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Defensive Lessons From The NCAA Tournament: Part 2

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This post is Part 2 of a multiple-part series on defense. If you haven’t already done so, check out Part One of Defensive Lessons From The NCAA Tournament.

In the first post of this series, we talked about the different types of moves that defenders are asked to make, and how often they occur. In this article, we’ll dive into the most common type of dig, what we referred to as a “2 Arms and 2 Feet” dig.

“Get Hit At.”

Young players learn to make these types of defensive moves on their first day playing volleyball, because they happen so often, and the basic concept can be grasped by a younger player. If you stand in the right spot, a lot of balls will get hit right at you!

Of course, the balls in the Final Four move a lot faster than at U-12, so these teams spend hours working on their eyework and ability to read the game. They have extensive scouting reports and do everything they can to put players in a position where they can, “get hit by the ball,” and have a chance to make a dig. It’s probably not surprising that players successfully make digs a high percentage of the time when it gets hit at them.

Play Extended

It would be nice if every ball got hit right at us, but we know volleyball isn’t that easy. The most common situation a defender sees is a ball hit not quite right at her. We love seeing players stay on 2 feet and play with 2 arms, and getting extended while they do so. This could mean a line digger extending off the line to dig a ball in the seam, a middle back defender extending to her left or right to cut off an angle, or a crosscourt defender extending to dig a ball hit deep to the corner.

Here are a few examples:

These moves are critical for high-level defenders! Notice these players go “hands first,” rather than trying to slide their body in front of the ball. On these types of plays, the defender doesn’t have time to get in front of the ball and block with her body. She needs to extend her platform to the ball and push with her legs to the point of contact.

Run Through

In addition to hard-driven balls, defenders need to track down tips and soft shots. When you play savvy hitters, they will disguise their off-speed shots, and often these balls will require a Sprawl or Dive to pick up. But we love when defenders can read the play well enough to stay on their feet and Run Through to make the dig.

Since this move is usually done to pick up a tip, it’s usually performed by a line defender or off-blocker.

Look for these moves when watching your team play this week. Study how often these moves are demanded of your players and how well they make them. I bet there’s opportunities to improve!

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