An often overlooked part of volleyball defense is covering your hitter as they attack. It may seem like a minor defensive tactic compared to amazing digs and blocks, but it can make a huge difference to both offense and defense.
Basically covering the hitter involves players not involved in the attack clustering around the hitter in a defensive stance to try and play the ball in case the attack gets blocked.
At least two and up to four players should be involved in this part of the defense. You don’t want everybody hovering around the hitter’s feet because if the ball is blocked deep or sent back over the net on the first contact there won’t be anybody there to pass it.
And be sure to stay in a low defensive stance when covering your hitter. A blocked ball will usually ricochet down very quickly and if you’re not already down and prepared to pass you’ll have no chance of digging it.
The obvious answer is that it gives your team another chance to play the ball even after a hit has been blocked. When you dig a blocked ball you should still aim for the setter’s target area, and if you’re a hitter you should be prepared to get set.
Smart setters will pull the next attack away from the hitter who was just blocked so that the opponent’s blockers aren’t camped out waiting to block again, but sometimes this isn’t possible. A back row attack is also a good choice to set after a block, so all available hitters should be ready.
A less obvious way that covering your hitter can help is by giving your hitters the confidence to swing away at good sets. If they know that their teammates are behind them (literally) to pick up blocks, hitters are more apt to be aggressive with their attacks.
More aggressive attacks often mean more kills, so smart defense in the form of hitter coverage will often translate into better offense too.
Things to Remember
Covering your hitter is great, but don’t get complacent after the ball has been attacked. Don’t stand around next to the hitter patting yourselves on the back.
Get back to your defensive base as quickly as you can, because before you know it the other team will be sending the ball right back over. This is part of the transition work that I covered in an earlier post. In volleyball you’re almost never standing still; you should be constantly moving into defensive position, into the starting position for your attack, into hitter coverage and back to a defensive base position.
See what a difference covering your hitter can make in your next match, and in the meantime check out my Passing Ebook for more passing tips and tricks.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.