By Gary R. Rasberry
Fans getting ready to watch high school volleyball this season may be wondering about what changed over the season.
Why is the team not serving getting points? Why didn't play stop when the serve tipped the net? And who is that girl in the different color jersey?
The Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted changes to the game to start this season that makes the game more in line with the volleyball played on the college and international level.
To help out the fans -- as well as the writers who will cover the matches -- The Daily Standard has asked area volleyball coaches to explain some of the changes for this season and what impact they will have on area teams:
Rally Scoring: Fans that have been keeping up with the Olympics in Greece or have been involved with college or club volleyball will be used to the new scoring in fall volleyball. Instead of a best-of-three format where 15 points ends a game, the state now will go to a best-of-five series with games going to 25 points without a cap (meaning the winning team has to win by two). The only exception is the fifth game, where the game goes to 15 without a cap.
The varsity will be the only level to go to a best-of-five. Junior varsity, freshman and junior high matches will go to 25 but will remain best-of-three. Invitational tournaments will be best-of-three but state tournaments will be the best-of-five
The most important change with the rally scoring is that a team that does not have the serve can score a point, ending the days of side outs. The serve still changes on whichever team scores a point but every play will result in a point.
"The good thing about going to the rules this year, with a lot of people watching the Olympics, they're getting an idea how the new scoring system will work," said Parkway coach Todd Henkle. "It kind of changes the score of play. You really have to cut your errors down, because 3-4 errors in a row turn into 3-4 points. It's a lot different from playing side out volleyball. ... The girls that play in club ball are used to it, but once you give up 4-5 points against a good opponent and play side out the rest of the way through, that's the end of the match."
Henkle believes that the change will be good for fans and players, although it may give some coaches not used to the system some additional thought time
"It's something that coaches will have to get used to," said Henkle. "It's going to be more fan friendly, as far as points being scored all the time. It's going to make games more exciting, but if a team jumps out real quick, that's going to kill it a bit."
With games now going at least three games to 10 more points added to each game, matches will last just slightly longer.
"I think it's going to be better in general," said Henkle. "Most volleyball matches will last an hour. I think most varsity matches should. You don't want to go to a match and have it over in 20 minutes."
Libero: In high school volleyball, each team can make 18 total substitutions in a game. Occasionally, the number runs out at a key team, leaving a front row player having to play back row when that player normally does not go all the way round.
This year, teams will have the option to use a specialty defensive player that will not count against the sub limit.
The libero (pronounced lee-beh-roh with the stress on lee) was introduced in the late 1990s to international and Olympic play and was brought to the college and club level in the last four years. The libero is a strictly defensive player who is not allowed to block, spike, set up the spike or serve. The player comes into the back row and continues (Continued from page 1B)
to play back row until her time to serve, which she must be replaced.
To signify the position for the officials, the libero will wear an opposite color jersey to her teams. The color of the libero jersey is not important as long as it is different from her team.
St. Henry coach Lori Schwieterman will use the libero this season.
"I think the libero should give us a better defense everytime out there on the court," said Schwieterman. "As far as getting an extra player in the game with defensive skills and gets to a lot of balls, it will enhance the game,"
Schwieterman has worked with younger players in club ball over the year, but did not regularly use the libero spot in the lineup.
"I didn't use it as much because I wanted the girls to learn all the positions on the court," said Schwieterman. "But I really think it adds a position for a girl who may not be the tallest and may not be able to play front row. It used to be the smaller girls were setters, but they have taken that away somewhat. I think it's good for the kids.
"I think that the libero, if you get a player that is perky, goes in there and fires up a team, could definitely change the momentum. If they make a big play, that could change the game."
The high school coaches will have a little bit of a luxury this season as the libero will be used and the number of substitutions will remain at 18. This will likely change next year down to the college allotment of 12.
"I don't think you should out of subs, or it will be a long game if you do," said Schwieterman. "But it gives you more options since you won't count that person going in and out."
Let Serve: In the past, the ball hitting the net on the serve meant a change in possession.
Now it means be prepared.
If the ball hits the net and still goes over the other side, the ball is in play and live, meaning the other team will have to return the ball or lose a point.
Celina coach Nikki Metzger is all for the change.
"I think it's good because it keeps games going," said Metzger. "It makes game interesting in how serve receive is handled."
Her players that saw time in club have played with the rule for awhile, making the transition pretty good.
"They're handling it well," said Metzger. "In some of our summer tournaments we've played and the official would call net on the let serve and the girls were saying that the rule has changed. It's understandable since the rule has been around for a long time."
While Metzger is not teaching her team to learn to how to get the ball to tip the net, she is preparing on how to prepare for the serve.
"We've been working on how to handle the serve," said Metzger. "We're working on strategy on where the ball is served."
Playable Area: This aspect of the change may not be the most noticeable for the fans, but it gives teams an additional advantage.
The OHSAA website describes the rule change like this: "Players may play a ball over a non-playable area if they have a body part in contact with a playable area at the time the ball is contacted. During the follow through, the player may enter a non-playable area after playing the ball."
Minster coach Rick Carter explains that the rule means that a lot of plays that had to be called out could not be fair game.
"The thing is, non-playable area is the stands or the bench," said Carter. "This has happened several times; The ball comes in and it's real to a player on the bench. What the girl can do now is to come in -- and as long as one foot is on the floor -- they can reach across that person, bring the ball back (into the playable area) and fall into the crowd, the bench or whatever.
At Delphos (St. John's) they pull just part of the bleachers out and make the west side of the gym a non-playable area. Now a girl can go after the ball, put it into play and run into that area to come back onto the court."
Carter does not expect players to go flying into the stands or the hallway to get the ball, saying that this would come into effect just a couple of plays per match.
Another change with this rule is in the event a player goes into the seating area to try and return the ball. If a fan hits the ball in a shielding attempt while the player makes an attempt to return it to play, the official has the option to rule a replay -- meaning no point is scored and the server of the first play will serve again, regardless if the ball is out of bounds.
Carter is also sure that his players will know when to safely take advantage of this rule.
"You're going to have some girls give 120 percent and do that. They'll try and get it no matter what," said Carter. "At places where there is a cement wall (unpadded), that's where it could be a problem. Most of the time, it will be places where no one will get hurt real bad. It's only a point, but if they think they can go it, I'll let them go get it."