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Not the same old casual phys. ed volleyball game

By Max Sass and Joe Pantorno, Sports Editors

Remember that time in high school gym class when you gave the nerdy kid a bloody nose? You were in the volleyball unit, and you, being athletic enough to jump, got up and spiked the ball down into said nerd's face. You proceeded to laugh like a hyena and deemed yourself a "volleyball god". Kristina Hernandez, head coach of the Hofstra volleyball team laughs at gym class heroes who think they can compare themselves to her players.

"I think it's funny," Hernandez said. "I don't think people realize how athletic most of these kids are [on the volleyball team]. They're very athletic and very quick. You have to transition off the net at least 60 times a game. People just assume that if you're somewhat athletic you can just go up there and swing, but there's so much finesse involved."

Beyond the extra athleticism required, there is a certain understanding of the game that most casual observers do not get. Just like in other sports, volleyball has other postions, limited substitutions and specialists.

While in gym class you have six or maybe nine kids on the court and they rotate to each position (or sometimes the good kids just decide to stay in the front), each player on Hernandez's squad has an assigned position.

The first position is the outsides. "They're the primary passer, they play defense, but they really have to be able to score all the time," Hernandez said. Graudate student Marina Markovic and freshman Nikki Kinnear are the main outsides for the Pride. There is also a right side hitter who is an attacking player on the court.

The next position is the middle blocker. "They run all of our quick sets in the middle, kind of in that zone," Hernandez explained. Middle blockers are not set to as often as outsides.

The last two positions are not meant for attacking as much as the others. The setter is the player who hits the ball to the attacking players. She is normally the second player to hit the ball on her side and chooses whether to set to an outside, middle or right side.

The labero is the most unknown position to most people. The labero is the defensive specialist and wears a different colored jersey in order to differentiate herself. Sophomore Kylee Maneja is the labero for the Pride.

We want Kylee to take the majority of the passes on the serve-receives and we'll kind of fix our defense around where she will get the most balls," Hernandez said. "So it [the labero] is somebody we can to take the ball all the time and who we trust to do that."

Hernandez said that a good labero should pass in the 80 percent range and Maneja is currently around 85 perecent. Also, because the labero is a defensive player and only plays in the back row (subbing in for the middles) she cannot have her hand cross the top of the net if she were to attack.

The way the labero subs is different as well. The entire team is allowed 12 substitutions for the game, but the labero coming in and out does not count in that number.

Instead of just standing three across in two rows waiting for a serve, the team forms a curve. This makes sure the players are behind or to the left or right of the correct players based on the rotation but also allows the players to go back to their positions after the serve.

The serves are also not the traditional underhand favorites of PE class of old. "We either jump float or top spin jump, those are two options," Hernandez said of how her team serves. "Just because you kind of want to be serving in the 45 to 50 miles per hour range in order for it to be aggressive."

While you may miss spiking it and passing it in gym class, the college game takes it to the next level and it has a certain form of beauty. The quick flow and the smooth passing and hitting and blocking are a nice alternative to the brutish high school jock on the court beating up on the kid who hates gym.

Freshman outside hitter Shelby Young (25) spikes against Seton Hall. (Sean M. Gates/ The Chronicle)

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