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                   Welcome to our Volleyball Terms Page             



A serve that scores a point without any opponent's touching the ball. Also known as an ace serve.


The rods that protrude above the top of the net and define the width of the attacking area. All balls must be hit across the net between the antennae without touching them. The ball is out-of-bounds if it touches or crosses the net outside of the antennae. Antenna are out of play and are normally red and white stripped.  Normally used in indoor courts. Also known as aerials.


The path and method an attacker moves to the net before jumping to attack the ball.


An assist is awarded to the player that passes or sets a ball to a player who successfully attacks the ball for a kill.


To smash the ball into the opponents' court. This is done in a manner where the attacker hits the ball above the height of the net in a downward direction towards the floor.

Attack Block

Try to block an opponent's attack.

Attack Error

An unsuccessful attack where the ball either lands out of bounds, goes into the net, is blocked or the attacker makes a violation of the rules.


The player who smashes the ball to the opponent's court. (See also spikerhitter)

Attacking Block

A block aimed at putting the ball straight down into the attacker's court.

Attack Line

A line on the court 9.5 feet (3 meters) away from, and parallel to, the net. It separates the front court from the back court. Back court players must jump to attack the ball from behind this line. (See also frontcourt; 10-foot line)

Attack System

The method of attack a team uses to try to beat the opponents' blocks.


A play called in mid ralley.


Association of Volleyball Professionals; it was formed in 1983.

Back Court

The area of the court between the sidelines, behind the attack line and in front of the baseline.

Backcourt Spike

Ball hit forcefully into the opponent's court by a back-row player who takes off from behind the attack line.

Back Set

A set made by the setter in the direction opposite to which he or she is facing, over the setter's head to a player behind him/her.

Back Row Attack - Back Row Player

Back row players are restricted in how they can attack a ball. Any attack on the ball above the height of the net by a back row attack must be made behind the attack line.

Back Set: When a set is made with the setters back to the hitter 

Back Slide

A quick slide behind the setter.

Backhand Dig

Low reception of a hard-driven spike using the back of the outstretched hand.

Backward Pass

A pass made when the player has his/her back to the net and must return the ball directly over his/her head. Also known as saving pass.

Ball Handling Error

This is improper handling of the ball as restricted by the rule book. Most common ball handling errors are double hits, throw, and lifts. (See also liftthrow)


A line parallel to the net and 29.5 feet (9 meters) from it.

Beach Dig

An open-handed pass often used by beach players. Also known as deep dish.


To jump in the air and intercept or divert a ball from the opponents' court, using the hands, arms, or upper part of the body. A player who makes a block may touch the ball a second successive time without penalty. The block and subsequent touch count only as one hit. Also known as a stuff, a roof, a wall.

Block cover

Players not participating in the block who cover any ball hit past the block.


A player who takes part in a block. (See also block)


An abrupt change of direction in the attacker's approach.

Break point

The spot where the attackers change direction.


A pass with both arms together where the ball bumps off the forearms. Also known as forearm passbump pass.

Bump Pass

A pass with both arms together where the ball bumps off the forearms. Also known as forearm passbump.

Bump Set

A set with both arms together where the ball bumps off the forearms. Just like a pass but usually the second hit and a subsequent attack should fallow.


This is a term used when the ball falls to the ground between three or more players.  It comes from the image of a bunch of players huddled around a campfire.

Center Back Deep Defense

Block defense in which the center back plays deep in the court near the end line to defend against deep hits and deflections off the block. Also known as white defense.

Center Back Up Defense

Block defense in which the center back plays the block to defend against dinks and soft shots. Also known as red defense.

Center Line

The imaginary line beneath the net that divides the court in two.


Altering either the speed of the ball or the distance it travels during the serve in such a way that the opponent doesn't recognize the change immediately.

Co-Ed: A Mixture of male and female 

Coin Toss

Before the warm-up in the first game and before each deciding game, the first referee conducts a coin toss in the presence of the team captains. The winner of the coin toss chooses either: (a) to serve or receive service of the first ball, or (b) the side of the court on which to start the game. The loser takes the remaining alternative and, for the second game in a 2 out of 3 match, gets to select from the above choices.


A defensive technique of hitting the ball just before it lands using a forearm pass while falling to the floor.

Commit Blocking

A decision to block in a specific area without waiting to see if the ball will be hit in that area.

