How Many Sets Are in a Volleyball Game?

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Have you ever wondered how many sets are in a volleyball game? This is a common question, especially since there are so many levels and leagues of volleyball. Here’s the rundown on volleyball sets. 

How Many Sets Are in a Volleyball Game?

The number of sets in a volleyball game depends on the level of competition. Teams play to the best of three sets for beach and high school volleyball. Competitions at the college level or beyond play to the best of five sets.

An image of people enjoying a volleyball game

Different types of volleyball have a certain number of sets that must be played before declaring a winner. This impacts the length of a game and the strategies for players. We’ll cover how many sets are in a volleyball game and how that affects the game.

Beach Volleyball

Beach volleyball only has two players on a team and plays fewer sets than indoor volleyball. Teams play to the best out of three sets to win a match. A shorter game adds more pressure to each rally that is played compared to the indoor sport.

Beach volleyball enthusiasts are used to 40-60 minute games, which is far less than professional indoor volleyball. There are other variations of volleyball including snow volleyball and 4×4 that follow beach volleyball’s lead by having only 3 sets.

Indoor College Volleyball and Beyond

The majority of indoor volleyball goes until one team has won the majority of five sets. This includes college volleyball, the Olympics, and professional Volleyball. Oftentimes the final set is played for fewer points as a 15 points tiebreaker, which we’ll cover in more depth later.

High School Volleyball

Like beach volleyball, high school (and middle school) volleyball have a maximum of three sets. It is generally assumed that there are fewer sets than college volleyball to make the games shorter. High school games average about 40 minutes shorter than college volleyball games.

How Do Sets Impact the Volleyball Game? 

A team needs to win a majority of sets in order to win the entire match. This will be slightly different for each game. Generally, matches with three sets will play two games, but they might go to the third game if needed.

An image of game sets in a volleyball game

Five set matches require a minimum of three sets to win, but a game may last four or even all five sets. Sometimes if the final set needs to be played, the teams will play a tie-breaker game with fewer points than normal.

What Is the Difference Between Set and Setting?

Although the words set and setting are very similar, these volleyball terms have very different meanings. A set is a round of volleyball where a winner is declared after a certain number of points. This type of set is what we have been discussing in this article.

On the other hand, setting refers to a particular way the ball can legally be hit. There is a position called setter that regularly sets the ball during the second hit of a play. This ball handling gets its name because the setter is attempting to set the ball up for a hitter to spike the ball.

How Long Are a Set and Match in Volleyball?

CompetitionAverage Match Duration
High School Volleyball45 minutes to 60 minutes
College Volleyball120 minutes to 150 minutes
Professional Volleyball80 minutes to 120 minutes

A set typically lasts about 25 minutes while the whole match usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes. Volleyball is not won after a certain amount of time. Instead, it’s when one team has earned enough points. 

Because there is no time limit, the length of volleyball matches can be wildly different. Factors that influence match time include the number of sets played, competition level, and pure luck. The longest ever volleyball game lasted 85 hours!

How Many Points in a Set of Volleyball?

The number of points in a set depends on how many sets will be played in the match. In order to keep the game shorter, high schools only play to 21 points. Since beach volleyball only plays 3 sets, they also only have 21 points.

On the other hand, there are 25 points in indoor games at college and higher competitive levels. Sometimes the final set is played as a 15 point tiebreaker. This is more common during games that have 5 total sets. The most likely reason is about making the game slightly shorter than it normally would be.

The most points in a single set during an NCAA volleyball game was 37 points.

An image of people playing volleyball game set

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about sets in a volleyball match.

Are Volleyball Games Called a Match or a Set?

A volleyball complete game is called a match. These are made up of sets. To win each set, you need to score 25 points with a 2-point lead. This can be confusing for beginners as the terms can be a bit similar to each other.

Is Volleyball the Best 2 Out of 3 Sets?

Yes, only in high school, middle school, and amateur competitions. There, they play the best out of three sets. Players at professional, Olympic, and college levels play the best out of 5 sets. Therefore, these matches take more time than amateur matches.

Why Is Volleyball 5th Set 15 Points?

This rule was implemented because, at the end of the match, players are really tired. Therefore, it can be too hard for them to score more than 25 points at that point, even at a professional level. So, in order to make the game fairer for players, the 5th set is played to 15 points.


There are a different number of sets in a volleyball game depending on the players. Younger, less skilled athletes compete in shorter matches while older players have more sets and matches that can be much longer.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.