The quick and easy version of “What is a hitter?” is that this is the player who is responsible for putting an end to the rally. They are the last link in the volleyball chain, and the player who should be bringing the heat. Volleyball progresses from pass, to set, to hit, so without solid hitters the system breaks down very quickly.
There is a lot of pressure on hitters to perform, and you find some very intense personalities playing this position. They have to deal with all kinds of sets, from outstanding to terrible, and whatever the situation they’re expected to put the ball down on the other team’s court.
Hitters have to contend not only with questionable sets, but also with blockers and defenders on the other side of the net. When the tables are turned, hitters are also expected to block against their opponents, so they have to play offense and defense.
If a hitter messes up and hits the ball out or into the net, it can seriously demoralize a team. But if they manage to fly through the air, get past the blockers and get a kill against all odds, then they can change the momentum of a game with just one play.
First we have outside/right side hitters, who run primarily higher attacks that give them time to execute an approach. These are the go-to hitters, the ones that teams rely on to finish a long rally with a kill, play defense and block. Typically they are outstanding athletes that can go on to make a name for themselves internationally. Destiny Hooker and Megan Hodge were both outside hitters who distinguished themselves in the Women’s Division I final last year.
There are also middle hitters, generally the tallest and most intimidating players on the court. Their responsibility is to confuse the other team’s blockers and to contribute kills whenever they get the ball. And, of course, being the tallest on the court means they’re expected to bring in more than their fair share of blocks.
Many middle hitters are subbed out on the back row in favor of smaller, quicker liberos, but some are athletic enough to play all the way around the court. Super tall players like Phil Dalhausser can still be agile enough to do some damage on defense if they train those fast twitch muscles.
Hitters are some of the most exciting players on the court. When it comes to making exciting clutch plays, these are generally the volleyball players that we think of.
For instruction on improving your hitting game, check out my hitting ebook, coming soon!
Photo courtesy of Flickr.