One drill we witnessed when visiting a University of San Diego women’s practice earlier this season focused on middle blocking. It had two points of emphasis:
1. Helping MBs stop the hard angle hit.
2. Giving MBs reps in dropping off the net on trouble sets and either playing a down ball or getting in position for an approach and hit after a teammate played a free ball.
USD Coach Brent Hilliard, a former NCAA Player of the Year at Long Beach State and a member of the U.S.’s 1992 Olympic bronze medal team, explains the drill in the video below. Sometimes it calls for MBs to front the hitter and dive into the angle, other times they line up inside and the wing blockers close. As Hilliard explains, mixing it up is important for an undersized team like USD, which has starting MBs who are just 5-11 and 6-0.
Hilliard also talks about how his middles handle down balls and free balls.
Later in the video, you’ll see the drill in action. One coach hits off a box, another coach tosses in free balls and down balls. Notice how the middle and the defender have to decide who plays the second ball – lower trajectory balls are taken by the middle, higher trajectory balls are taken by the libero or the right back.