Combination Play

An offensive strike involving two or more attack players acting in concert.

Contacted Ball

Ball that touches a player.


The playing area including the boundary lines but not including the service area.


To protect any area of the court to which the ball may travel. Backcourt players should try to cover the hitter, that is, back up their own hitters whose blocks may rebound to an unguarded part of the court.

Cross Court Shot

An attack that is directed from a corner of the attacker's net to the opposite sideline of the opponent's court. Also known as crosscourt attack.

Cross Body: When a ball come from the opposite side of your hitting arm the ball is traveling cross body 

Cut Shot

These attack shots travel over the net at extreme angles.  The balls often land in front of the attack line.


Dead Ball

A ball no longer in play.


A decoy is any offensive play that attempts to disguise or hide which attacker will receive the set.  Often, two or more hitters approach to the same area on the net.


Away from the net and toward the baseline.

Deep Dish

To hold on to the ball too long in order to take the spin off.

Deep Set

Deep sets are set or passed away from the net and designed to be hit near the attack line.  These sets are designed to defeat the timing of the blockers.

Defensive Player

Any player of a team not in possession of the ball.


To pass a hard driven ball below the waist, with one or two hands. Normally referring to a pass made close to the floor after a spike. Also known as pass, shovel.


A soft hit ball, usually around or over the top of the blockers. A dink is also used effectively to direct the ball to an open hole in the defense near the net.


Lunging forward to save that ball often landing on the stomach.  It is the ultimate dig. Also known as dig.

Double Block

A block executed by two players. Also known as wall.

Double Contact Ball touching a player twice or rolling along a part of his body. 


Double Foul

Two simultaneous fouls by players of opposing sides.

Double Hit

A foul in which the same player touches the ball twice in succession. A ball hit again by the blocker after his/her block is legal and not considered a double hit.

Double Quick

Like the quick, except two hitters approach the setter for a quick inside hit. Also known as stack, tandem.


A version of the game where each team has only two players.  Played on all surfaces but is most popular on played on a sand court. Also known as 2s, two's.

Down Blocking

The decision not to block a shot.


A surprise tip by the setter, usually on the second team touch. It can catch the opponents off guard, especially if the dumper camouflages her intentions, making it look like a routine set.




End Line

Line on each side of the court which marks the back of the court and connects the sidelines. Also known as service line.

Facing Your Range

Setting up your approach so that you have all your options open during an attack.

Fake Smash

A play in which an attacking team pretends to smash, but then dumps, volleys, or sets the ball.

First Referee

Head official who has control over the match.


Federation International de Volleyball; it was formed in Paris in 1947 by representatives of 11 countries.


A volleyball strategy for six-player matches where five of the players are hitters and one is a full time setter.


A hitter hides behind the quick hitter and makes an inside-out approach.


A serve that darts in an unpredictable path. The ball has little or no spin. The ball's path is erratic and very difficult to pass. Also known as float serves.


The movement of the arm after the ball has been contacted.

Foot Fault

The penalty incurred when the server's foot touches the playing surface, including the baseline, before contacting the ball, or any other player's foot touches the opposing court.

Forearm Pass

A pass with both arms together where the ball bumps off the forearms. Also known as bump passbump.


The alignment of players in attack or defense.


Any violation of the rules.


A six-player format using four hitters and two setters where the setter always comes from the front row.

Free Ball

A slow, arcing shot that the receiving team is "free" to attack as it likes.

Front Court

The area between the attack line and the net. Only front court players can spike from inside this area.

Front-row players

The three players nearest the net, whose official court positions are 2, 3, and 4.

Game Plan

A team's offensive and defensive strategy for a particular opponent, including starting rotation.

Held Ball

A foul in which the ball seems to be caught or comes to rest momentarily on any part of a player's body.

High Ball Pass

Pass performed by contacting the ball on the underside of the arms in an upright position, used as an emergency technique.

High Flat

A shot that has no intention of ever hitting the court but whose goal is to fly off the fingers of the blockers and out of bounds.


An attack on the ball that occurs normally above the height of the net. Also known as attackspike.


The player making the hit. Also known as attackerspike.

Hitting Zones

The areas near the net where the setter is placing the ball for a hit.

Hook Serve

A style of serving the ball which involves making a circular arm movement starting from the thighs culminating in contact above the head.

Hook Smash

The same style of arm movement as used for the hook serves but used to smash the ball.


