By: Mas Shibata
This will be the final Article of the Critical Analysis of Attacking Series. It will be an analysis of Setter Attacking technique and strategies of International Players. Over the years, I have heard different coaching philosophies regarding when setters should attack and how often or how seldom they would like to have their setters be an offensive alternative. Your personal coaching philosophy will have an obvious impact on your setter’s role in your team’s offense.
What factors would influence your setter attacking philosophy? Utilizing a 5-1 or a 6-2 offensive system could be impactful. What is the skill level of your team’s hitters versus the attacking skills of your setter?
Once a decision is made to train your setter to be an offensive option, what are the skills and techniques required to be a successful attacker? Do you have some general rules or guidelines for your setter to follow to guide their choices of when to attack and what techniques would be the most advantageous in specific situations?
Understanding the pertinent rules affecting the setter’s ability to attack in different circumstances is vital to becoming an effective attacker.
Two major rules impacting setter attacks would be what constitutes a back row attack, and when is the opposing block legally allowed to contact the ball before a setter attacking motion is initiated. The two excerpts below are taken from the “2015-2017 Domestic Competition Regulations as Presented by USA Volleyball”.
13.2 RESTRICTIONS OF THE ATTACK HIT
- 13.2.3 A back-row player may also complete an attack hit from the front zone if at the moment of the contact a part of the ball is lower than the top of the net.
14.3 BLOCKING WITHIN THE OPPONENT’S SPACE
- In blocking, the player may place his/her hands and arms beyond the net, provided that this action does not interfere with the opponent’s play. Thus, it is not permitted to touch the ball beyond the net until an opponent has executed an attack hit.
It has been my experience that there are many setters that do not completely understand the back row attacking rules when they execute a setter dump as a back row setter near the net. I would routinely do a little baby jump and let the ball drop below my shoulders and tap the ball over the net to simulate a setter dump. When I ask the setters if the play was legal or illegal, most would say the play was illegal because I jumped to attack the ball, even though the ball was clearly well below the plane of the net. I would note that the word “JUMP” is not used in the rules regarding the definition of a back row attack. The rule refers to whether or not the entire ball is above the plane of the net at the moment of contact.
The rule regarding Blocking Within the Opponent’s Space is important in understanding what the best choices would be in specific circumstances when a ball is passed close to the net. Should you attempt to set the ball or attack the ball with the left or right hand? These specific situations will be discussed later in this article.
Setter Attack Training Progression - The Set Over Attack
The most commonly heard mantra I remember hearing from other coaches talking to their setters has been to “Show Set” before attacking. Many, if not the majority of young setters learning the setter dump attack will use just one arm to initiate a setter dump. This would be the equivalent of an outside hitter showing a tip attack by extending their hitting arm straight up as they are leaving the ground for their approach jump and not showing a load position with their arms and elbow similar to when they are hitting a hard spiked ball.
The most effective technique I have observed in trying to impress upon a setter to show set before their attack, to begin with, the two hand “Set Over” attack. The player should use the same footwork to get to a ball whether they elect to either set the ball or to attack it. By initially focusing on the two-handed set over, the emphasis will be on the setter getting their feet to the ball in the most favorable position to execute a variety of attack techniques.
For purposes of this article, the court diagram below shows the setter attacking zones I will be referring to in the following sections.
Yevgeniya Startseva of Russia demonstrates showing set before executing a set over to zone 4.
The most prevalent location for the set over attack has been observed to be into zone 3 although it can be used to attack any open area of the court. The next video shows Maja Ognjenovic of Serbia, Joanna Wolosz of Poland, Nootsara Tomkom of Thailand, and Özge Kırdar Çemberci of Turkey with Lokomotiv BAKU using the set over attack in differing situations.
As a general observation as seen in the preceding video, I would opine that the best opportunities for success occur when there is some directional movement by the setter before the set over attack is made. The video clip also shows Özge Kırdar Çemberci using the set over attack to the zone 5 deep corner versus a shallow middle back defender.
Setter Attacking to Zone 3
As a general rule, setter dumps to zone 3 made with the left hand allows for a larger margin for error as long as the ball is contacted before the ball has traveled completely past the right side of the player’s face. It can be directed low over the net if the blocker is to either side or it can be tipped over the middle blocker or left side blocker if they are fronting your attack. The most common error I have observed is to use the left hand to dump to zone 3 after the ball has crossed to the right shoulder and is pushed directly into the middle or left side blocker.
The next video shows the technique of Laura Dijkema of the Netherlands using her left hand for a setter dump to zone 3. Notice how Dijkema’s palm is turned and facing the direction of the dump and the ball is controlled with the pads of the fingers and not the fingertips.
Additional examples of setter dump technique to zone 3 are presented for your review and analysis. The video shows Naz Aydemir Akyol of Turkey, Maja Ognjenovic of Serbia, Yevgeniya Startseva of Russia and Dani Lins of Brazil, respectively.
The common elements of technique appear to be that the palms are turned in the direction of the attack before making contact with the ball and that control of the dump is mainly through getting the ball deep into the pads of the fingers.
Setter Attacking to Zone 2
What would be the best attacking alternative on a tight pass or dig to the net when the opposing middle blocker is jumping to block or attack a possible overpass opportunity? I posit that this is when knowing the rules of the game are beneficial to making the best setting or attacking choices. If the ball must break the plane of the net before the blocker is allowed to contact the ball, redirecting it around the block before it breaks the plane seems to be a practical choice. Redirecting it forward along the net toward zone 2 or backward along the net to zone 4 are the most common plays made by the international players observed. If the ball travels past the setter’s face toward the right shoulder, the attack is made using the right hand with the palm facing the direction of the setter dump.
