Volleyball coaches consider using new game format

Brian Stensaas

The Minnesota volleyball team completed a season sweep of defending national champion Penn State last Saturday night, the first team to do so since 1995.
Along with the pivotal win for the program, it also marked the second time in the 2000 campaign the Gophers needed a fifth-game to defeat an opponent. The other came on Oct. 13 against No. 13 Ohio State.
The fifth game in collegiate volleyball is unique. Rather than using the normal North American side-out format, in which a team must be serving to score a point, a rally scoring method is used.
In the deciding fifth game, a point is scored on every serve. The object is to wrap up the match in a quick manner.
In the 2000 Summer Olympic games in Sydney, International rules applied for volleyball. This means the two teams played to 25 points with a point on every serve. College plays to 15 points.
After Saturday’s loss, Penn State coach Russ Rose, a 21-year coaching veteran, said he wouldn’t mind seeing the rally score be abolished.
“In a rally score, anything can happen. I’ve never been a fan of it,” Rose said. “I’ve won some, I’ve lost some and I feel the same about it. It’s a crapshoot.”
The rally score is the only way the game is played in Europe. Matches are played to 25 points, but Minnesota coach Mike Hebert thinks if the full rally scoring pours over to the States, then the margin should inflate past 25. He believes playing to 45 or 60 would be the best way to go, but overall just wants to play the game.
“I’m one of those coaches that says, `Hand me the rules and let’s play,'” Hebert said. “It really doesn’t matter to me.”
From a player aspect, the tone is a bit different.
Gophers senior Nicole Branagh, who has played in matches with rally scoring in the USA Program, said there are pros and cons to the concept.
“It keeps the pace of the game going faster and people say it is more fun to watch,” she said. “But it can be hard to come back if you get down by more than two or three.”
Minnesota hopes to avert having to play in five games when it takes on Illinois and Purdue this weekend on the road.

Filling the Pav
With last Saturday’s Sports Pavilion crowd of 5,116, the season attendance grew to 30,528 — a school record. There are still two home matches remaining for the Gophers, to be played next weekend.
Minnesota ranks fourth nationally in average attendance with 2,544 per match, well above the Gophers’ record for season average of 2,136 set in 1997.

Brian Stensaas covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]