Archive for Friday, November 30, 2012

Cheering on KU in the NCAA tourney? Brush up on the vernacular of volleyball

November 30, 2012


In volleyball, like so many other sports, there exists a language that, to those who use it every day, is as easy to understand as their native tongue.

However, for the more casual fans who might be unfamiliar with the sport, its lingo, unique statistics, different positions and quirky phrases, watching a volleyball match can be a little confusing. After all, so much of what’s heard are common words that have completely different meanings in different contexts, both in and out of the sports world.

With the Kansas University volleyball team hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Allen Fieldhouse beginning at 4 p.m. today — KU will play Cleveland State at 6:30 — here’s a quick glossary of some of the most popular terms that newcomers to the sport might hear tossed around at Allen Fieldhouse this weekend.


Not the key card in a game of blackjack, rather a serve that results in an immediate point.


At first glance, they may look like what you’d expect to see protruding off of the forehead of an alien, but these thin, vertical red-and-white rods mounted at the net help to determine whether a ball is in or out of play. A ball that hits an antenna or crosses the net outside the antenna is out.


The term for running an offense.


When one or more players jump at the net with arms in the air in an attempt to stop a spiked ball as it is near crossing the net or has just crossed. 


Not what a beatnik says when he likes something, rather keeping alive a spiked ball. The best digs occur close to the floor.


A change of pace that entails guiding the ball over or around blockers.

Double hit:

Consecutive hits by the same player, which is not allowed. The equivalent to T.C. “Two Chips” Chen hitting the golf ball twice on one chip shot in the 1985 U.S. Open in which he finished one stroke out of first place.


Not the inside of your husband’s car, but a soft hit used near the net to catch defenders anticipating a spike off guard.

Free ball:

When the offensive team can’t set up a play and returns the ball just to keep the rally going. 


To jump and strike the ball forcefully.

Hitting percentage:

Kills divided by attempts.


When opposing players attempt to play a ball above the net at the same time.


The statistic for an attack that results in a point.


From the Italian word “free,” the libero can be spotted easily because she is the one wearing a different color jersey from teammates. A defensive specialist allowed to substitute for any back-row player. 


Best-of-five series that determines the winner. If it goes to five sets (games), the fifth is played to 15. The other four are played up to 25. All sets must be won by two points or more.


Not what the doctor prescribes for those who desire a bigger stomach, but the act of keeping the ball alive by laying a hand flat on the court, enabling the ball to bounce off the back of the hand.

Rally scoring:

The new scoring system that stipulates teams score a point regardless of the serving squad. The team that scores a point earns the right to serve the next ball. In the 20th century, only the serving team could score in a system known as side-out scoring. The term side-out still is used to describe regaining the serve.

Reception error:

Not a receptionist leaving the intercom on and griping about the boss, who hears every word of it. Instead, it’s when a serve that should be easy to return results in an ace.


A blocked spike that falls onto the floor on the attacker’s side.


Clockwise movement of players after a point.

Set (two meanings):

(1) One of five games that make up a match; (2) The art of moving the ball to a hitter.

Six pack:

Not what beach volleyball players bring with them, rather the term used for a blocker getting slammed in the face by a spiked ball. When used by a bragging player after a match it often is preceded by the word, “Dude.”


Not the sharp metal object protruding from a bulldog’s collar, but a forceful hit designed to hit the floor or glance off the opponent’s blocker for a point.


Not life’s burdens weighing so heavily on the mind. Not that stuff. It’s a ball deflected back to the other team’s floor.

— Tom Keegan, Matt Tait


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