The video of Fernanda Fernandinha of Bazil, Eleonora Lo Bianco of Italy and Molly Kreklow of the USA with Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul shows how the right-hand dump to zone 2 is executed.
If the ball is farther off of the net, the left hand can be used to attack to zone 2 toward the sideline. Naz Aydemir Akyol of Turkey, Dani Lins of Brazil, Maja Ognjenovic of Serbia, Frauke Dirickx of Belgium, Bojana Zivkovic of Serbia with Volero Zurich and Josefa Fabiola Almeida De Sousa Alves of Brazil with Volero Zürich demonstrate their left hand dump to Zone 2 techniques.
Setter Attacking to Zone 4
The second option for the tight to the net pass or dig was to attack backward along the net to zone 4. The right hand should be rotated inward and then backward with the palm facing your right sideline. The most common negative technique is to turn the hand outward toward the blocker which makes it more difficult to redirect the ball backward along the net.
Laura Dijkema of the Netherlands, Nursevil Aydinlar of Turkey with Galatasaray Daikin, Marina Babeshina of Russia with Uralochka-NTMK, and Frauke Dirickx of Belgium show the right-hand reverse dump in the next video.
Carli Lloyd of the USA with Pomi CASALMAGGIORE and Ekaterina Kosianenko of Russia use their left hand to dump back into zone 4.
Setter Attacking to Zone 5
It appears that many team defenses are trending at all levels of volleyball with having their middle back defenders playing shallower than the typical perimeter defensive system. If your opponent is using this system, it will open opportunities to attack the zone 5 deep corner of the court.
Naz Aydemir Akyol of Turkey, Niverka Dharlenis Marte Frica of the Dominican Republic with Rocheville LE CANNET, and Dani Lins of Brazil use the right-hand push dump to the zone 5 corners of the court.
The three setters use similar techniques by facing the outside set location and remaining somewhat perpendicular to the net and turning their hand outward toward the zone 5 deep corner before contacting the ball. Younger players who may not yet have the arm and wrist strength to push the ball to the corner could compensate for this by turning their body more parallel to the net and getting their attacking shoulder behind the ball to generate additional power.
Setter Attacking to Zone 1
Setter attacks to zone 1 have been observed to be the least attacked zone on the court aside from zone 6, which usually has a middle back digger standing somewhere near the middle of the court at their team’s base defense.
In situations where the opponent’s right back digger or setter is near the ten-foot line to cover tips and be in a more advantageous position to set in transition, attacks to the zone 1 corner could be a good alternative. Any technique used to attack to the other zones could be effectively used. The one technique I have observed to be the predominant choice to attack towards zone 1 has been the left-handed swinging attack. Although the two examples of the left-handed swinging attack presented below are shallower than an actual zone 1 attack, they are directed into the seam between the middle back and right back defenders. For less proficient setter attackers that are actually right-handed, a deeper corner shot would be an effective alternative. Another option could be a right-handed swinging attack technique by working an approach off the net and around the back of the ball facing the zone 1 corner.
Denise Hanke of Germany and Carol Albuquerque of Brazil with SOLLYS OSASCO execute the left-handed swinging attack into the seam of the defense between the middle back and right back diggers.
Power Push Wipe Off the Block Tool Shot
This attack would be used in a situation where a pass or a dig trap set the setter and it is not possible to hit around the blocker. There are two keys to performing this technique successfully. The first would be to push the ball into the block and feel some amount of resistance against the blocker’s hands. The second key is to push out and away toward the nearest sideline.
Fernanda Ferreira, known as Fernandinha of Brazil, and Josefa Fabíola Almeida de Souza Alves, known as Fabiola of Brazil and playing with Pinheiros Machenzie, show their technique in executing a front zone power push wipe off tool kill.
While these two examples show a forward movement towards the setter’s left antenna, the same technique could be employed on a backward movement toward the right antenna.
As a general rule, the player that touches the ball last will typically win the joust because of a leverage advantage. Another key is to finish the joust with an aggressive and strong pressing motion as the ball leaves the hands.
Frauke Dirickx of Belgium, Fabiola of Brazil, and Maja Ognjenovic of Serbia with Chemik POLICE display their Jousting skills.
Waterfall Push Throw Down Dump
The waterfall push throw down dump is similar to the joust with the difference being that the opposing blocker is late to jump or is a little farther off the net so that there is some space between the blockers arms and the net and you are able to create a downward motion on the ball. It can also be used when there is some modest resistance from the block and you are able to push the blocker’s arms back to create the space needed between the net and the arms.
Eleonora Lo Bianco of Italy uses the waterfall push throw down dump on a tight pass and is able to take advantage of the space between the blocker’s arms and the net.
Fake Set Overpass Kill
Sa-Nee Kim of Korea and Eleonora Lo Bianco of Italy jump to fake an attempted set on a tight overpass. This opportunity for success is usually set up by actually setting similar balls to the hitters before attempting to use this strategy.
Establishing your setter as an attacking option should create advantages for the other attackers on your team by occupying your opponent’s blockers. If your team is using a 5-1 offensive system or you do not have an effective back row attack, it would be even more important to have setter attacking skills to enhance and diversify your offense.
The videos in this article show the attacking techniques used by a majority of the international setters observed over the years for analysis. This is definitely not to imply that any other techniques should not be used and that these are the only methods to effectively attack the various zones of the court.
Just as with any skill, challenging your comfort level and trying different shots and techniques can improve and expand your skill level and be beneficial to enhance your team’s success.