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Volleyball/Attacking a served ball: Legal? Illegal?


In a recent game one of my front row players returned a serve, which was below the top of the net, with a one hand overhand hit. The referee called an illegal hit and award the point to the serving team. Was that the correct call? We follow High School rules in this league. Thanks.

Good evening Jim!
It's great to hear from you and welcome to

You say you're using high school rules; but, unfortunately, they vary from state to state.  Last I heard, New York uses the NCAA rule book.  I live in Va, and we use the National Federation rule book.  My answer to your question below will be what the NF rule book would say.  (For you club players/coaches/parents, the USAV rule book ruling is the same.)  

What you described above is LEGAL.  Here's more detailed info.  
* It is illegal when a served ball is completely above the height of the net when contacted by the receiving team, is then sent back by the receiving team to the serving team, and the ball crosses completely into the serving team's court.  The contact made by the receiving team could be a hit/spike, tip, poke, tomahawk, etc.  Doesn't matter.  
* It is also illegal when a served ball is completely above the height of the net, is then sent back by the receiving team to the serving team, and is blocked by the serving team as the ball is crossing the net.   Again, the type of contact made by the receiving team doesn't matter.   
* It is LEGAL to return a serve the the serving team on the 1st contact when the ball is not completely above the height of the net when hit by the receiving team.  This is why it's not even noticed when a serve receiver accidentally forearm passing a ball that zips over the net. No one says, "He can't do that!"; thus, what you did in your game should have been equally legal, equally ignored by the official.  
* It is also LEGAL when a served ball is completely above the height of the net, is then contacted by the serving team, but a 2nd and/or 3rd player on the receiving team contacts the ball.  No worries. Maybe no one even notices.

* Something I thought I'd mention:  It is also illegal to block a served ball.  [In most rule books, the definition of a block is "an obvious attempt to stop the forward motion of a ball AND the blocker's hands must be above the height of the net AND the ball must be contacted.]  Any touch of the ball in an attempt to block is a violation. If the ball is missed by the blocker, no violation has occurred.  

If I haven't been clear, please contact me again anytime.
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I hope it's been a great weekend and you have a great week!
Tom Houser


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Tom Houser


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