An attack that lands between two players. Both players expected the other player to dig the ball.

Inside Set

A set that is placed near the middle of the court instead of on or near the line.


Planned switching of player's positions on the court after the contact of the serve.


Two opposing players simultaneously make contact with the ball above the height of the net.

Jump Serve

A serve in which the player tosses the ball into the air and then jumps up and hits the ball as it descends

Jump Set

A set made by a front court player while he/she is in the air.

Jungle Ball

Volleyball played by a group of players that don't really know how to play nor follow the majority of the rules. Also known as picnic volleyball.


A hard shot angled downward that the opposing side is unable to return.

Lateral Set

Set made to either side of the setter instead of the usual front or back set.

Let Serve

Definition: When a serve hits the top of the net but still makes it over to the opponent’s side. Before 2001, this was a service error, but now it is to be played by the receiving tea


A defensive player who wears a different color jersey and is restricted from hand setting the ball in front of the attack line, serving the ball, and attacking the ball.


Illegally holding a ball during a contact. Illegal contact.


The method used to mark the edge of the court. All lines are in.

Line Judges

Officials who assist the first referee in calling lines, touches on blocks, balls near the net, antennae, and foot faults.

Line Shot

A ball attacked down the sideline on the opponents court, closest to the hitter, and around the outside the block, parallel to the sideline.


A team's serving order, which reflects the players' starting locations on the court.


To arrange the blockers so that the best ones confront the opponents' best attackers.

Lob Pass

A ball passed in a high arc.


A predetermined number of games, or sets. In major indoor events, a match usually consists of best of five sets; local matches tend to be best of three sets.

Match Point

When a team is serving and is only 1 point away from winning the game.

Middle Back

A defense strategy that uses the middle back player to cover deep shots.

Middle Up

A defense strategy that uses the middle back player to come up shallow to cover dinks or short shots.


The original name of volleyball.  Volleyball was created by William Morgan of the YMCA.


Sending the quick hitter behind the setter, thereby leading the blocker away from the actual hit.

Misdirected Shot: An attack of the ball in a direction different from the alignment of your body. 

Multiple Attack

An offensive play executed by two or more players.

Multiple Block

A block executed by two or more players.

Multiple Contact

Touching the ball more than once on the same play. This is allowed as long as no two contacts are made by the same player in succession (other than by a blocker after the block).

Multiple Offense

A system that employs a variety of sets other than setting only to the outside hitters. 


National Association for Girls and Women in sport; governs women's collegiate play and officiating.

Net Ball

A ball that touches the net, except on the service (see net serve). If a net ball continues across into the opponents' court, the ball is alive and in play.

Net Fault

An illegal act whereby a player touches the net while the ball is in play. It is not a fault if the contact was caused by the ball's forcing the net into the player's hand or body, or if it was accidentally caused by a player not playing the ball. Also known as netting.

Net Save

A forearm pass, usually by the setter, made after the ball has hit the net.

Net Serve

A serve that hits the net; it is a fault even if the ball continues across into the opponents' court.


Strategies used by the team which has possession of the ball.

Off-hand Spike

Spiked ball from the side of the court in which the ball must travel across the spikes body to get to the hitting arm.

Offside Block

The front row player who is on the side of the court opposite from the side the opponent is making the attack.

Off-speed Hit

Spike performed with a slower arm speed to change the pace of the offense. Normally the ball has a lot of spin.

On-hand spike

Spiked ball from the side of the court in which the ball gets to the spikers hitting arm before it crosses the body.


The player who stands opposite the setter in the rotation.


Occurs when the ball:

  1. touches a surface outside the court area;
  2. touches an antenna;
  3. fails to go over the net between the antennae; or
  4. touches the net outside the markers on the sides of the net.1


Away from the center of the court and toward one sideline or the other.

Outside Hitter

The left or right front player that hits a ball with an approach normally coming from the outside of the court.

Overhead Float Serve

Method of serving in which the ball  is contacted with the arm above the shoulder.

Overhead Pass

Set directed to the setter which is used to receive high, soft serves and free balls. In beach ball, it allows a player to attack on the second contact rather than waiting for the third contact.

Overhead Serve

Serving the ball and contacting the ball with your hand above your head.


A foul in which one player is out of position relative to a teammate when the ball is served or when players are out of rotation or in the wrong position during indoor six-man volleyball. Also known as out-of-position.


