Volleyball for Dummies

Josh Johnston

Watching college volleyball can confuse many casual sports fans. The fast-paced, six-player match is a definite step up from the average pick-up beach volleyball game. Here’s a breakdown of the game, so when the Kent State volleyball team kicks off its first home matches Friday, fans will know the difference between a libero and a line judge.

Setter (S)

As the “quarterback” of the team, the setter calls the plays on offense. The setter directs the hitters and is usually the second player to touch the ball. Under the Flashes’ speedy swing offense, the setter either places the ball higher and farther out for the outside hitters or lower and closer for the middle blockers. Setters record assists, which are balls passed to a hitter and killed. Junior Katie Veatch and freshman Lauren Simon have split time at the setter position for Kent State this season. Veatch has made a career 1,898 assists, and Simon leads the team this season with 192.

Libero/Defensive Specialist (L/DS)

This player is special. In addition to wearing a different uniform, the libero can only play in the back row and isn’t allowed to block or attack in front of the attack line. Substitution rules for the libero position are confusing, but basically a libero can replace any back row player at any time and can only be replaced by the player the libero originally substituted for. The libero can come in and out of the game an unlimited amount of times. Liberos are usually the players who dive on the court to prevent a kill. Successfully stopping a kill is called a dig. For the Flashes this season, sophomore Kristen Barr has 151 digs.


Serving rotates clockwise, starting from the back right position. Players must serve behind the back line but can serve from anywhere behind it. An ace is a serve the opponent can’t dig or touch. Sophomore Lauren Jones has been the most successful for the Flashes this season with aces. She has 16 in the 10 matches played so far.

Outside hitter (OH)

Hitters move all over the court and do almost everything – passing, blocking and, of course, hitting. Outside hitters usually play on the left side, but with Kent State’s swing offense they can move anywhere. Hitters take a running jump when attacking the ball for a kill – a hit the opponent cannot dig up or get a second touch on. Hitting percentage is kills minus attack errors divided by attempts. Senior Ashley Feutz currently leads the team in both kills (140) and hitting percentage (.348). Kent State coach Glen Conley said he would like to see more depth offensively from the team. Feutz and sophomore Lauren Jones, who has 124 kills on the season, combine for more than half of the team’s kills this season.

Middle Blocker (MB)

The middle blocker does what the name suggests – blocks. This player matches up against the opponent’s middle blocker to block her kills. Also, the middle blocker combines with hitters on the left and right side to stop hits from opposing outside hitters. When the ball is on their side of the court, middle blockers act as hitters, receiving lower, quicker balls from the setter. With 27 blocks, four of them solo, senior Krista Groce leads the Flashes in blocking. She has also notched 62 kills in the middle blocker position.


As the name suggests, the right side plays on the right side. Being on the right side, this player is matched up against the opponents outside hitters and tries to block their attacks. The right side is a versatile position, with the player also hitting and occasionally setting. For Kent State, junior Jenny Keck holds down the right side. So far this season she’s blocked 21 attack attempt

On the courts:

Attack line

The three players in the front row can attack from either in front of or behind the line. Back row players cannot hit in front of the attack line.


Players aren’t allowed to touch the net. Doing so results in a point for the other team.

Other important things to know:

Sets and matches

A match is made up of five individual sets. The match is best-of-five; once a team wins three sets, the match is over.

Substitutions and timeouts

Teams are allowed 12 substitutions per game. Substitutions can be made any time the ball is not in play. Each team gets two 60-second timeouts per set.


Volleyball uses rally scoring, which means either team can score a point regardless of who’s serving. New to this year, games are played to 25 points instead of 30, except for the fifth set, which is played to 15.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].