These kinds of serves are called “top spin” because the direction the ball is spinning appears to be over the top of the volleyball. After you make contact the ball spins away from you and toward your opponent.
This type of spin helps the ball drop quickly downwards because that’s the direction it’s spinning. Servers who can consistently execute a top spin serve are generally feared when they step back to the serving line, because these kinds of serves are notoriously difficult to pass.
As a passer, just when you think you’ve gotten yourself into exactly the right spot to receive a top spin serve it will drop about 2 feet in front of you. It’s counter intuitive, but once you realize you’re dealing with a top spin server try to force yourself to take an extra step forward. This can make the difference between a good pass and a shanked pass.
To achieve the top spin effect you need to contact the ball slightly below its center with the base of your palm so that you can roll your hand over it as you serve. This will give it the spin that you need.
You’ll also find that it’s easier to contact the ball farther behind you to give you more time to achieve the necessary wrist snap. If you contact the ball in front of you like you would when attempting a float serve it’s much more likely that you’ll end up sending your serve into the net because the wrist snap takes too long.
The advantage of extra height (both on the jump and the distance the ball is traveling once it reaches the other side of the net) is why may jump servers use a top spin serve as their weapon of choice.
Be advised that top spin serves are typically best suited to deep zones on the court (1, 6 and 5), and that they can be tricky to maneuver into the shorter zones (2,3 and 4). Their tendency to drop sharply makes it a lot harder to hit these zones close to the net because the serve is more likely to drop into the net on your side.
However, I can’t overstress the value of repetition when it comes to working out your serves and their capabilities. If you can perfect the short top spin serve through practice, go forth and do so. I’m certainly not saying it’s impossible, just a bit more difficult.
For more information on the top spin serve’s other half, the float serve, check out this post.
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Photo courtesy of Flickr.
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