â€œThe students have the best perspective of the game,â€ coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œI believe watching the game from behind the court is the best place to see whatâ€™s really going on offensively.â€
But how many students know whatâ€™s going on in front of them, outside of chanting â€œC,S,Uâ€ in time with the bump, set, spike? Odds are not nearly as many as those just there for the eye candy.
If they look beyond the spandex, fans will see a varied and complex offense that goes far deeper than just trying to get the ball back over the net.
Pass ball to center of front of net
As soon as the opponents hit the ball, CSU defenders are making reads to get into position to receive it and make the best possible pass.
â€œWe want to pass the first ball to a spot that is close to the center of the court and the net,â€ Hilbert said.
The Rams have what they call â€œprimary passers,â€ who touch the first ball 90 percent of the time. They are Izzy Gaulia, Dana Cranston, Katelyn Steffan, Michelle Smith, and Carlie Foust.
â€œIâ€™m trying to get the ball high in the middle of the court,â€ Gaulia said. â€œAt that point I did my job, the ballâ€™s going to be set and I need to go cover my hitter.â€
Prepare ball for hitter to attack
Redshirt freshman Deedra Foss always makes the second contact in CSUâ€™s offense, and itâ€™s her decision where to set the ball and what tempo to use.
â€œIâ€™m thinking about the blockers on the other side and Iâ€™m thinking about whoâ€™s ready to hit,â€ Foss said. â€œIf someoneâ€™s not calling it theyâ€™re probably not ready. They usually talk to me like go fast or go high.â€
When she receives the set in the middle of the floor in front of the net in the ideal position, Foss has as many as three different options to go with the ball.
â€œShe has to be deceptive, unpredictable, but still make good decisions,â€ Hilbert said. â€œSheâ€™s expected to know who the hot hitters are and where the other teamsâ€™ weaknesses are.â€
Foss compared her position to a quarterback in football because she calls and makes many of the plays.
Kill the ball or use a trouble shot
After Foss sets it, either an outside hitter or middle blocker will attack the ball with the primary responsibility of getting a kill. If they donâ€™t feel comfortable or donâ€™t think they can get a kill, the attackers are instructed to go with â€œtrouble shots.â€
The primary goal of a trouble shot is to put the ball where itâ€™s difficult for the other team to transition it back on offense.
â€œIf we can get a ball back in the corner or tip it or carom it off the block, then those are good things,â€ Hilbert said.
When an attacker is going for the ball in the air, theyâ€™re calling the set they want while looking at the block and attempting to look for an opening.
â€œYou go for the kill if you have a good set and a good in-rhythm approach, especially if the blockâ€™s not well-formed,â€ Hilbert said. â€œIf the blockâ€™s not well-formed we want them taking a big cut at it.â€
_Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _