Texas volleyball set up for solid aces

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Texas sophomore Sarah Palmer performs a jump serve, a jump serve is risky as it is extremely effective if done correctly, but is also very difficult to consistently do.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Bounce, bounce, bounce. Ball steady, arm back, solid contact, over the net, then — hopefully — an ace.

This is the sequence of events that goes through the mind of every server in volleyball while they go through their routine right before and through the serve.

Well, this isn’t completely true; every server has a unique routine that allows her to feel completely comfortable before she attempts to put the ball over the net.

“Whatever is comfortable with you is what you will go with. There is nothing specific that anyone has to do with their routine,” said senior Amber Roberson.

For Roberson, the routine is rather simple. She just bounces the ball on the court until she is comfortable enough to let it go.

“I bounce the ball a lot. I bounce and count in my head, but the repetition of your routine is important,” she said.

However, the serve is not such a simple animal that it can just be defined in routines or in the amount of times you bounce the ball. It has a huge impact on the game.

“It is the first attack that we can put on to the other team, serving a good ball or placing it on a certain player that is not a good passer can throw the other team out of system and work in our advantage when we play defense,” said sophomore Sarah Palmer. “Because it is easier for us to work around a bad pass.”

The service game sets the tone for every possession on the court. A good serve to the correct spot puts even the best of defense on its heels, while a bad serve to the wrong location makes it much easier for your opponent to return and gain control of the point because your defense will be in the wrong location on the court to deal with the opponent’s ball movement.

“The game is basically a serve and pass game. You have to start with a pass/serve,” Roberson said. “Usually, Coach will call us a zone because for setters, it’s harder to set the ball over their shoulders, so as long as we serve the ball to the number he calls it helps a lot.”

For the Texas players, there are many different techniques to get the ball to said point, in the different forms of the serve. There is the float serve, where the ball is hit with no spin to make the path of the serve unpredictable. Then there is the topspin serve, where the ball is tossed high and hit near the wrist to create a high speed serve with spin.

Perhaps most famously is the jump serve, where the player tosses the ball high and makes a timed run and jump at it, creating a high velocity serve with a lot of spin. This is the most devastating serve when performed correctly but also a high-risk option.

Palmer is one player on the Texas roster that employs a jump serve in her repertoire. It is the most aggressive form of the service game, and when done well, it creates lots of problems for the defense, but it is difficult to perfect. This is shown in Palmer’s numbers with the serve. She has the teams’ second-lowest serving percentage at .844 but also is second on the team in service aces with 17, on only 192 attempts.

“It is a bit harder. It has a lot to do with the timing of the ball and the toss and the speed approach into the ball,” Palmer said. “But overall, serving is all the same. You always have to have the right contact and place it on the right spot on the court.”

No matter which way the players chose to get the ball over the net, there are two keys that constitute a good serve.

“The number one most important factor to a serve is velocity and being able to hit the spots you want to,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott.

When those two things are done consistently, Texas is hard to beat because when the ball is placed in the proper place and the defense is scrambling, Texas size at the net takes over, and they win games.

The Longhorns will look to utilize the serve effectively tonight in Lubbock against Texas Tech and win their ninth in a row.

Published on Wednesday, Novermber 9, 2011 as: Texas serves up aces