Junior libero Izzy Gaulia does not wear a green jersey at CSU volleyball home matches because she is the team captain. She wears it to signify that she is the teamâ€™s libero, or defensive specialist.
â€œThatâ€™s funny that people say that,â€ coach Tom Hilbert said. â€œShe is the captain of the defense, but that doesnâ€™t make her the team captain.â€
The NCAA added the libero position in 2002 after the FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), volleyballâ€™s international governing body, introduced it in 1999.
â€œWhen they put it in, the idea was to create more serving-point scoring, but in fact, it did the opposite. It created better siding out,â€ Hilbert said. â€œBecause what you find is that the liberoâ€™s most important role is receiving serves.â€
Liberos can substituted in and out of the game as many times as necessary and do not count against the total number of allowed substitutions during the game. In NCAA volleyball, teams are allowed 12 substitutions per set.
â€œLibero means â€˜freedomâ€™ in Italian,â€ Hilbert said. â€œSo the idea was to have someone whoâ€™s free from the substitution rules.â€
As the defensive specialists, however, they are not allowed to attack balls above the net or block â€“â€“ and thus are restricted to the back row.
The NCAA allows liberos to serve during the game, but they canâ€™t do so in international competition.
In addition to being a good serve-receivers, good liberos need to be able to pass and defend very well, along with having what Gaulia calls a â€œbig personality on the court.â€
â€œThe libero touches at least one ball every rally, so they have to be aggressive, talking, have to be able to take control of a rally,â€ she said.
Due to the fact that liberos cannot attack a ball above the net, their view of the game is very different from any other positionâ€™s view.
â€œAs an outside hitter, youâ€™re going to be dominant. You know youâ€™re going to go up, hit the ball, and try to get kills,â€ sophomore libero Michelle Smith said. â€œWhereas defensively itâ€™s a lot of reaction. Youâ€™re reacting to what youâ€™re seeing in front of you coming off the blocks.â€
Hilbert uses his teamâ€™s block to funnel as many balls as possible to the libero in order to stabilize the back courtâ€™s efforts.
â€œWe play ours in the left back (spot) most of the time, but youâ€™ll see teams who move them around depending on where youâ€™re attacking the ball,â€ Hilbert said.
One of the most important â€“â€“ yet underrated â€“â€“ skills for a libero is having the patience to be the first person to typically contact the ball off of a serve or attack.
â€œYou need patience because youâ€™re trying to pick up a bunch of different shots coming off the block,â€ Smith said.
Gaulia and the rest of CSUâ€™s liberos will make their presence felt every time the diving girl in the green jersey robs an outside hitter of a kill.
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._