Generally, tall players with the ability to jump high are utilized
as attackers/blockers, where they attempt to block or spike opponents'
initial hits and return the ball at high speed on steep trajectories
so that the ball lands before the other team has time to react.
Setters have the onerous task for orchestrating the offense of
the team. They aim for second touch and their main responsibility
is to place the ball in the air where the attackers can hit the
ball into the opponents' court. They have to be able to operate
with the hitters with variety and break up the enemy's block. Setters
need to have swift and skilful appraisal and tactical accuracy.
Liberos are defensive specialists, who are responsible for receiving
the attack or serve (the dig) and are usually the players on the
court with the quickest reaction time and best passing skills.
Liberos do not necessarily need to be tall, as they never play
at the net, allowing shorter players with strong passing skills
Middle blockers are players that can perform very fast spikes
that usually take place near the setter. They are specialized in
blocking, since they must attempt to stop equally fast plays from
their opponents and then quickly set up a double block at the sides
of the court.
Outside hitters, also known as power hitters, attack from near
the antennas. Since most sets to the outside are high, the outside
hitter may take a longer approach, sometimes even starting from
outside the court sideline. An outside hitter generally relies
on a powerful swing to score, but some offensive plays may call
for an angled approach and/or quick spikes to confound the defense.
Outside hitters must also master passing, since they generally
help the libero in receiving the opponent's serve.
A strong-side hitter is an outside hitter that specializes in
attacking from the front-left position. This hitting position is
advantageous for a right-handed hitter, because the set will come
from the right, and can therefore be delivered efficiently to the
hitting arm. Conversely, the attacker in the front-right position
is the weak-side hitter. Since the set is coming from his left,
a right-handed hitter in the weak-side position will have to swing
across his body to attack.
The 6-2 and 5-1 are commonly used formations in competitive volleyball.
In the 6-2 formation, a player always comes forward from the back
row to set. The three front row players are all in attacking
positions. A 6-2 lineup must therefore have two setters, who
line up opposite to each other in the rotation. In addition to
the setters, a typical lineup will have two middle hitters and
two outside hitters. By aligning like positions opposite themselves
in the rotation, there will always be one of each position in
the front and back rows. After service, the players in the front
row move into their assigned positions.
The 5-1 formation has only one setter, who assumes setting responsibilities
regardless of his position in the rotation. The team will therefore
have three front-row attackers when the setter is in the back
row, and only two when the setter is in the front row.
The player opposite the setter in a 5-1 rotation is called the
opposite hitter. In general, opposite hitters do not pass; they
stand behind their teammates when the opponent is serving. The
opposite hitter may be used as a third attack option (backrow attack)
when the setter is in the front row.