What Just Happened? – World Championships

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For more explanations of what is really happening in the game click What Just Happened All Parts and for explanations of great play click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

There was a rally in the World Championships Final that jumped out at me as fullfilling all the categories for a What Just Happened article. It contained spectacular play that had the crowd on its feet, and the commentators fired up, and yet there were two simple actions either of which would have led to a completely different outcome. Check it out and see if you can see the ‘errors’.

‘Error’ #1 – Position 6 on the Polish side has his starting position too close to the net, covering the same area as positions 1 and 5 and the block. In fairness, he has just served and his follow through brings him a long way forward so perhaps we can forgive him. But it does mean that once the blocker has touched the ball he has to run 8 metres and make a spectacular play just to keep the ball alive. If he was just one or two steps further back, he had a much easier play on the ball that would likely have led to an attacking opportunity for his team.

‘Error’ #2 – After making the desperate play and keeping the ball alive, he runs back to position. This time despite having to run back into court he is even closer to the net. Although he has shown great commitment and intensity to chase the ball and return to position from this position he has virtually no chance to defend any attack.

And this is exactly what happens. The block makes a great touch and deflects the ball high inside the court. If the position 6 player had full slower and not as far, even from 6m he would have had a great play on the ball leading to another attacking opportunity.


When position 6 plays so close to the net, they are defending the same area as the block. Furthermore any ball that beats the block and reaches position 6 from that short distance is extremely hard to defend and impossible to control. The best that defence can hope for is a positive rebound from the defender. On the flip side, when the block does its job well and touches the ball at the net the defence is not in the position to make the next play. So many balls that could be played are missed. So many rallies that could be extended, are not.

But yes, you are right. We would have missed this dive.

If you want to study setting in a bit more detail check out this presentation that studies the techniques and tactics of 10 of the top setters in the world, both men and women. And for very special price on all current webinars, 8 in all, including ones on BLOCKING, PRACTICE, COMMUNICATION and SCOUTING click here.


  1. I noticed that there were a fair few occasions when 6 was too far into court and touches off the block were not transitioned. With attackers going for hands with ever more frequency, is not even more imperative to play 6 on or just behind the base line?


    1. On high balls, absolutely.
      On faster balls, I wouldn’t say baseline because they need to be a bit closer for first tempo. But 8m isn’t unreasonable.


  2. Also, I always ask defense to be on the toes, almost stepping forward into ideal yeardrop defensive coverage zone at instant of attack, and if defender is too close, they can’t be on their toes but on their heels, which is terrible for range of motion.


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