the school just accomplished) popularized the idea of the idea of the libero taking the ball when the setter digs, that strategy has become the norm. Using a front row setter at times can be greatly effective and add a simple wrinkle to your offense (just watch Misty May’s LBSU videos). Now few teams use the opposite or any other front row player as a possible secondary setter (allowing at times the middle to be available to score). It just seems to eliminate the ability of the middle to be involved in the play (watching Rettke play with a team attacking their back row setter this past year was sad), even if they are left handed and can hit on two. The middle can even set like Penn State women’s team used just a few year’s past and with great success.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.