Four player volleyball serve receive is preferred over the W when you have highly skilled players or the players are larger in size.
Larger players can cover more space reducing the open areas of the court.
Four person serve receives may also be preferred when playing on a Mens
net because the net is higher and serve must travel at a higher arc to
cross the net which gives players more time to react to play the ball.
There are many advantages to the four player serve receive formations...
The following are examples of serve reception patterns for a four player serve receive when running a 5-1. No tactical considerations were made when designing these patterns. Also, these are different patterns of the same rotation. (The setter is coming out of left back in each of these examples.)
Do you understand volleyball rotation order and what players can't overlap?
The following is the rotation order for the 5-1 setter in position 5.
For the U-formation, the volleyball serve receive looks like a U with only needing 4 players to pass. The only players that don't regularly pass in this pattern are the weakest passer and two setters. If the setter that isn't currently setting is a good passer, they can be worked in the pattern to pass.
This alignment is also different from the W in that the setter is closer to the net which helps to get to the target position more quickly.
Here, Left Front is off the net to help out with passing.
Semi-Moon Volleyball Formation
Another Variation of the Semi-Moon Volleyball Formation