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