Usually a hitter’s first instinct is to jump up and attack the ball as hard as they can. There’s no denying that it’s fun to really pound this kind of ball back onto your opponent’s side, but if the pass isn’t just right this can backfire easily.
A ball that may or may not clear your side of the net isn’t usually a good candidate for an attack, because it will most likely require you to reach over the top of the net and into your opponent’s court in order to attack it. Doing so will very often get you called for interfering with your opponent’s ability to play the ball, especially if an opposing player was nearby and might have been able to save the ball if you hadn’t hit it; until the ball has been attacked you’re not allowed to reach into your opponent’s court space.
Similarly, if the ball is coming too far over the net and you’ve misjudged the trajectory it can fall right behind you, where there is nobody to save it. This is severely embarrassing, and not something you want to happen.
So, in addition to being comfortable attacking a ball that’s right on top of the net, it’s a good idea to get comfortable with a type of block sometimes called a “wipe.” To wipe a ball you jump using a blocking motion; your hands will go up just like with a block as well.
But instead of just letting the ball deflect off your hands to wherever its trajectory may take it, you break your wrists to the left or right, directing the ball to that side.
The big benefit here is that you can very easily send the ball to a part of the court where there aren’t any defenders. Usually on a tight pass the setter will follow the ball to the net in the hopes of either tipping it over or digging it out of the net. This means that s/he is either directly behind or below the ball and has a good chance of digging/blocking it if you just deflect it in a straight line.
But if you wipe it to one side or the other the setter has no chance of reaching it, and you’ll earn your team an easy point. It can also be particularly demoralizing for your opponent to see you easily direct the ball to a hole in their defense.
Practice both attacking and blocking tight passes by having a friend toss several right on top of the net. Remember to wait for at least part of the ball to make it onto your side of the net before acting to avoid an interference call.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
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