Is the side-out on its way out?
This season, the Alaska School Activities Association is requiring schools to play at least two matches using rally scoring at the varsity, junior varsity and C-team levels.
In rally scoring, a point is awarded on each serve. This differs from traditional volleyball, where a team must be serving to be awarded a point.
The other big difference in rally scoring is that if a serve nicks the net and falls in play on the opposing team's side, the serve is good. In traditional volleyball, any serve that touches the net is no good.
"We just wanted people to start getting used to it," said John Andrews, the director of special events for ASAA. "It looks like it will be coming down the road next year or the year after.
"At the national federation meeting on volleyball last year, they felt they didn't want to make the decision before they had more data. So they're asking states to experiment and report the data."
Alaska is one of those states that will be experimenting and reporting. ASAA has given each school a form requesting the length of the match, the number of let serves, the number of subs used and the total participants.
When using traditional volleyball rules, the junior varsity and C-team play best-of-three matches,while varsity plays best-of-five. Under rally scoring, all levels will play best-of-five.
The first four games will be played to 25 points. In those first four games, a team must win by at least two until the score hits 30. Then, the team that hits 30 wins even if it isn't up by two.
If the match goes to a fifth game in rally scoring, the teams play to 15 and must win by at least two, no matter how long it takes.
Area volleyball coaches gave rally scoring, which is also being used regularly at the international and college levels, mixed reviews.
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell was the most unabashed in her praise of the new system, saying she would use it every match if the opposing coach agrees.
"It makes the game so fast," Whannell said. "The girls always have to be on their toes. It keeps them on the edge mentally."
Not only does the format keep players on edge, it keeps fans on the edge.
"I think it's more appealing to the fans," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. "It's faster games. I think fans would enjoy it more."
Coaches also pointed out drawbacks. Seward coach Angela Hammer and Homer coach Beth Trowbridge both see pros and cons to rally scoring.
"One thing I don't know that I like at the high school level is the fact it is focused so much on mistakes and errors," Trowbridge said. "At some levels of development, like jv and C-team, it's hard to have so much focus be on one mistake."
Rally scoring was used some of the time at the preseason jamboree last weekend in Homer. There, Hammer picked up on another thing she didn't like.
"I felt it bridged the gap between lower-skilled teams and higher-skilled teams," Hammer said. "It made it a more even playing field. I don't know that I like that so much."
Hammer also thinks rally scoring leads to more defensive play.
The coach most against rally scoring on the peninsula is Kenai coach Tamra Wear.
"By the time you get up to the college and international levels, they've been playing volleyball for 10 hours a day for years," Wear said. "For them, it doesn't matter that the game is over faster, because they have so much experience.
"The high school level is more about development. If these games are getting over in 20 minutes, what good is that for development?"
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