September 11, 2014

College Volleyball 5th set scoring

I'm watching a terrific five set battle between Stanford and Penn State (go Card!).  I've always wondered why NCAA volleyball matches (since rally scoring was implemented) play the 5th set to fifteen instead of 25 (or 30).  Why shorten the final set?  

The matches are not that long (particularly since they reduced the first four games to 25).  Five set matches are not that common.  When you get a good one, why cut it short?  I do not understand the rationale for the shorter fifth set.  

Can you explain?  


It is a function of the history of volleyball and the seeming need for volleyball to have significant change every couple of years.


Volleyball used to be sideout scoring to 15 points, which was based upon having to serve and win the rally to score a point.  Matches were 5 games to 15 points, as this seemed a comfortable length of a match; long enough to provide time for strategy, in game adjustments and comebacks, but not too long to reach a conclusion.

My junior year at UCLA (I think junior year, maybe senior year), the 5th game was changed to rally score to 15.  Rally score is the winner of each rally gains a point, no matter who served.  My team mates and I did not understand the rationale for the change, and did not feel it necessary but were were told it was to make the 5th game more 'exciting'......we did not realize that the 5th games were boring?  

For many, many years, volleyball was sideout score to 5 games, with each game to 15.

Then for many, many years, volleyball was sideout score to 15 the first 4 games, then rally score to 15 for the 5th set; again, the reasoning was to make the 5th set exciting.

A few of years into my college coaching tenure, the move was made to rally score for all 5 games with the point total being 30 points for games 1 to 4 and then 15 points to make sure that 5th game was exciting.  

The FIVB had changed to rally scoring for international play a few years before college volleyball also moved to rally score.  From what I was told, the rationale of the FIVB to change was to make the matches more exciting, to make every play count and to better manage the length of the match.

I was in the Big Ten as an assistant coach, at a coach's meeting when the topic of switching NCAA Volleyball to rally score was a discussed.  As a power conference, a few coaches (who are no longer in the Big Ten) wanted the conference to sponsor a rule change switching the scoring system to rally.  There were two main points in this argument for change; 1) we should mimic the international governing body for volleyball, 2) by switching to rally score, the volleyball matches would be played within a much better defined time segment, thus better for volleyball to be televised.

A significant item still sticks with me from this coaches meeting (it was a head coaches meeting, and I was present because the program's head coach had quit earlier in the year); Penn State had lost in the NCAA Finals and as part of the argument for rally score, the coaches in the meeting who supported the change for rally score, extrapolated the Final's score sheet to come up with a rally score final point total.  In the rally score final, Penn State still lost but the total points awarded were much larger than 25 or even 30.  

What stuck with me was this, when the coaches limited the extrapolation to just 25 points (to mimic the FIVB rally score totals), the total points scored under sideout scoring were constantly around 7 points.  I was stunned to think we were contemplating a change in format which cut the games in half....imagine football playing 7 minute quarters, basketball playing 10 minute halves, baseball playing 4 innings, etc.  We were going to halve our sport in the hopes of getting on television more.

When rally score was adopted, it did not mimic the FIVB 25 point total because college coaches thought the games were too short, but a couple of years later they were reduced to 25 points so we could be inline with the FIVB - Interesting to note that we didn't follow the FIVB substitution or Libero limitations, just the scoring format/total.

I completely agree that the 5th game to 15 points is way too quick, especially since the 25 point games don't take that long.  I think the 15 point final game is actually too quick  as there is limited time build drama and absolutely no time to make a comeback; the games tend to be played under the mindset of don't make a mistake, as opposed to make great players.

So, to answer your question in rally score fashion....the 5th set to 15 points rally score is a hold over from many year's ago when the 5th set of sideout scoring was changed to rally score to make it "more exciting".  

Co (rally score version of my name)

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