Rotations 201: Rotation 2

Rotations 201: Rotation 2

Class is back in session! Today we continue our Rotations 201 series and look at how some of the best teams in the NCAA tweak their rotations and adjust to in-game challenges. Previously we looked at Rotation 1. Today we look at Rotation 2, with the setter in position 6.

This is unfortunately one of the most limited rotations, since the setter pushing up the opposite limits who you can have in serve receive. Some teams (notably the Japanese National Team) will pull their opposite back to pass and have their setter make a very difficult entry, but most teams don’t try this:

If your opposite is a good passer and you really don’t want your outside hitter to pass, you can train this rotation and give it a try. But most likely, your rotation 2 is going to look something like this:

Nebraska has a couple pieces to this rotation that we like. First of all, their opposite and middle aren’t pushed up all the way to the net. Many teams do this, and it makes their release to hit a bit more difficult. Not impossible, but if you have your middle up close to the net, it’s harder to set her in transition. Some teams, for example the University of Georgia, have these hitters even deeper:

Georgia’s middle blocker is very deep, which allows her an easy path to get around and attack in front of the setter:

You also notice that both teams have their hitters hugging the sideline, not on top of the setter. This allows them to release to hit and the setter to enter to get ready to set. In general, this works well. Here’s Nebraska earning a sideout against Illinois in the 2018 Final Four in Rotation 2:

So that’s what it looks like when things are going well. But where is this rotation vulnerable? If one of the key aspects to setting up this rotation is to allow our middle entry to hit, then the serving team might try to serve to slow her down, either with a crosscourt serve or down the line into the path of the middle entry:

We can see this service path has the potential to cause either disruption to the middle attack entry (if the middle delays to avoid the serve) or disruption to the passer if the middle gets in her way. And in this match, we saw that happen:

The middle has to delay her entry so she doesn’t get hit by the serve or mess up her passer, and then she’s not available to attack when the pass moves the setter forward.

One potential counter to this is to bring both the middle and opposite more into the middle of the court, to avoid the middle entering in the line of a serve. It’s a bit farther run off the court for the opposite, but it isn’t too difficult. It then allows the middle to get into the middle of the court without getting in the way of the passer in zone 1. Nebraska used this strategy to handle a difficult down-the-line server in this Final Four match:

Finally, the middle can start on the sideline and run across the path of the serve before it crosses the net. This is a difficult move that takes some real timing and training to get right. It’s doable at younger levels, but it’s most common in professional and international-level volleyball where the athletes are bigger and the refs are a bit more lenient with overlap rules. Here we see the USA executing a run-across to allow the middle to get all the way over to the gap and create an overload on the opposite side of the court:

This is a great play, but if you pause on server contact, you can see the middle is overlapped quite a bit. The refs in your league may allow it, but if not, then you’re better off using the adjustment we see from Nebraska.

Whichever tactic you choose, you’re going to need to train your middle to use her most important body part: her eyes! Just as eyework is critical when blocking, middle attackers must see the serve and pick up on the line that the ball is traveling as quickly as possible. This will allow her to get available to attack, while not interfering with your passers.

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