A Guide to College Volleyball

With the successful 2021 season of the Loyola women’s volleyball team behind us and the men’s volleyball season just warming up, the Phoenix explains everything you need to know about college volleyball.

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The Loyola women’s volleyball team finished the 2021 regular season first in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) after 14-4 in conference play and 22-10 overall. This was the team’s first time earning the regular-season MVC title since entering the conference in 2013 and the first time since 2002.

Despite the regular season win, Loyola fell 3-2 to local rival Illinois State University in the MVC Championship game on November 27. The loss prevented the Ramblers from earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, as the winner of each conference. championship game gets an automatic bid.

The men’s volleyball team also suffered a loss in the 2021 conference championship after falling to Lewis University on April 24 in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) championship.

The Ramblers will return to action for the 2022 season with a 2-2 record after dropping both games to the No. 1 University of Hawaii on January 5 and 7 and Saint Francis University on January 14 and the New Jersey Institute of Technology on January 15th.

Although Loyola will move to the Atlantic-10 (A-10) Conference in the 2022-2023 season, the men’s volleyball team will continue the MIVA competition as Loyola’s new conference will not host men’s volleyball. Meanwhile, women’s volleyball will start in the autumn with the A-10 competition.

How does the championship work?

The 64 teams of the NCAA Tournament are chosen through a selection process. Only 32 of those teams will receive automatic qualification to participate, while the other 32 teams will be widely selected by the Division I Volleyball Committee.

The general basis is when Division I teams that have not won their conference tournament qualify to compete for having impressed the selection committee. Teams can be selected based on notable players, skills, and chemistry.

The winners of the first and second rounds advance to the regional finals and play against each other in a series of single-elimination games. The last two remaining teams play in the NCAA Championship.

game time

A volleyball game is structured in sets, where it takes three set wins to win. A set is normally played to 25 points, but a game must be won by at least two points. This means that if the score is 24-25 at the end of the set, the set must continue until there is at least a two point difference in scores.

If both teams have won two sets each at the end of the fourth set, a final fifth set is played to determine the winner of the game. The fifth set is only played to 15 points, but requires the same margin of two points to complete the set.

The first serve is determined by a coin toss. When serving the ball, the server must stand behind the service line, which is also the outside line, but may move to another place after contact is made with the ball. After the service, each team may touch the ball three times when the ball goes to their side of the net.

During a game, players must not touch the net at any time during the game, and this will result in a foul. When a player commits a foul, a point is awarded to the opposing team and the opposing team may serve.

Other common offenses include double touch and illegal contact. A double touch occurs when a player touches the ball twice and an illegal contact is a prolonged touching, catching or lifting.

Each team also gets two timeouts in each set, each lasting 30 seconds.


There are 12 players, including substitutes, on a volleyball team, but only six can be on the field at a time – generally but not always: the setter, two outside batters, a right/opposing batter, a center blocker, and a libero.

The setter is responsible for placing the ball so that teammates can easily knock the ball over the net onto the opponent’s floor, usually the second contact. The outer batter is placed on the left side of the field and their job is to block the ball and hit it over the net to score points.

The Opposite Batter – who is often a left-handed player on the team and is tasked with blocking and hitting on the right side of the net. Middle blockers, generally the longest, are in the middle of the net and are the largest blockers and strongest hitters.

Liberos – who wear a jersey of a different color – are the most defensive player on the field, tasked with receiving hard serves and strong hits. The libero may only play in the back row and can replace any player on the field, coming in and out of play as needed.

The Defensive or Serving Specialist is the player responsible for working with the Libero and generally takes a seat for a weaker defensive teammate or to serve.

Essential Statistics

Volleyball players are tracked by a wide variety of stats, the main ones being digs, blocks, kills, aces, and assists.

A dig is a defensive move where a player bumps the ball to prevent it from hitting the floor and thereby preventing the other team from scoring. The women’s team averaged 15.11 digs per set in the 2021 season, while the men’s team currently averages 7.57.

Blocks are used to deflect the opponent’s volleyball and send it back to the other side. It can be done by one player or a group of players at the net to prevent the other team from getting a kill.

A player is awarded a kill when he touches the ball and it either immediately hits the floor or the opposing team cannot successfully return the ball to the other side of the field. The men’s team averaged 11.14 kills per set in the 2022 season, while the women’s team averaged 13.78 kills.

An ace can be made in two ways – the first way is when the ball is served and it hits the opponent’s court without returning. The second way is if the ball is served but the opponent is unable to keep the ball in play after the first contact.

Loyola’s men’s basketball team comes home to the field on January 21 against Belmont Abbey College. The first service is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will air on ESPN+.

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