Defensive Positions Volleyball

Defensive positions volleyball players practice for competitive volleyball. 

Each player at each position on the volleyball team will need to learn how to play defense. There are 3 defensive positions on the back row and 3 defensive positions on the front row.

Players on the Back Row

For the players playing across the back row, each player will need to learn certain skills for playing defense in their positions.

The goal of defense is to keep the ball in play. The defensive player plays the ball in such a way to allow the setter to get to the ball and set the ball to an attacker. 

Each Player on the back row will need to learn the skills for playing defense at their position. 

The defensive position will vary from team to team because not all teams play the same defensive system. 

For example, for perimeter defense, the back row players stay near the boundary lines.

The wing player on the right will be near the right side line. The wing player on the left will be near the left side line. The baseline player will be near the baseline. For perimeter defense, it's the responsibility of the wing players to cover the middle of the court. The idea with perimeter defense is to have the goal be to keep the ball in front of the players. Everything is happening in front of them so it's easier to move forward to get to the ball. 

A variation of perimeter defense is to have the baseline player rotate to cover the spike down the line. This is called rotational defense because the baseline player rotates to get in position to dig the hit down the line. Perimeter can be challenging especially if a team has trouble covering tips to the middle of the court. 

Another style of defense is called man-up defense. For this defense, the team has a player that stands in the middle of the court near the 3 meter line. This player will cover tips over the block. With this player covering the area near the net, the other two back row players will have more court to cover in the backcourt. This defensive system works well for teams that have trouble reading the hitter and covering tips. 

Setter on the Back Row - Defensive Positions Volleyball

The setter on the back row plays the right wing defensive position. The setter needs to be ready for the hard hit down the line by the opponent's strong side attacker. The setter also needs to be ready to cover a tip to the middle of the court. If the team is using a man-up defense, the setter is likely the player that plays the man-up position.

This player patrols the 3 meter line anticipating a tip over the block. From this position, the setter needs to be ready for teammates to make a defensive play and then get to the ball to make the set. If the setter takes the first hit, the setter needs to have a plan for where to pass the ball. There are two options for this situation.

The setter may pass the ball to right side player. The right side player would be the setter in this situation. The other option would be for the setter to pass the ball to the libero. The libero would then set an attacker.

Outside Hitter on the Back Row

If the outside hitter stays in the match to play across the back row, the outside hitter will likely play defense at the endline or on the left wing. There are situations where the outside hitter would be the right wing defender. This could be when the setter is on the front row and the team is running a 5-1 offense. If the outside hitter is also a primary back row attacker, this could also influence where on the back row the players plays defense.

Middle Hitter on the Back Row

If the middle hitter stays in the match and plays across the back row, the middle hitter will usually play defense at the baseline. What you will usually see is the middle hitter serve then come on the court and play defense at the baseline. Often the middle will be replaced by the libero.

Libero - Defensive Positions Volleyball

The libero is the specialized player that comes into the match to help out with serve receive and defense. Most teams have the libero positioned as the left wing player for defense. The libero will often help out with setting when the setter takes the first ball. Having a skilled libero can really help out a team because the libero can replace any player in the back row. For example, if a back row player is struggling to pass or play defense, the libero can replace the back row player during a dead ball.  

Defense on the Front Row

Front row players are mainly responsible for blocking during defensive situations. The first part is preparing to block, but then the front row player needs to also get off the net to help out with defense. Tips and sharp cut shots by the left and right side attackers are often defended by front row left and right side players. 

Knowing when to stay at the net to block or deciding to drop to play defense are important defensive skills for front row players.

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Defensive Volleyball Positions