I’ve complied a list of all the basic/need-to-know attacks in volleyball based on position. I’ve also included the commonly used hand signals for each attack, so you can jump on the court after reading this and not miss a beat. If you know these attacks, you’re all set to play at any level.
Common Sets For Outside Hitters
14 • “4-Ball”
A 14 (commonly called a “4-ball”), is likely to be the first attack you ever learn. It’s a high ball to the strong-side antenna. It’s the “4” in the standard 4-1-3 attack.
12 • “Slow Shoot” • “Go”
A 12 (commonly called a “Slow Shoot” or “Go”), is another standard set. It’s a faster, low-arc ball to the strong-side antenna. If you aren’t running a 4 ball, you’ll be running a Slow Shoot as the standard OH set.
11 • “Fast Shoot” • “Fast”
An 11 (commonly called a “Fast Shoot” or “Fast”), is a rarely used set. It’s basically a bullet set (very fast, no arc) to the OH at the antenna. As an OH hitting the 11, you should already be in the air when the ball leaves the setter’s hands.
A 32 is a fun change of pace attack when a good opportunity presents itself. It’s a set that pairs well with: MB • 71 + OPP • 93. If you can bring the opponent’s Middle to the weak side, you can get a nice isolated matchup between your OH and their OPP. The 32 gives the OH a lot of space to go either Line or Angle, depending on how the OPP reacts to the attack.
Common Sets For Middle Blockers
52 • “2-Ball”
A 52 (commonly called a “2-Ball”), is the first attack most Middles learn. It’s a lower set ball in the middle of the court.
51 • “1-Ball”
A 51 (commonly called a “1-Ball”), is the most common set out of the middle. It’s fast tempo set and is the “1” in the standard 4-1-3 attack.
31 • “Gap”
A 31 (commonly called a “Gap”), is a fast tempo set to the 3 section of the net. It’s mainly used to draw the opponent’s middle blocker to the strong side of the net, in order to give an isolated matchup to the OPP, Setter, or BIC. More about the 31 here.
71 • “Back 1”
An 71 (commonly called a “Back 1”), is a fast tempo set right above and behind the setter’s head, which is typically in the 7 section of the net.
92 • “Slide”
A 92 (commonly called a “Slide”), is a set used in a Cross/X (see below), or when the setter is front row in a 5-1 Offensive System. It has different footwork than the standard 4 Step Approach.
Common Sets For Opposite Hitters
93 • “Back 3”
A 93 (commonly called a “Back 3”), is likely to be the first attack you’ll ever learn as an opposite. It’s a slower/higher set to the weak-side antenna. It’s the “3” in the standard 4-1-3 attack.
71 • “Back 1”
(I covered this set in the section above: “For Middles”)
52 • “2-Ball”
(I also covered this set in the section above: “For Middles”)
Common Backrow Attacks
Backrow attacks are typically 2/3 tempo sets and are set in front of the 10ft line. This lets the backrow attacker takeoff from behind the line and land in front of it.
A • “A-Ball”
An A ball is a strong side backrow attack, nearer to the sideline.
B • “B-Ball”
An B ball is a strong side backrow attack.
A Pipe is a backrow attack from the center of the court.
C • “C-Ball”
A C ball is a weak side backrow attack. A BIC is a Pipe ball stacked with a middle 1 tempo.
D • “D-Ball”
A D ball is a weak side backrow attack, nearer to the sideline.
AB and CD are just less specific ways of calling a backrow attack in a general area: “In between A-B,” = AB.