The setter is responsible for running her team's offense.
When her team is in service receive, at the beginning of each rally, its her job to tell her hitters what type of set each of them are going to get if
a) she gets a good pass and/or
b) she doesn't get a good pass
How does a setter "call a play."
After a rally is finished, when the receiving team is setting up in their receiving pattern the setter uses hand signals to "communicate to each eligible hitter" which type of set they will be getting after the whistle blows and the opposing team has served the ball.
Most hand signals are not complicated. Each hitter knows that each signal is related to the type of set they are going to get because this is something they train for in volleyball practices.
So if a setter shows her left side hitter the number four, then the left side hitter knows she will be getting high ball to Zone 4.
If the middle blocker is shown a hand signal for the number one, then the middle blocker knows she will be getting a quick or a "one" ball in Zone 3.
If the opposite or right side hitter is given a hand signal for the number five then the right side knows she will be getting a high ball set to Zone 2 after the whistle blows and once her team has passed the ball to the setter.
1. The setter can hide her hand signal behind a players back so the opposing teams blockers can't see what she is calling
2. In noisy gyms its impossible for the setter to talk to her hitters that may be in the back row or on the opposite side of the court. If she uses hand signals then they can run their offensive play without saying a word.
While fast sets are lower to the net, slow sets are higher sets pushed 8 - 10 feet well above the top of the net.
When all the hitters are each given a different set to run at various locations along the net and they run the play together that's called a "combination play."
The "4 - 1 - 5" play is the volleyball 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 that's 1-2 feet in the air right in front of the setter in Zone 3.
In serve receive, before the server serves the setter holds up four fingers to the left side hitter, then one forefinger to her middle hitter then all five fingers they'll hold up to her right side hitter to call the play.
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