Can You Set a Serve in Volleyball?

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When it comes to serving in volleyball, there are a lot of rules that you need to follow in order to correctly perform it and receive it. If you are new to the rules of this sport, you might wonder if you can set a serve in volleyball, and whether that is a good idea or not.

Can You Set a Serve in Volleyball?

According to the FIVB, setting a serve in volleyball is illegal. The serve cannot be attacked, meaning that you can’t serve it, nor pass it. However, there are specific situations that can add an exception to this rule.

For example, if “Team A” serves a ball that ends up behind the 10 feet line, “Team B” can legally serve it (only if the ball is below the net height). As you can see, this rule depends a lot on the net height and the lines, therefore, it might create a lot of debates. 

Also, you might get confused if you don’t know what is considered an attack in volleyball. Clearing these confusions and learning about the small details will allow you to improve your game. This will, ultimately, help you score more points

Volleyball team playing in court

When Can You Set a Serve in Volleyball?

You can only set a serve in volleyball under one situation: When the opponent’s serve is too slow and it is falling behind the 10 feet line. This way, your setter can wait until the ball goes below the net height, and immediately pass it to the striker. 

Under this circumstance, you are also allowed to directly send the ball back into your opponent’s court. However, if the ball is not below the net height when you hit it, the move will be considered illegal.

Similarly, if the ball falls inside of the 10 feet line, you can not set it. This rule was implemented in order to balance the game and make it fair for both teams. If it didn’t exist, the teams would block, set, or directly spike a serve, making the game extremely unfair for the serving team.

What Is Considered an Attack in Volleyball?

In professional volleyball, an attack is performed anytime a player tries to hit the ball into the opponent’s side of the court. Setting and passing are also considered an attack since the ball is being played with an offensive intention.

Therefore, the serve can not be set nor helped to be passed since those moves are considered an attack. These movements, along with the block and the spike, have a specific reason to be treated as an attack when talking about serves.


Even though the block is a defensive move, it could be used offensively. When you block a volleyball, this one has the chance to bounce on your arms and fall straight into your opponent’s side of the court. This way, you would have defended correctly and scored a point.

If you could block a serve, you would have a great opportunity to immediately return the ball back into your opponent’s court. This would make the game unbalanced and unfair for the serving team.


A set is not a movement that hits the ball into the opponent’s side of the court, yet, it is the move that assists the striker. When you set a volleyball, the striker will likely approach it and try to perform a spike.

Man serving a volleyball

If you could set a server, the striker would have a great advantage since he can quickly react and spike the ball as fast as possible. This would happen too fast for the opponent’s defense to even react, making the game unfair for the serving team.


Passing the volleyball is similar to setting the ball, though, in this case, you can pass the ball to any teammate. This allows you to distribute the ball and move it from one side to another. When you perform the pass, your team will get ready to set the ball and hit it.

If you could pass a serve, your team would quickly react and get into a good position to attack. This would create a swift attack which would increase the team’s chances of scoring.  


The spike is one of the most essential and basic attacks in volleyball. The purpose of this move is to powerfully send the ball towards the opponent’s side of the court. When you spike, your main objective is for the ball to be unreturnable.

If you could spike a serve, the opponent’s defense would have a very hard time trying to stop every attack. The game would turn into a sequence of set-spike, set-spike, which would not be beneficial for either side of the team.

Rules Related to Serving in Volleyball

Many other rules influence serving in volleyball. Learning about them will save you from committing faults that could end up in a bad situation for your team. Here are the rules related to serving:

  • The server must be behind the serving line, before, during, and after the contact with the ball.
  • The volleyball needs to be served underhand or overhand. You can not volley serve the ball.
  • Your opponent should be able to see the volleyball at all times before the serve.
  • To score a point when serving, the ball needs to cross the net and touch the opponent’s side of the court. 
  • It doesn’t matter if the volleyball slightly touches the top of the net after the set.
  • The first serve is determined by a volley at the start of every match. After that, the serves are determined by the previous point. Meaning that the team who just scored a point gets to serve next.
  • While serving, you can’t touch the ball with two hands.
  • The player has a maximum of eight seconds to serve the ball. If he fails to do this, it could be considered a fault.

Related Questions

Can You Set a Serve in Beach Volleyball?

You can not set a serve in beach volleyball, and unlike its indoor version, there are no exceptions to this rule.

Beach volleyball players are only able to set two types of balls: a ball that has been passed from your teammate, and spikes from your opponent.

This means that every service must be received with a bump. Only then can you set the ball.

Can You Serve Anywhere in Volleyball?

Yes, you can aim your serve in any direction inside of your court. However, not all players can perform a spike or a set. For example, players on the back row are only allowed to attack the ball if they’re standing behind the 10-foot line. This is called the back row attack

The only exception to this are the libero players. They are not allowed to perform any offensive move on the ball since they are a defense-only player. Lastly, front row players are always allowed to attack the ball.


Setting a serve in volleyball is possible only under the right circumstances, though it could be difficult to perform. Doing it might also generate a lot of debate, after all, it’s a risky move that could cost you a point if you are not careful.

Alfonso Andrade is an avid sportsman, growing up playing soccer and volleyball. He is a coach and sports analyst, studying the game to analyze performance and help create improvement.