A comprehensive look at every front set in volleyball, narrated and demonstrated by University of San Diego associate head coach Brent Hilliard, a former Olympic bronze medalist and NCAA Player of the Year. His setter for these videos is Rachel Morris, who played for the University of Oregon.
Set in the middle of the net that usually goes to the middle blocker and is higher than the “1.”
Purpose: Allows a high percentage attack out of the middle part of the court. Since it’s higher than a “1,” both the pass and the set can be less accurate and still result in a successful attack.
A quick back row attack (a lower, faster version of a “Pipe”) where the hitter comes from the middle of the court. The “Bic” is often run in combination with either a "1" or a "31". It’s used in men’s and boys’ volleyball and almost never in women’s volleyball.
Purpose: The Bic puts pressure on the middle blocker to block both the quick front-row attack along with a quick back-row attack.
Difficulty: Advanced. This set requires the setter to execute the set at the proper tempo and be extremely accurate. It also requires a hitter who can get to the point of attack very quickly and broad jump out of the back row to attack the ball as close to the net as possible.
This is a back row set that's similar to the "D" but on the left side of the court rather than the right.
Purpose: An "A" is often run in combo with a "3" and "2" tandem. It's used mostly in the men's game.
Difficulty: intermediate to advanced
'Flare' or 'push' set
The "flare," which many coaches call the "push," is a variation of a "1" set where the middle hitter is jumping away from the setter and drifting laterally in the air. Can also be a back set.
Purpose: To force the middle blocker to jump and/or reach laterally to block the quick attack.
Difficulty: Advanced. Requires a middle attacker who can jump high and drift. There’s a small margin for error, so the setter must be very accurate with the set.
'3' or '31' set
The "3" or "31" is a set to the middle attacker midway between the left pin and the middle of the court.
Purpose: Attack the space between the right-front and middle-front blocker. Similar tempo as the “One.”
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced. Requires a good pass and a very precise set with proper tempo.
Although different coaches have different definitions for the "4", it's mostly a high-arcing set to the left-side pin hitter.
Purpose: Used in nearly all situations, but it's especially useful if your team is out of system because it gives hitters time to take a good approach and it is fairly easy to set.
Difficulty: Basic. This set takes longer to get to the hitter, so location is important. A hitter swinging at a poorly placed high ball will likely face a big block.
This is basically a back-row version of the “31” or the “rip.”
Purpose: To attack the area between the right-side blocker and the middle blocker. Great set to use against spread blocking.
Quick set that usually goes to a middle blocker who’s already in the air when the ball leaves the setter’s hands. Ideally, the hitter is at the peak of his/her jump when the setter touches the ball. Depending on the coach’s philosophy, the location of the “One” can either be relative to the setter’s position or set to a fixed point, which is usually in the middle of the net.
Purpose: To put pressure on the opponent by attacking the ball faster than the middle can react. Forces the opposing middle to “track” the attacker and can make it challenging for the middle to cover this set and still be able to get to the outside attack.
Difficulty: Moderate to advanced. Requires an accurate pass, good timing on the part of the attacker and a very accurate set.
Popular set in today's game that's a hybrid of the low, fast “go” and the slow, high "four."
Purpose: Isolate the left-side hitter with one blocker but also allow the hitter enough time to maximize his/her vertical.
Difficulty: Moderate to advanced
Set to the outside hitter on the left pin that’s faster and lower than the "hut."
Purpose: The “go” makes it difficult for the middle blocker to get to the point of attack, which means the hitter usually gets a swing facing only the right-side blocker.
Difficulty: Advanced. As with any faster tempo set, it requires accuracy and the proper tempo. It also requires a hitter who has a good broad jump and a decent vertical.
Back-row set in the middle of the court.
Purpose: Higher trajectory set than a “Bic,” allowing more margin for error. It prevents the middle blocker from releasing to an outside attack.
Medium-height set to the outside hitter midway between the left pin and the middle of the court. Often run over the top of a '3'.
Purpose: Deceptive because it looks as if it could be a '3' with the middle attacker, then drifts farther to the outside hitter.
Difficulty: Advanced. Requires a good pass along with a very accurate set with proper tempo.