Passed ball which unintentionally goes over the net into the opponent's court.


A ball that is accidentally set across the net. 


A one-hand pass technique in which a player flattens his hand against the floor in order to save the ball. When executed correctly, the ball will bounce of the back of the hand.


To deliver the ball from one player to another without it touching the floor or any obstruction.


Reaching across the net with your hands and breaking the plane of the net above the height of the net, in an effort to block an attack.


A warm-up drill in which two players pass, set, and hit the ball back and forth.


A section of the court in the middle of the back row.


The hitting area created by placing the arms together with elbows in close and the fleshy part of the arms facing upward.

Play Sets

Pre-called plays by the setter which consist of sets with varying heights?


Score given to the serving team when they win a rally.


A move to save a ball from going out of bounds made by hitting the ball with the heal of the hand.


Location of the players in the lineup. They must hold the same positions until there is a change of server on their own team.


The standard that supports the net.

Power Alley

A cross court shot that travels to the farthest opposite point on the court.

Power Dink

A cross court shot that travels to the farthest opposite point on the court

Power Volleyball

A competitive style of volleyball started in Japan.


A play where the middle hitter approaches the setter for a super quick set.

Quick Serve

To start service as soon as possible after the referee has blown for the service to be made. If the receiving team is slow to react, the serving team may gain an advantage.

Quick Set

A low set for an incoming spiker made possible by an accurate first pass. Also known as short set.


A gentle shot over the opposing players to the back line.


The period from the serve to the end of play; also, a series of contacts in which both teams are able to keep the ball in play.

Rally Point: A point is recorded for every single rally no matter who is serving. Unforced errors or missed serves also results in a point for the other team. 


Reading: Watching the opponent's movements to determine how to defend or attack 


Ready Position

The correct position a player should be in when preparing to receive and pass a serve or attack. Also known as ready.

Reception Error

A reception error occurs when a player should have been able to pass a serve but makes an error resulting in an ace.  Errors are given to individuals except in the case of husband/wife, where the team is given the error.


The act of diving to successfully retrieve a hard-hit or cleverly placed shot.

Red Card

A severe penalty given by the official to a player or coach.  When the penalty occurs, the official will display a red card which, depending on the rule set, may result in a player being disqualified.

Regular Set

High outside set to the sideline.

Roll Shot

A ball hit overhand and driven over the net with topspin while the player normally remains on the ground. Also known as down ball, roll.


The big block that sends the  volleyball straight down on the attacker's court.


To advance one position clockwise in the lineup. Rotations begin with the serve and the player moves to the middle back after the subsequent side out.

RIGHT-SIDE HITTER (RS) or OPPOSITE (OPP) - The position on a team who is responsible for shutting down the opponent's best left side hitters. Right-side hitters don't record a lot of kills or receive a lot of glory but they are indispensable to the success of the team. In addition to blocking and hitting, the right-side hitter is also considered the second option for setting purposes when the setter cannot set the ball.


Type of attack shot played with the arm fully extended above the head.


A fault in which a player lifts the ball with open hands.


The scorer is opposite the referee so that he can see his signal regarding point or loss of service and records on the score sheet the names and numbers o the players and substitutes, and obtains the signatures of the captains and coaches who are authorized to make substitutions.

Score sheet

It is a type of sheet which enables scorers to control service orders and substitutions very effectively and the coach can glean mush useful information from it following a match.


An illegal act by the players of the serving team, who position themselves to block the opponents' view of the server.

Seal the Net

Performed by a blocker, who jumps as close to the net as possible so that the ball cannot fit between his or her hands and the net.


The midpoint between two players.

Second Referee

Official who assists the first referee in conducting the match. Also known as umpire.


The initiating hit of each rally. The serving team must put the ball into play from behind the end line. The serve must land in the opponent's court. Also known as service.


The player who puts the ball into play.

Service Area

The 3-meter designated area at the end line in which the server must stand. Also known as serving box.

Service Error

An unsuccessful serve in which the ball does not legally land in the opponent's court or the player commits a foot fault.

Service Line

The lines that extends along the two short sides of the court. Also known as end line.

Service Point: Point can only be captured when your team wins a rally that you started from the serve. 


  1. A high pass, designed to enable a teammate to spike.
  2. A volleyball game, usually played to fifteen points. Normally a match will consist of best 2 out of 3 sets (games) per match. 

