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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Understanding the Beacons: Volleyball explained by the players

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Josh Kotler
UMass Boston’s Taryn Broughal (#19) spiking in the game against URI, on Oct. 4, 2022. Photo by Josh Kotler / Mass Media Staff
On the court, six girls patted each other’s backs and double high-fived while rotating to their positions. The scoreboard read 15–9, and they had already won two sets. In the stands, players from the basketball team, family members and students clapped and encouraged them.
The players chanted, “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine, you blow my mind!”
It was 8:15 p.m on Oct. 4, which was a rainy day with heavy winds. The weather didn’t stop UMass Boston’s women’s volleyball team from appearing at the Clark Athletic Center and winning their first Little East Conference match of the season.
Due to their increasing popularity, the Beacons volleyball team was willing to answer questions and explain how the game works.
The game of volleyball is played by two teams, each with six players. They are positioned in two rows of three players. In the front row, there are hitters—one on the right, another in the middle and a third hitter on the left. Then, in the back row, there are two setters at the extremes, and a libero in the middle; the latter wears a different colored jersey.
Their goal is to win three matches out of five against the opposing team. To do this, they must score 25 points and win by at least two points, or else the game goes on. For example, a game can be won by scores of 23–25, 24–26 or 27–29.
If they need to play the fifth match, they only need 15 points to win. Players score a point by hitting the ball over the net and onto the opponent’s court. The court has an area of 59-by-29.5 feet, while the net is seven feet and four inches tall. If the ball hits the limit lines, that also counts as a point. However, if it goes beyond the limits, it counts as a point for the opposing team.
In volleyball, each team is only allowed three touches to get the ball to cross over the net. The first touch is meant to control the upcoming ball and is known as the pass. The second sets the ball, and the last is the attack into the opponent’s court.
“It’s literally hot potato! Or like don’t let the balloon touch the ground, but with strategy and only three touches,” the team explained altogether excitedly.
The pass is usually done by a player in the back row. Although the libero has the special job of saving attacking hits, they are not allowed to make any attacking hits. As a result, they focus on mastering their defensive skills and can be seen making crucial saves that fall close to the ground.
The libero can switch with any other player in the back row, without being counted as a substitution. For this reason, referees need to clearly identify them, so they are asked to wear a contrasting-colored jersey from their teammates.
Briana Henderson, a libero who wears number 10, explains that “a lot of our focus is communication within the back row. We have seams and defensive systems that, if we are not communicating, can become difficult to execute, and we can start to run into each other.”
“We use phrases like ‘I have your short’ or ‘I have your deep’. If you say ‘mine’ that lets somebody else know to back off,” Henderson said, specifying that they communicate where they are within the court.
Reflecting on the fact that the role of libero does not allow her to attack, she says that the team trusts “that our front can get the point when we prevent the other side from getting a point.”
Players that bring plays together are called setters. They have the chance to hit a saved pass and transform it into a winning shot.
Melina Sullivan, a junior who wears number 13, explains that “as setters, we focus on running and calling our plays. It’s like a quarterback in football; we tell our offense where we want to run and where we want them to hit from.”
Setters are the crafters of points. They need to be aware of where the pass is coming from and observe what front row player has the best chance at making a point.
Sullivan added that, “it is really important to keep a keen eye on the other side of the net where the blockers are stacked. Running smart plays that help our offense be successful and get the other side out of system is important.”
First-year player and number 22, Amelia Devin, highlighted the importance of being centered, in order to not get thrown off balance. She explained how she tries to focus on staying out of her head. “When you are a setter, you touch the ball at every play, so you can’t take a play off to get out of it. If I screw up, I’m thinking ‘next ball whatever.’ When you’re in your head is when you start touching the ball twice and playing bad.”
Devin built on this and noted that “having court awareness and a big emphasis on footwork is important. If a ball is shacked off to the left, you have to know how to get there quick and still square your body to where you need to be to get the set out.”
Ally Dean, a libero who wears number eight, added that for all players: “being light on your feet and ready to dive is important. Trusting your teammates will be covering their lanes, and that you must take care of your own.”
The idea of trust among the players is central to the game.
Ruby Ackerman, a freshman setter who wears number 21, shared that, “trusting your back row and your libero is super important.”
Hitters are the last point of contact from each team’s play. During the game against Rhode Island, hitter Dylan Wertzberger showcased her grit, along with a lot of power, scoring seven kills. “Kill” is used as the terminology for a hit that scores a point for the attacking team. She explained, in her position, that “the main objectives are hitting and blocking.”
Meanwhile, middle hitter and team captain Taryn Broughal, described that “a middle’s job is to block everything, or as much as possible. Also, always being ready at the net, you never know when you are going to get a ball shot to you and you can always make a really good play if you are up and ready to swing.”
The role of middle hitter can get a lot of attention. They are in the spotlight, scoring points for the team or making a barrier beneath the net. Broughal went on to encourage fans to give their shoutouts to defensive specialists and setters, due to their efforts of keeping the ball in play.
Side hitter, Colbie Atlas, built on this and explained that the front row roles are interdependent on the back row for information. Atlas said, “I trust my teammates to give me spots for where I need to hit and to give me a general idea of where to put the ball when I’m swinging.”
Right-side hitter, Livia Trindade, pointed out, “it’s essential to actually swing every ball that gets to you.”
The game of volleyball requires players to depend on one another. They focus on performing their role in order to take part in the rapid interchanges that enable them to score points. Therefore, trusting that each player is performing their role up to standards is essential to the team’s dynamic. They focus on observing the ball as it goes toward them and intercepting it to gain control. Then they maneuver the ball to block the opponent’s access.
The Beacons show unity and focus alongside a promising dynamic for the upcoming season. The Beacons shared that their goal now is to “try to make the season go as far as possible; once we win LEC’s, then the goal is to win NCAA’s. Yet, we like to take it one day at a time. We are focusing on winning conference games so far.”
When asked what they thought being a Beacon is all about and what values the mascot carries, they said excitedly, “leave it better than you found it,” and “be the light.”

Rules source https://www.theartofcoachingvolleyball.com/basic-volleyball-rules-and-terminology/

Quotes:

  • “Players that bring plays together are setters. They have the chance to hit a saved pass and transform it into a winning shot.”

  • [athlete quote, #22 Amelia Devin] “[I] always focus on staying out of my head. When you are a setter you touch the ball at every play, so you can’t take a play off to get out of your head. If I screw up, I’m thinking ‘next ball whatever’.

  • they said excitedly altogether “Leave it better than you found it” and “Be the light”.

About the Contributors
Valentina Valderrama Perez, Features Writer
Josh Kotler, Photographer