Offensive Volleyball Tactics: Strategies and Plays That Setters Run 

Offensive volleyball tactics, volleyball plays and volleyball offenses that setters run. From easy to complex, learn the strategies setters use to run the team. 

A setter can "run a play" with a series of slow or fast sets. 

While fast sets are lower to the net, slow sets are higher sets pushed 8 - 10 feet well above the top of the net.

Fast sets are used to beat the blocker with speed. A setter sets quicker paced balls that are harder for the middle blocker to track, chase or get in front of the hitter to block against. 

Slower sets are often used to beat the block with powerful hitters with great vertical jumping ability.

Setters with high jumping outside hitters and/or powerful strong hitters may choose to slow down their sets and rely on their hitters ability to jump and reach higher than the block, aim for the seam of the block and power through the block to score a point with their spike. 

Each player on offense will get a hand signal as to the type of set they will get.

When all the hitters run the play together that's called a "combination play." 

Easy Volleyball Offensive Plays: The Four Set, The One Set, The Five Set

The "4 - 1 - 5" play is the play most commonly run by setters and is the easiest offensive play to learn.

This a high ball set to each of the front row hitters, except the middle blocker. 

The only person who gets a quicker lower set in this offensive combination play is the middle blocker, who on a good pass, will approach the setter with a three-step spike approach and attempt to a hit a quick and low set called a "one" that's 1-2 feet in the air right in front of the setter in Zone 3. 

The "Four" is a very high ball delivered to the player in Zone 4.

This is the type of set that setters use the most . With an imperfect pass, they can still get to the ball and deliver it to Zone 4 easier than they can to the middle (Zone 3) or right side (Zone 2) position. 

After the pass, the setter gets to the ball, then squares her hips to face Zone Four.

With her body under the ball and hands outstretched above her forehead the setter pushes the ball high to the ceiling towards Zone Four so once the ball peaks 8 - 10 feet in the air, it comes down just inside the antenna closest to the first referee and 1-2 feet off the net.  

The "Five" is a high ball set delivered to Zone 2. 

The setter contacts the ball with all ten fingers above her forehead, but then she pushes it behind her, high towards the ceiling so that it drops just inside the antenna closest to the second referee, inside the court and a foot off the net. 

Volleyball Plays and Positions For Front Row Hitters

Offensive Volleyball Tactics
Fast Sets To The Outside Hitter

The most common offensive plays set to the left side:

  • The "Hut" - a medium high/medium speed rainbow shaped set that falls inside the left antenna after peaking 5-6 feet above the net
  • The "Go" - a fast speed/low set with little-to-no-arc that that travels almost parallel to the net before it falls inside the left antenna after peaking 3-5 feet above the net. The set is also called a "front shoot" set.

Offensive Volleyball Tactics
Quick Sets To The Middle Blocker

The most common offensive plays set to the middle:


  • The "A" set is a high speed set 1-2 feet high that falls just behind the setter's back. This set is also called a "back one."
  • The "slide" set is a flat high speed back set that falls just 4 - 5 feet away from the setter between Zone 3 and Zone 2 after peaking 1-3 feet as it travels across the top of the net. 

It's called the slide because the middle hitter takes a four-step one-footed takeoff spike approach and glides/slides to the ball before hitting it at the peak of her jump and at the highest point of the set. 


  • The "31" set also called a "3" set is a high speed set that falls just 4 - 5 feet away from the setter between Zone 3 and Zone 4 after peaking one foot above the top of the net. This set is based on a location along the net and not where the setter is so its often delivered to the same spot on the court. 

Offensive Volleyball Tactics Fast Sets To The Opposite/Right Side Hitter

  • The "red" set is a medium high speed back set that falls just 3 - 4 feet away from the setter to Zone 2 after peaking 1 - 3 feet above the top of the net and falling just inside the antenna closest to the second referee in Zone 2.  The "Red" set is also known as a "back shoot" set. 

Read more about volleyball tactics on these pages.

  • Improve Your Volleyball
  •  ›
  • Two Smart Volleyball Tactics and Strategies To Improve Your Game
  •  ›
  • Offensive Volleyball Tactics: Strategies and Plays That Setters Run
  •  ›

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