Also known as set pass.


The player whose primary responsibility is to get to the ball on the second contact and deliver it to a teammate for the attack. 


Near the net.


A severely misdirected forearm pass.

Shoot Set

It is played fast and low across the court for the smasher to hit. When timed effectively it results in a very fast attack. Also known as parallel set.

Short Set

A set played near to the setter and only a short distance above the net. This also is a very fast method of attacking.

Shuffle Step

A method of moving short distances across the court where the legs do not cross.


A side-out occurs when the receiving team successfully wins the rally against the serving team.  The receiving team then becomes the serving team.


The boundary marking for the side edges of the court.

Simultaneous Contact

Contact made at the same time by two players.

Single Block

Block made by one player.

Six Pack

Occurs when a blocker get hit in the head or face by a spiked ball.


A 6-player offense that uses four hitters and two setters.  The setters are hitters while in the front row and setters while in the back row. Also known as 6-2.

Sky ball Serve: To contact under the ball to create a high vertical path into the opponent's court. 


The more common name for a spiker. He or she is the player whose job it is to complete the attack by hitting the ball across the net on the third touch.

Soft Block

Block used to slow down the ball by relaxing or tilting the hands back.

Soft Shot

A shot made at the net during which the ball is tipped over the block, inside the block, or down the line. Also known as tip or a dink.


To hit the ball forcefully into the opponents' court. Front-row players can spike from anywhere on the court; back-row players must begin their jump from behind the attack line when spiking. Also known as smash, attackhitkill, nail.


The American term for smasher.

Spiking Line: a line on the court, 10 feet from the centre line on each side. Players in the backcourt cannot come up. 


Spin Serve

A serve in which the ball is contacted just below the horizontal midline by the heel of the hand. Wrist snap draws the fingers over the ball to impart spin.


A defensive move made by dripping the body flat on the floor and hitting the ball, with arm outstretched, either off the fist or the back of an open hand.

Strong Side

For the right-handed hitter, the strong side is the left front position.  For the left-handed hitter, it is the right front position on the net.


To block the ball to the floor. Also known as blockroof, wall.


The means by which players may be replaced by other players once the ball is dead. Six substitutions per side are allowed in each set. A substitute may be substituted for in the same set, but, except for injury, only by the player he or she replaced in the first place.

Swing Hitter

A hitter on the side of the court.


To move around the court and assume positions best suited to the individuals' play. This is legal if done after the service.


The top of the net.


To give away one's intentions to the opponents.


Changing the direction of a volleyball by grabbing it and throwing it. Also known as liftheld ball, grab.

Thrown Ball

A judgment decision made by a game official as to whether a ball was contacted cleanly or visibly came to rest at contact. A thrown ball is a foul.

Tight Set

A set no more than 1 foot away from the net.


A pause during a set when the players may rest or confer with a coach. Two time-outs are allowed per team per set. Each lasts a maximum of thirty seconds and may be called only when the ball is dead.


A soft, arcing hit that drops close to the net. Also known as a soft shot.

Topspin Serve

A method of serving that puts a large amount of forward spin on the volleyball causing it to dive suddenly.

Touch Block

Taking some of the momentum off the block so that teammates will have an easier time receiving it and mounting an attack.


The change from defense to offense, or vice versa. 


A player who is both an excellent blocker and digger.


The second official in the game. He or she stands opposite the referee and moves up and down the sideline on his or her side of the court.

Underhand Serve

Serve which is put into play with an underhand striking motion.


United States Volleyball Association; the national governing body for volleyball in the United States.


The basic skill of passing the ball forward or backward using two hands.


Serve reception formation in which the five players, other than the setter, form the pattern of a "W" on the court.


The preparatory exercises each team does before a match.

Weak Side

The right-front position of the net for a right-handed person and the left-front for a left-handed person.

Wide Set

A set to the outside of the court near the side.

Wipe-off Shot

Shot hit intentionally off the blocker's hands to make the ball go out-of-bounds.


Women's Professional Volleyball Association; it was formed in 1986.

Yellow Card

A card the official will pull out to give a warning to a player or coach.  Subsequent yellow cards given to a single player or coach can result in disqualification from the match. 

Up Referee - The main referee. He/she stands up on a stand.

Zones: Designated areas of the court or net primarily to indicate target areas for serving 


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