Attacking the DefenseFirst published November, 2008
You hit the ball as hard as you can – it’s a sure kill – but wait! It comes sailing back over the net and drops right in front of your teammate who wasn’t ready for the overpass. Your team loses the point and your effort was in vain. We’ve all been there and done that. We’ve had those games when we crush the ball over and over again and yet cannot seem to nail the kill. What are we doing wrong?
First of all, do not try to change your technique! If you are able to hit the ball with strength, speed, and angled downward around a block, you are way ahead of most youth players. It’s not always necessary to change the way we are attacking, rather it probably is where we are attacking. There are two things we can definitely change to get kills instead of opponent digs.
#1 Body Angles.
Your hips and shoulders can create a twisting motion, known as torque. The force of your torque can direct the ball to different areas for better ball placement. If you find yourself only able to hit the middle back area of the court, try adjusting your shoulders and hips to face the opposite corner (deep angle) from where you are hitting. Smacking your attack toward the last five feet of the court in the angle corner is almost a guaranteed kill against many defensive formations.
However, if you think it is impossible to hit down the line, again try changing the rotation of your shoulders and hips to finish directly facing the line you want to hit. Hitting the ball down the line or through the 1/6 seam can be very effective against perimeter defenses.
#2 Hand Contact.
Where your hand contacts the ball can change everything. You have probably been taught to hit the back center area of the volleyball, snap your wrist over the top, and follow through to your same-side hip. Great hitters can actually alter their contact on the ball – and so can you.
You’re hitting from the outside position and the setter sets a high ball about six feet inside the antenna. Our natural reaction is to run right through the ball and hit the angle. But your opponents are expecting that. Try giving them something else to handle: on this inside set, wrap your hand around the right side of the ball (for righties, your thumb will be facing up; lefties thumbs will face down) and lob this side-spinning roll shot back into the deep line area. You don’t even have to hit it that hard: ball placement is everything. The other tricky roll shot will be to wrap your hand around the left side of the ball to create the opposite spin and rack up more kills.
Some of the best hitters I have played against seldom hit the ball as hard as they could; usually they would take their approach and use their peripheral vision to simply put the ball where my team wasn’t. The teams that just hit hard at us all the time were much more beatable than the ones who used tips and roll shots to expose our weaknesses and destroy our defense.
The bottom line for attacking the defense effectively is to know where the holes are on the other team’s side. You can ask your teammates to call out what’s open (i.e. “Line,” “Angle,” “Tip,” etc.) and you can also take responsibility by watching where the other team moves when your own side is attacking. Do they have a person deep in the line or the angle? Do they cover the corners or the middle of the court better? Do they have a player to cover the tips?
Pay close attention to the movements of the opponent and make your plays based on what they don’t do well. Help your other teammates know what you’ve learned and seen. Keep your opponents on their toes and never knowing what’s coming next. Attack the weaknesses of your opponent and come away a better hitter and a better teammate.