Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Back Row Blocks and Attacks

Published on May 20, 2010 by   ·   2 Comments

Often it’s unclear whether a setter who is trying to rescue a pass that’s heading over the net is guilty of a back row attack/block, or if it’s in fact the opposing team’s hitter who is interfering with the setter’s ability to play the ball. So today I’ll try to clear up this gray area with a little help from my friends the FIVB Rules. back row setting

First, the official rules, according the 2009 FIVB Rulebook:

  • “11.1.1 In blocking, a blocker may touch the ball beyond the net, provided that he/she does not interfere with the opponent’s play before or during the latter’s attack hit.”
  • Translation: You can reach your hands up and over the net only after the opposing team hast swung to attack the ball. This is why we can penetrate over the net for a roof on an attack but why we can’t stick our hands over the net to interfere with the set before it gets to the hitter.
  • Blocking is the action of players close to the net to intercept the ball coming from the opponent by reaching higher than the top of the net, regardless of the height of the ball contact. Only front row players are permitted to complete a block, but at the moment of contact with the ball, part of the body must be higher than the top of the net.” (14.1.1)
  • A blocking fault occurs when (among other things): “A back-row player or a Libero completes a block or participates in a completed block.” (14.6.2)
  • However, according to rule 13.2.3, “A back-row player may also complete an attack hit from the front zone, if at the moment of the contact part of the ball is lower than the top of the net.”

So, what does that all mean in terms of a real game situation? Here’s my interpretation, assuming 1) the pass is very close to the net, with the possibility of going into the opponent’s court and 2) the setter is a back row player.

If no part of the ball crosses into the opponent’s court, meaning it doesn’t cross the plane of the net, the blocker cannot touch it (in the opponent’s court space) until it has been attacked. If the setter is above the height of the net and sends the ball over, s/he will be guilty of a back row attack. Blockers should jump with their hands straight up, not penetrating over the net, to make sure they won’t be called for interference.

If part of the ball makes it over the net, the back row setter still has a slight advantage if s/he is trying to jump set and save the ball. The blockers still cannot penetrate into the opposing court because the ball hasn’t been attacked; in fact, the setter is trying to pull it back so it can then be attacked by a hitter. Therefore, the blockers once again must jump with their hands straight up.

This time they have a better chance of making an impact because part of the ball is on their side, but they’re still not allowed to penetrate into the other court or they can be called for interference.

However, if the setter can’t pull the ball back to his/her side and it goes over the net after after s/he contacts it above the height of the net, s/he is guilty of a back row attack and the other team gets the point.

So basically, the setter should get the benefit of the doubt here since the blockers aren’t permitted to enter his/her court space while s/he is trying to rescue the ball. If part of the ball goes over the net the blocker can deflect it but not by penetrating into the setter’s court.

Here’s what prompted this bit of research:

Recently during a game I was a back row setter and I jumped to try and save a ball that looked like it might be going over the net. The opponent’s middle blocker jumped too, and although she touched the ball I managed to get it back onto our side with a one-handed save. She believed that by my touching the ball above the plane of the net as it came into contact with her hands I was guilty of a back row block.

Based on these rules it doesn’t seem like that’s the case to me — what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Photo courtesy of:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/foggiegee/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Readers Comments (2)

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ??? and ??????, Andrea Fryrear. Andrea Fryrear said: a recent back row attack dispute has led me to investigate this rule. My findings are here: http://bit.ly/aPBhZ5. Your thoughts? [...]

  2. Brett says:

    In your example, I wasn’t able to figure out if the ball had in fact crossed the plane of the net when the blocker made contact or when you did. If the ball didn’t cross the net and you were trying to set it before it crossed the net, then the blocker committed the foul. If it did begin to cross the net then you committed the foul by either making an illegal back row block or by sending the ball over. Also, I am not sure if your interpretations of the rules are correct when it comes to when the blockers can make contact with the ball. I am pretty sure that if the ball has broken the plane of the net it is fair game for either team to smash the living shit out of it or just block it in the setter’s face, regardless of being hit number 1,2, or 3 from one side.




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