Talk to the hand: The kill is a huge momentum changer in volleyball
There are certain moments in sports that are undoubtedly momentum changers.
The sack in football, the home run in baseball and the 3-pointer in basketball all qualify in that category.
In volleyball, it’s the kill.
Simply put, a kill is when a player hits a ball that’s unreturnable, scoring a point.
“The way volleyball is supposed to work is one team serves, then the other sets it up and ends it with a kill,” Fruita Monument coach Bob Richardson said.
It sounds pretty easy, but like most athletic feats, being able to execute a devastating kill is difficult.
“It really starts with the defense,” Central outside hitter Kristina Lindsey said. “Because if they can’t get it up to you then you don’t have anything.”
From the dig, a team has to get the ball to the setter, who serves it up to an outside hitter for the kill.
That transition process takes time for teams to feel comfortable with one another.
“It really depends on the setter,” Grand Junction coach Leslie Vines said. “If the setter is too close to the net it doesn’t have much of a chance of getting around the block.”
But when it all comes together and a player spikes the ball for a point, there is an adrenaline rush.
“The best kind of kill goes straight to the floor and nobody touches it, because that usually is a momentum changer,” Richardson said. “I tell our girls all the time to at least try to touch it because it can take away some of the momentum if you at least get a hand on it.”
Ashley Wells is leading Central in kills this season with 15 per match, and has been a varsity player for the Warriors the past four seasons. At 5-foot-10, Wells has good size and has been known to deliver powerful kills.
“I had a kill against Montrose earlier this year where it was the first play of the game and I got a great outside set and hit it straight down at a girl and it landed right between her feet,” Wells said. “Something like that feels great because you just get the job done, and it boosts up the team and gets everyone going.”
Wells’ height and athletic ability allows her to avoid hitting it into the other team’s block. Central coach Beth Nelson said the Warriors have seen plenty of teams with talented outside hitters that don’t have the leaping ability to be effective at the net.
“We’ve seen good players with nice swings, but they hit into our block all night,” Nelson said. “Ashley is 5-10 and has a vertical of like 23 inches, so players like her not only have a nice swing, but can get up, elevate and have the timing to get up over the block.”
The kill isn’t all about power. Some of the best attacks specialize in reading the defense and placing the ball wherever it needs to be. Camille Kovach leads Fruita Monument in kills with 14.8 per match, and has come on strong lately with games of 24 kills against Durango and 22 against Montrose.
“We don’t have any big bombers,” Richardson said. “Camille gets kills in a lot of different ways because she’s smart and she reads the defense really well.”
The kill is showcased when teams are looking to end the game or even a match. Nothing puts an exclamation point on a victory like a big kill.
“If it’s a game point and you get that kill to put it away, it’s a great feeling,” Grand Junction outside hitter Kricket Adleman said. “That’s why I go hard every time I go for the kill.”
And don’t forget about the long-term effects. Palisade coach Wendy MacAskill said the Bulldogs strive to have around a 35 to 45 percent success rate on their attacks.
“I saw a stat that said teams that go to the state tournament have a minimum 35 to 45 percent kill percentage,” MacAskill said. “And we’ve been around the 35 percent area all year, so it’s something that has to improve to be competitive against teams who have multiple good hitters.”