High school volleyball didn’t have a steroids era.
It’s a sport that’s not just about mashing the ball down your opponents’ throat. A deft touch can go a long way.
“When the players on the other team gets used to the kill, the kill, the constant kill and you tip it, all the back row players are sitting there waiting for the long ball,” said Sevier County’s Brittany Tarr. “When you tip it, middle’s always open. It just changes up the game a little bit.”
Both the Bearettes and Seymour used some soft tips to their advantage in the Eagles 3-2 win on Tuesday night. Even the Eagles’ Mendy Maxwell wasn’t afraid to bump the ball over in a tight fourth game. Fans may want to see a smash but placement can be a big weapon, too.
“If you see their defense is pulled back, ready for a hard hit, go in like you’re going to hit it really hard and just barely tip it over,” Maxwell said. “That works a lot of the time. You don’t want to hit it every single time to the same spot. You want to switch it up so they’re on their toes.”
Making the call to audible requires some split-second decision making. Maxwell said sometimes she’s changed her mind on a spike moments before.
But defending against a well-placed tap can be tough. Seymour coach Erin Biddle said the elite players may still be able to dig the ball out, but the average player won’t be able to get there in time.
“You’re back on your heels waiting for that hard-hit ball and then all of a sudden you have to switch your momentum and go the other way,” Biddle said. “It’s very hard to get there.”
It’s a play that illustrates the court vision needed to be successful. Biddle said sometimes from her perch on the sideline she can see openings on the floor. She also credits her team with being able to see space during a match.
Sometimes it’s as simple players learning from being blocked on a kill attempt earlier. The next time, they try to lob the block.
“If they’re coming up to block you, you don’t want to hit it really hard into their hands,” said Sevier County’s Olivia Maples. “It’s just going to come right back over to you. If you can get it over the hump, over their hands, usually they don’t have someone to cover.”
Good hitting isn’t always the perfect set and spike that blasts through an opponent. Sometimes hitting around the defense works, too.
“It really keeps the other side on their toes,” Maxwell said. “They don’t know what’s coming.”