Volleyball Offensive Plays: Set Combinations Setters Use in Offense

Learn the offensive volleyball plays and strategies the setters call so her hitters know what to hit, when and how. 

Volleyball Offensive Plays: Set Combinations Setters Use in OffenseVolleyball Offensive Plays: Set Combinations Setters Use in Offense


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




When a setter tells her eligible hitters what set each of them will hit, its called "running a play". 

The "play" or "offense" she runs consists of different types of sets.

The "play" or "offense" she runs consists of different types of sets.

Some sets are higher, some lower some faster, some slower, most are front court sets but she also has a combination of back court sets she gives to her back row hitters.  


Volleyball Offensive Plays 
Plays Hand Signals


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. 

Hand signals are used to call volleyball plays because...

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. 


Volleyball Offensive Plays: Strategies and Volleyball Plays Setters Run 


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 used to beat the block with power and vertical jumping ability.

Setters with high jumping outside hitters and/or powerful strong hitters may 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 that's 1-2 feet in the air right in front of the setter in Zone 3. 


The The "4 - 1 - 5" play is one of the most common volleyball offensive plays run by setters and is the easiest offensive play to learn. (Tennessee Journalist)


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 Offensive Plays and Positions For Front Row Hitters


Volleyball Plays To Zone 4:

Fast Sets To The Outside Hitter


The most common volleyball offensive plays set to the left side:

  • The "Hut" - a medium high/medium speed rainbow shaped set that fails 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 falls inside the left antenna after peaking 3-5 feet above the net




Volleyball Offensive Plays To Zone 3:

Quick Sets To The Middle Blocker


  • The "A" set is a high speed set 1-2 feet high that falls just behind the setter's back
  • The "31" 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
  • 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 above the top of the net. 

Its called the slide because the middle hitter takes a one footed takeoff spike approach and glides/slides to the ball before hitting it at the peak of her jump. 


Volleyball Plays To Zone 2:

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.  

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
  •  ›
  • Offensive Plays: Set Combinations Setters Use in Offense
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