Rule Interpretations

Precedent setting rule interpretations by the Vice-president/Referee Manager

The league has both the 1998 Case book and the Officiating Guide from USA Volleyball. Since our own league interpretations may deviate from official USA Volleyball rulings, we will collect our "rule clarifications" here and have our own "How-to Referee" guide. As usual, all rule interpretations are subject to concurrence of the league through discussion and voting at the preseason or postseason general captains meetings.

Case #1:

A player places his hand such that a ball hitting the net then hits his hand and deflects straight down. Without this contact, the net usually has a trampoline effect and the ball rebounds somewhat back into the offensive court.

Ruling [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]:

The official reply from USA Volleyball is that this action it is legal "so long as the player on the opposite side of the net from the ball does not initiate contact with the net. There is no fault because the ball forced the net into the player. Although there is some opinion that this is against the spirit of play, the reasoning of the Rules of the Game Commission was that the team receiving the ball used inferior skill by losing control of the pass and should not benefit from their action. In addition, it is difficult for the referee to distinguish the situation where the contact with the ball and net is not intentional on the part of the player on the opposite side from the ball."

Literally interpreted, there is no fault as long as the hand is not moving toward the net at time of contact. I disagree with the general acceptance of this practice, however, especially in that it IS readily evident that reaching the hand toward the net to effect this play is intentional. Furthermore, I think the burden on the referee to judge whether the hand is, or is not moving toward the net at time of contact is beyond expectations and capabilities of our league. Therefore, for now, I believe this action should be considered a fault.

Case #2:

Can a player be called for "reaching over" for contacting a ball while in the plane of the net?

Ruling [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]:

Yes. "Reaching over" on an attack hit rule refers to the "point of contact". That means part of the ball may in principle have crossed or still be on your side of the net, if you hit the top of the ball and NOT the part that is on your side of the net it is a "reach over".

Case #3:

A weakly hit "attack" is "blocked" back into the court such that the blocker "breaks his wrist" to deflect the ball. What constitutes a block and when does it become an attack hit? Is the action legal?

Ruling [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]:

An attack-hit is any ball which passes untouched beyond the vertical plane of the net or any third team hit by the opponent. A ball may be blocked across the net above the opponent's team area provided 1) the block is made after the opponents have executed an attack-hit, or 2) the block is made after the opponents have hit the ball in such a manner that the ball would, in the referee's judgment, clearly cross the net if not touched by a player and no member of the attacking team is in a position to make a play on the ball, or 3) if the ball is falling near the net and no member of the attacking team could, in the referee's judgment, make a play on the ball. Nowhere in the rules is there suggestion that you can't deflect the ball in a direction other than whence it came. The rules do say, however, that tipping the ball (during an attack-hit) is permitted if the contact is "brief and the ball is not caught or thrown." It is reasonable, therefore, that contact by the blocker be restricted by the same standards, regardless of pace of the attack-hit. If the action of "breaking the wrist" is followthrough after a "brief contact", the the action is legal. If the "breaking the wrist" results in the ball being caught or thrown, then the action is illegal.

Case #4:

What to do if the wrong player steps up for service, gets the whistle to serve but does not serve but instead drops the ball.

The case book has the following two rulings.

Ruling 255 (pg. 27). Player S-6 prepares to serve, but Player S-1 notifies S-6 of the being in the wrong position. S-6 then tosses the ball and allows it to drop to the floor. The referee directs a new service effort and S-1 moves into the service position to serve the ball.

Ruling [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]:

Legal action. The first referee will permit the exchange to be made, but will not allow any additional time for the exchange and will call for a second service effort immediately.

Ruling 256 (pg 27). Player S-2, a wrong server, is preparing to serve when teammates note the error. Player S-1 moves into the service area and S-2 moves onto the court. S-1 serves before the expiration of the five second count.

Ruling [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]:

Legal play since all action occurred before expiration of the five second count.

General basis for rulings [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]: There is no wrong server until the ball has actually been served. Pay special attention to the commentary to rule 17.5.3 which states that "after the whistle for service, no other actions (requests for line-up check, time-out, etc.) may be considered until after the ball has been served...A reserve is considered to be part of a single effort to serve and must be completed before any requests may be considered"

Case #5:

Several questions were also raised regarding service execution. Rule 17.5.1 states that "at the moment of the service hit OR takeoff for a jump service, the server must be completely in the service zone and not touching the court (end line included) nor the playing surface outside the zone. After the service, the player may step or land outside the zone including the court." The local BNL rule states "Prior to starting his/her service motion, a player must stand with at least one foot outside the court. The player's second foot may contact the back line or the court as part of his/her service motion."

Ruling: [Jay Adams, 1998 Feb 10]

I interpret this as follows: a jump serve is legal as long as at least one foot is clearly behind the endline when the server jumps. Where the server lands is of no consequence. (I personally think this rule should be revised again, for service next to the center curtain only, such that the trailing foot may also contact the endline. There just isnt enough room there to allow any forward motion on the part of the server.)

Case #6:

Can two male players play next to each other in mixed league play, when the team is fielding 6 players?

Ruling: [Jay Adams, 1998 Mar 10]

No! Mixed League teams must line-up with alternating male and female players. The only time two men are allowed to be positioned next to each other at the time of serve is in the case where a team only has 2 women and 3 men players. Mixed league 1 has instituted a penalty for that case. In mixed leagues 2 and 3 play proceeds without penalty side-out.

Finally, one reminder regarding underhand serves, the ball must be "clearly" tossed or released to be legal.