Volleyball Set vs Match

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If you’re a beginner, you might have lots of questions regarding the terms used in volleyball. I don’t blame you, since this can even confuse older players.

The discussion between a volleyball set vs match is very common, especially since the terms have changed over the years. 

Volleyball Set vs Match General Overview

Whether you play volleyball or are a spectator, you’ll hear the terms “set” and “match” constantly throughout a game. If you’re new to the sport, you might initially think they can be used interchangeably; however, there are some important distinctions between these two words.

Volleyball Set Overview

In professional volleyball, you need to win 3 out of 5 sets in order to win a match. A set is won when one of the teams reaches 25 points and has at least 2 points of advantage.

For example, if your team scores 25 while your opponents have 23, then you have won the set. If there is only one point of advantage, the set continues until one team gets 2 points ahead of the other.

Men playing volleyball

The Fifth Set

If the teams are tied two to two, a 5th set has to be played. Here, whoever scores 15 points with a 2 points advantage, wins. If one of the teams reaches 15 points with only 1 point of advantage, the set is played until 17 points. Whoever reaches 17 points first, wins.

This is because the players are often too tired at this stage of the game, and they cannot perform as well as before. That’s why this is considered the hardest set of the game.

The FIVB Change of Terms

However, “set” was not the term used a few decades ago. In the 1990s and 2000s, professional players used to just call it a “game.” It was like that until the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) decided to completely change the term to “set.”

Volleyball Match Overview

When playing professional volleyball, a “game” is called a match. Every volleyball match includes sets. The team that wins 3 out of 5 sets wins the match. It is also said that the match can influence a player’s performance.

Now, some people argue about why the FIVB changed the terms “game” to “set.” One popular belief is that people got confused over the similarity of “match” and “game.” It was common to hear coaches, players, and even spectators say, “whoever wins the game, wins the match.”

A volleyball team uniting

This could be pretty confusing, even for coaches. In fact, the volleyball rulebook explains that “coaching instruction and referee training will be more consistent and compatible with this change,” when talking about changing the terms to give more clarity.

So, now when you hear someone talking about a match, they are referring to the game as a whole.

Differences Between Volleyball Sets And Matches

As you can see, both terms can be quite confusing, especially if you’re a beginner. Learning about their differences can help you to communicate better with your team and have a better understanding of volleyball:

  • Volleyball sets are made up of points
  • Volleyball matches are made up of sets
  • Winning one volleyball set doesn’t mean you’ve won the match
  • Winning a volleyball match doesn’t necessarily mean that you won all sets – you could have lost 2 sets and still win the remaining 3
  • A set is the term that refers to which team scored 25 points and had 2 points of advantage over the other
  • A match is the term that refers to the game as a whole – if two volleyball teams are going to compete against each other, that is a match

Similarities Between Sets And Matches

When it comes to the similarities between sets and matches, the only real similarity is that they are both volleyball terms that relate to the gameplay. Multiple sets occur during a match, but the terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Related Questions

Is It a Volleyball Game or Match?

Nowadays there is still a lot of confusion regarding the terms “game” and “match.” If you want to refer to the competition between two volleyball teams who play for victory, you need to say “match.” The term “game” is not currently used in volleyball.

Two teams playing a volleyball tournament

What Is A Match Point And A Set Point?

A match point is a term used when a team has already won 2 sets and it’s both one set and one point away from winning the match. For example: when a team wins 2 sets in a row and they are currently winning the third set 24 to 22. 

If the team scores that last point, they win the match. That’s why it is called “match point”. If the team doesn’t score that point right away, it is still called match point, though now they would be 24 to 23.

A set point is a term used when a team can win a set by scoring the next point. It is very similar to the match point, though if you win the set, you don’t win the match.


Volleyball words and phrases can be confusing at times, especially when they are not always used correctly. When it comes to sets and matches, remember that sets make up a match in volleyball.

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.