New rules for Spartan spikers

Outside hitter Sarah Braun rips a cross-court kill during practice Thursday. - Ryan Schierling / Staff Photo
Outside hitter Sarah Braun rips a cross-court kill during practice Thursday.
— image credit: Ryan Schierling / Staff Photo

The Libero is in, and side-out is out for the 2003 Bainbridge volleyball season.

If a volleyball could cringe, it certainly would at the sound of one of Julie Miller’s outside hitters yelling “hut!”

It means that there is about to be a high, outside set, a strong leap and a loud smack, followed by a laser of a shot coming down on the opposite side of the net.

But volleyballs don’t tend to emote well, so it may just be opposing teams who shudder at the velocity and dead-on shot placement of Miller’s varsity volleyball squad this year.

With five varsity players returning for the 2003 season, there was plenty of room for hungry up-and-coming spikers on the team -- including Michelle Baggett and Ashley Anderson -- who Miller pulled up from the JV squad at the end of last year due to injuries.

All are fairly accomplished though, with a number of the new team members having played club volleyball previously.

“We’re young, and we’re scrappy,” said Miller. “Maybe we’re a bit inexperienced, but it’s coming together.”

The five varsity returnees -- team captain Alison Thies, Michelle Miller, Ashley Bice, Sarah Braun and Samantha Nelson -- will provide leadership for the younger members of the team, and lend a bit of emotional stability when the Sparts take on old foes like Seattle Prep and Blanchet.

The spikers begin their season Tuesday, Sept. 9 with a home match against North Kitsap, but Miller is anxiously anticipating the Sept. 24 meeting with Prep, last year’s state champions.

“That’s our first big test. They’ve got everyone returning,” said Miller. “We lost badly last year. Everybody lost to them.”

Another challenge for the team will be adjusting to rule changes made in the off-season: the addition of the “Libero” defensive specialist position on the court, the replacement of traditional “side-out scoring” with the new rally point scoring system, and “let-serves,” which allow a serve that hits the net and goes over to be counted as good.

The Libero, pronounced “lee-beh-row,” is restricted to perform as a back row defensive player, distinguishable from teammates by a different jersey.

A Libero is not allowed to complete an attack hit from anywhere on the court if the ball is higher than the top of the net. Additionally, the Libero may not serve, block, or even attempt to block.

Replacements involving the Libero are not counted as regular team substitutions, but are unlimited.

“The Libero makes it more like college and club volleyball,” said Miller, who has tapped junior Michelle Baggett to take on the special responsibility. “She’s great. She dives all over the place.”

Rally Point Scoring will also be introduced this year, with matches being played to the best of five sets.

The first four sets are played to 25 points, the fifth set to 15 points -- each requiring a minimum lead of two points. In this system, each rally wins a point whether it is for the serving or the receiving team.

With the previous side-out scoring system, only the serving team could score points.

“It’s definitely something that the crowd can get into,” Miller said.

“I think it’s going to be a really fun year.”

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