It should be every hitter’s goal to master shots to all areas of the court and know how to hit the perimeters. Hitting to the perimeters (sidelines and end lines) creates real problems for defenders, who often come off the sidelines and into the court to play balls. Attackers who hit down into the court risk being blocked (even by small blockers) or hitting the top of the net. All players want to score on the initial swing, but a good attack also means keeping the opposition from running its quick offense. One mistake that hitters often make is thinking that they can always score without having the ball touched by the block; as a result, either they put the ball to the ground and score or they avoid the block but hit the ball out of bounds. I would call such an attacker a terminator because the play will end after he or she hits the ball. Being this kind of terminator is not usually a good thing. In actuality, one of the best strategies for a hitter is to attack the block. At almost all levels, a majority of the blocks put up are bad blocks-late and split, soft, or failing to penetrate the plane of the net. Thus, an aggressive attacker has a great opportunity to score off the edges, at the top, or in the seam of the block. Well-rounded players will use off-speed shots as part of their arsenal in order to keep defenses from setting up only in the perimeter digging bases. Every player should be able to tip or hit roll shots with intention, every attack and arm swing should look similar, and the decision to tip or roll should be made just as the arm comes forward so as not to show the shot too early.
The hitter should still have the advantage even when receiving a trap set-that is, a ball set so close to the net that the block is practically touching the ball before the hitter is. As soon as the hitter recognizes that the set is tight, he or she should take a huge first step toward the net; this move ensures that the hitter can plant and take off straight up, next to the net, and therefore avoid drifting into or under the net. Once in the air, the hitter should press the ball against the blocker and, in a separate move, shove it off the block and out of bounds. Some hitters make the mistake of shoving the ball toward the center of the court or of losing contact with the ball before it touches the block. In order to seize control of the play, it’s important that the hitter maintain contact with the ball until he or she feels the ball against the block. This technique can also be used by the setter anytime he or she is handling a tight pass within 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) of either sideline. Both hitters and setters should practice the wipe-off technique often in order to be comfortable using it during a game. It’s a skill that might be used only once or twice during a match, but this is the kind of point that every team needs in order to win.