Having played alongside some of the world’s best outside hitters like Tine Urnaut, Rok Možič, and Klemen Čebulj, I know firsthand the qualities that elevate them to greatness. Outside hitters showcase their versatility through spiking finesse shots like tips and rolls, being the main threat on the left side. Outside hitters differ from other positions because they pass the serve and play defense. In the following sections, we’ll delve deep into the world of the outside hitter, exploring their key skills, essential strategies, and tips to help you understand this crucial volleyball position in depth.
Quick Overview Of The Outside Hitter
What does the outside hitter do in volleyball?
- Passing: The outside hitter needs to pass the ball accurately to the setter so that the setter can set up a spike.
- Digging: In almost all cases, the outside hitter’s base defense zone in the back row is 6. This means they have to be excellent in anticipation, knowing how to position themselves correctly while being ready to start the approach to the pipe attack.
- Pipe Attack: The pipe attack, or BIC attack, involves setting the ball to a back-row Outside hitter in zone 6.
- Setting: As the game evolves and techniques become more refined, outside hitters are increasingly expanding their skillset to include setting, adding a new dimension to their offensive repertoire.
- Serving: Mastering different serve variations is essential for outside hitters, enabling them to adapt to different game scenarios and exploit their opponent’s weaknesses.
- Front row Attack: Outside hitters primarily attack from Zone 4, which is the left side of the court. However, during one rotation, they switch to attacking from Zone 2.
- Blocking: Zone 4 outside hitters, positioned on the left side of the court, often face the challenging task of blocking the opponent’s opposite hitter, who is typically the best attacker in the team.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at each task outside hitters need to do in volleyball:
Positioning of both outside hitters In each Sideout rotation in a 5-1 System
Outside Hitter #18 Near The Setter
Outside Hitter #12 far from the setter
Passing is often overlooked yet crucial to an outside hitter’s skillset.
If one of the two on the court possesses better passing skills, that one should cover more court space and alleviate pressure from the other outside hitter.
Good passing sets the stage for successful side-out plays, the team’s primary objective. The offense can struggle to gain momentum and score points with a negative reception.
Outside hitters and the libero are the team’s primary passers, playing in all passing areas (zone 1, 6, 5).
Both outside hitters must be ready to transition seamlessly from passing to attacking, ensuring timely approaches for successful attacks, whether in the front row (zone 4 or 2) or back row (pipe attack). Check the rotations!
Defense in Zones 6, 4, and 2
Zone 6 Defense situations
Effective defense in volleyball demands more than simply standing stationary in zone 6. Zone 6 defenders require constant movement, adapting their positioning based on various factors, including the middle blocker’s movement and the opponent’s attack directions.
Adaptive Positioning Based on Blocker Position
When the middle blocker approaches late, zone 6 defenders should stay in 6 to defend the balls spiked between both blockers.
Anticipating Opponent’s Attack Direction
Zone 6 defenders must also anticipate the opponent’s attack direction to ensure optimal coverage. Observing the set, they can predict the likely attack trajectory and position themselves accordingly.
Tactical Direction for Zone 6 Positioning
Teams often make tactical adjustments to guide zone 6 defenders’ positioning. These may involve pre-planned formations, adjustments based on the opponent’s tendencies, or reactive changes during the rally.
Situations in zone 6 defense
Defense on a two-man block
Front Row Defense
While strong, sharp diagonal attacks are challenging to defend against, tips—especially those within the 3-meter zone—should be consistently picked up.
Effective tip defense requires a combination of anticipation, positioning, and quick reflexes.
Front-row players must be vigilant and anticipate the opponent’s tendency to tip, particularly near the 3-meter line. They can position themselves early enough to dig the ball by identifying the tip early.
It also necessitates strong hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes. Players must react promptly to the ball’s trajectory and extend their arms to deflect it.
Defense Situations in zone 4 and 2:
Defense in zone 2 and transition to attack
Defense in Zone 4
When executed with precision and timing, this deceptive, offensive tactic attack by outside hitters can be a great scoring opportunity.
The pipe attack, or BIC, involves setting the ball to a zone 6 back-row attacker positioned directly behind the middle blocker.
Although the pipe attack might appear simple, it actually demands a thorough understanding of the game, precise timing, and careful consideration of the setter position and tempo at which the pipe is executed to be effective.
Due to these demanding requirements, the pipe attack is primarily played on the higher levels of volleyball.
Critical Considerations for Successful Pipe Attacks:
- Positioning and Timing: Pipe attackers need to coordinate with the setter to determine the placement of the pipe attack—whether it’s in front, behind, or directly on the setter. Effective timing is developed through practice.
- Deceptive Movement: The attacker can use deceptive movements to draw the middle blocker away from the center, creating an open target.
- Powerful Spike: A powerful and accurate spike towards the angles is essential to penetrate the defense and increase the chance of scoring a point.
Pipe attack situations
Pipe attack on Excellent Reception
In this situation, France’s middle blocker committed to Poland’s first tempo, creating more space for the Pipe attacker to kill the ball. Even though the opposite hitter from the French team tried to help, they couldn’t block the attack.
In this situation, the Reception was shifted toward zone 4 (left side of the court). The Middle blocker from the Poland national team jumped on the first tempo, and because the Japanese middle blocker followed him, it created free room for the pipe attacker to kill the ball without block.
While the libero usually remains the primary setter in instances where the setter is unavailable, some highly skilled outside hitters have mastered setting while in mid-air, enabling them to initiate a pipe attack on second touch or set the ball to a teammate on the wings.
The ability to set while in the air requires exceptional athleticism, coordination, and situational awareness. Outside hitters must have the timing and precision to adjust their approach and execute a controlled set while maintaining the momentum of their attack.
