The opposite hitter is one of the most nuanced roles in volleyball.
While setters are arguably the most technical position on court, one other position stands out as requiring a high level of game knowledge and technical skills, while simultaneously having an underappreciated effect on the outcome of the game.
This is the opposite hitter.
In this article, I’ll be discussing what makes the opposite hitter – my favorite position – great. Let’s take a look!
What Is An Opposite Hitter In Volleyball?
The opposite hitter in volleyball is the position that rotates on court opposite the setter and serves as a multi-purpose tool to bolster both the defensive and attacking lineups.
Opposite hitters are the setter’s shadow.
An accurate hitter, the opposite hitter is not only responsible as the off-setter (for when the setter is unable to take the second ball and set), but can step into the shoes of passer wherever they go as they rotate around court, filling in gaps in the defense and shoring up weak spots.
They are also a powerful tool in a team’s offensive capabilities that may be under-used.
Because of the expectation that the best hitters will be played as “outside spikers”, the defending blockers usually expect a hit to come from that direction and may even “cheat” (moving before the set is decided) to set up preemptively.
This gives the opposite hitter an advantage. Usually only having to face one blocker at most, they have much more of the court to spike to in order to score.
Additionally, opposite hitters are known for their accuracy, which usually is attributed to their talents as off-setters. Combining the lack of a block with their accuracy, it is easy to imagine the reason they can find so much success.
Because of the way the court is set up, opposite hitters are the best position for left-handed players. Because of their dominant hand, the line spike is easier to hit and they can open their body towards the court when starting their approach to hit, making it easier again to hit the ball.
As a passer, opposite hitters usually “hide”, standing behind their teammates out of the passing lineup, but if the team is struggling they have the option to step forward and relieve a struggling player, taking the pass instead.
This ability is overlooked by a lot of teams who just try to tough out a difficult serve that they’re trying to receive. Little changes and alterations keep the game from becoming stagnant and can prevent your opponents from running away with the match before it’s over.
Opposite hitters can also serve as second setters instead of just a backup, resulting in a 6-2 rotation. This means that there are six hitters on the court and two setters (as opposed to the normal rotation of 5-1: five hitters and one setter).
This enables three spikers to always be active in the front row as opposed to when the setter rotates forward in a 5-1 and the right side of the court loses its attacking power.
Opposite hitters are extremely useful players and usually require both technique and good old game knowledge in order to succeed. Both attackers and defenders, these types of players are skilled assets that arguably have the most flexibility in the game.
Used properly, opposite hitters can bring your team’s level from good to great.
Rules For Opposite Hitters
The rules for opposite hitters are fairly simple:
First, they must be opposite the setter at all times when setting up in serve-receive (before the ball is served).
This means that if the setter is in position one, the opposite must be in position four. If the setter is in six, then the opposite must be in three. This continues around the court in a clockwise direction.
Refer to the image above for rotational positions.
After the ball is served, the team disperses into their normal positions with the opposite hitter transitioning to two even if they started at four (but only if they’re front row!), and plays the point out until it ends.
The second rule is another that applies to all players: attacks (jumping and spiking) from in front of the ten-foot line are prohibited when rotated into the back row. Attacks from behind this are still legal, however.
The opposite hitter will rotate into position one instead of two while in the back row because of this. From here, they will hit, pass, and set until they rotate front once more.
An unspoken rule is that opposite hitters hide while their team is serving.
The reason for this is twofold: first, they need to be able to set if the setter stumbles or the pass is off; second, because they usually have a large distance to cover.
Every team utilizes their opposite hitter differently. Talk to your coach or setter to see what style you might be filling, and go from there.
How To Be A Good Opposite Hitter
A good opposite hitter should be:
An Excellent Blocker
As the primary blocker against the opposing outside hitter, blocking correctly is crucial.
A Strong Setter
As the off setter, you must strive to be as good (or almost) as the main setter in case you’re ever needed. Know the plays, watch the signals, and execute the set to the best of your ability.
Able to Read the Court
Game knowledge is everything for opposite hitters. Where to hit, how to pass, when to step in for a teammate, where to stand to pick up tips – all of these are parts of a larger whole that is your responsibility to your team.
Not Necessarily Young
One of the cool things about opposite hitters is that their success largely centers around experience rather than youthful energy and raw power. Older players often fill in this position and find a lot of success because of their experience. In turn, they become a pillar for the team.
6 Reasons Why Opposite Hitters Have the Most Fun
Many people ask us which position is the most fun to play in volleyball. Well, setters are given a huge amount of responsibility and are often the leaders on the team, and liberos work tirelessly on defense and rarely get the praise they deserve from fans – in other words, both these positions can become very stressful to play, so both of those are out.
Middle blockers/hitters and outside hitters certainly have fun, as there is nothing quite like making a memorable block or kill, but they still fall short in terms of most fun to be had on the volleyball court, so that just leaves opposite hitters (also called right-side hitters).
So what is it exactly that makes this position most fun to play?
All the Glory
Just as in basketball or soccer the player who scores the points or the goal gets all the love and is most remembered by the fans, the opposite hitter is the player in volleyball who typically scores the most points due to being the “go to” hitter and therefore lives long in the memory of fans.
The opposite hitter, however, also has the advantage of being responsible for blocks too, which is another aspect of the game that is traditionally remembered and makes any self-respecting volleyball highlights reel just as much as scoring does. Two ways to get onto the highlights reel? Well that’s not a bad proposition at all! Where do I sign up?
Not as Much Movement is Required
When playing or watching a game of volleyball at any level, from juniors all the way to professional and International games, you will see other positions, particularly liberos and setters, frantically attempt to get to the ball to keep the play alive. Not so much with opposite hitters though.
No Passing Responsibility
While it would be unfair to say that opposite hitters have no passing responsibility whatsoever, it is typically such a small part of their game that you can say that passing isn’t something that a player in this position needs to worry about.
Not only do right-side hitters have the privilege of scoring and blocking the ball, but they also act as the second or backup setter when the traditional setter is unable to get to the ball. This means that opposite hitters are pretty much involved in every point, so life certainly never gets boring on the volleyball court!
Along with setters, opposite hitters are the most handsomely paid in volleyball. Given that opposite hitters don’t have the responsibility of passing, don’t have to be the leaders on court, and get most of the glory on the team for scoring most of the points, playing this this seems like a pretty good deal to us.
Most In Demand Players
Again, just like setters and opposite hitters are the highest paid players in volleyball, they are almost the most in demand, often making them fan favorites too. It also helps that many colleges look for players in this position, making it easier to get recruited.