The situation of an outside hitter setting
This advanced skill is primarily seen at the highest levels of volleyball, where players possess the technical proficiency and game sense to execute such complex actions.
However, setting by outside hitters will likely become more prevalent as the sport progresses, adding to the teams’ strategic possibilities and additional offensive threat.
Outside hitters must also become proficient in various serving techniques, such as jump serves, and float serves.
Jump spin serves are marked by their explosiveness and power, making them riskier; however, they significantly increase the likelihood of the opposing team facing difficulties during reception.
Float serves, in contrast, depend on subtlety and precision. They carry less risk and, if executed with sufficient velocity, can be just as formidable as jump spin serves.
The choice between jump and float depends on the game situation and the team’s tactics. Jump serves are often used when the team can take risks, while float serves are preferred to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm by targeting a specific player, serving the pipe out, serving short on the middle blocker etc.
Some serve Situations
Short jump serve
Front Row Attack
While pipe attacks may offer a slight advantage in efficiency, front-row attacks are fundamental to an effective volleyball offense. The pipe attack is not an option in out-of-system plays, whereas attacks from zone 4—the left side of the court—often present the best opportunity, particularly when the opposite hitter is in the back row.
Furthermore, outside hitters must master various spiking techniques, including line shots, crosscourt spikes, and angled shots.
Their repertoire extends beyond spiking, as they must tip and execute roll shots also. These finesse techniques involve gently placing the ball over or around the blockers to score or recycling the ball to maintain possession and continue the play.
Additionally, outside hitters must time the approach to capitalize on difficult situations, such as when sets arrive out of the system.
1. attack from Zone 4 (left side of the court)
The set in the transition shown above was perfect, and in this case, the outside hitter should have attacked with full power. The position of the blockers was correct, so spiking the sharp diagonal was his best option, and because of that, the point was scored.
2. attack from Zone 2 (Right side of the court) Situations
In this situation, Alexander Sliwka from the white team received the ball on 3m, and the situation for the attack was not perfect. In this case, using tip or roll over the block makes the most sense; otherwise, there would be a big possibility of getting blocked by the opponent
Effective blocking requires a combination of timing, positioning, and athleticism, enabling outside hitters to intercept and deflect opponents’ spikes, protecting their team’s court.
Zone 4 outside hitters, positioned on the left side of the court, mostly face the challenge of blocking the opponent’s opposite hitter, who is typically the best attacker.
Blocking the Opposite hitter in zone 4:
Outside hitters need to predict the path of the opponent’s set and position themselves for a block that minimizes the space available for the attacker to score. This proactive adjustment is crucial for an effective defense.
Outside hitters should be ready to smoothly shift from a defensive stance to an offensive one when they execute a passive block or when defenders successfully dig the ball. This quick transition is key to getting into an ideal situation for the approach.
Outside hitters may signal teammates to initiate a Three-block involving other players from the front row to enhance the team’s defensive coverage.
Connecting to a three-man block in zone 2:
How to read the statistics for The Outside Hitter?
- K: Kills – Successful attacks that directly result in a point for your team.
- E: Errors – Attacks that do not result in a point for your team (e.g., hitting out, blocked).
- TA: Total Attempts – The sum of kills and errors (all attack attempts regardless of outcome).
- Hitting %: (K – E) / TA * 100 – A measure of offensive efficiency, higher is better.
- R: Receptions – Attempts to control and pass the opponent’s serve.
- ER: Reception Errors – Passes that lead to an opponent’s point (e.g., failing to pass, passing out of bounds).
- PR: Positive Receptions – Passes that set up teammates for an attack.
- ER: Excellent Receptions – Perfect passes that set up teammates for a high-quality attack.
- S: Serves – Total number of serves attempted.
- SE: Service Errors – Serves that go out of bounds or result in an opponent’s point.
- A: Aces – Serves that the opponent cannot handle, leading directly to a point for your team.
- B: Blocks – Attempts to deflect the opponent’s attack at the net.
- TB: Team Blocks – Blocks involving two or more players.
- ST: Stuff Blocks – Blocks that directly result in a point for your team.
- The sum of points earned from all categories (kills, aces, blocks, serve points).
Crucial Communication Among Players
For outside hitters, communication with the libero and other passers is essential for maximizing the quality of passes.
Clear and ongoing communication between outside hitters and setters is essential for accurate set delivery. They must vocalize their preferences, whether they require a fast set, a high ball, a medium one, and so on, to ensure the setter can adjust the set accordingly.
In future blog posts, we’ll provide in-depth guidance and tips to help aspiring outside hitters elevate their game and become true game-changers. From mastering the art of passing and setting to executing pinpoint spikes and defensive dives, I will help you to excel in every aspect of the position.
Which volleyball skills required for outside hitters is the most challenging to master? Share your thoughts and insights below, and let’s delve into the intricacies of becoming a formidable outside hitter together.
What is an outside hitter in volleyball?
The outside hitter, or left-side spiker, is a position in volleyball, renowned for its versatility. They are expected to be adept in every skill required for the game, making them the team’s most versatile and skilled position.
What are the skills required of an outside hitter?
They are required to have great skills in both attacking and passing. They need a strategic grasp of the game, the ability to anticipate the opponent’s moves, and excel in blocking and defense. Effective communication is key for synchronizing with the setter and executing coordinated plays.
Who is the best outside hitter?
Among the world’s elite outside hitters, Wilfredo Leon, Osmany Juantorena, Matey Kaziyski, Earvin N’Gapeth, and Yoandy Leal stand out. They are celebrated for their remarkable abilities and contributions to volleyball, with Leon often highlighted as one of the sport’s all-time greats. These athletes have excelled in international competitions and professional leagues, showcasing their skills and influencing the game globally.