The Art of Setting
Think of your setter as the quarterback in American Football. And considering that quarterbacks are the most important position in that sport, it's amazing how ridiculously underrated setters are in volleyball, particularly in the Philippine scene.
The beauty of volleyball is no singular force can truly dominate.
It's not like basketball where one star can shine so bright it can overwhelm even the mightiest opponent.
Volleyball was not designed that way, solo stars can only take you so far. That is why Alyssa Valdez didn't graduate from Ateneo de Manila as a three-time UAAP champion.
Volleyball is a sport where connection is key. Sure, your ace spiker is an incredible asset and your libero is a sound foundation. But the one that truly makes everything go in volleyball is your setter.
Think of your setter as the quarterback in American Football. And considering that quarterback is the most important position in that sport, it's amazing how ridiculously underrated setters are in volleyball, particularly in the Philippine scene.
We're lucky we have super setters playing in the UAAP right now, giving some much-needed focus on the sport's most vital position.
However, you'll be hardpressed to see any of them be properly recognized aside from the obvious "Best Setter" award at the end of each season. At least for the time being.
For the athletes we watch playing volleyball, especially in the UAAP, few actually wanted to become a setter. For some, the choice was made for them.
Either way, playing setter is not at all easy. In fact, among the skills needed to play volleyball, setting is perhaps the most specialized and in turn, the hardest to learn.
It's practically an art. An art we should start to appreciate more.
VERSATILITY IS KEY
To highlight just how important setters are to any volleyball team, one should just simply look at how versatile they are.
Aside from actually setting the ball for spikers to hit, setters are definitely one of the most steadiest receivers on any team that's not a libero.
Typically, setters are also the team's best servers aside from the actual pinch servers. Once rotated to the front line, they're also expected to put up a solid block to help out on defense.
And if all else fails, your setter is the one smashing the ball on the other side of the court.
"Nung ginawa akong setter ni coach Jerry [Yee], dun ko narealize na sobrang critical nung role ng setter," UP Lady Maroons' libero-turned-setter Arielle Estranero said.
"Masasabi na yun yung pinaka versatile among all positions kasi you can set, you can spike, you can serve, and do defense for the team. Basically lahat ginagawa niya and at the same time, siya yung utak ng team," she added.
For all intents and purposes, setters serve as coaches inside the volleyball court.
The same way a point guard runs an offense or a quarterback determines the route of his receivers to beat a defense, setters are constantly thinking of schemes to figure out how to take down a wall known as a three-person block.
All of that while making sure a perfect set is delivered to the spikers each and every time, no matter how great or crappy the first ball is.
"Oo naman sobra [important]. Kasi paano makakapalo yung spikers mo kung walang setter? Tapos paano magkakaroon ng play kung wala kami," Jasmine Nabor, National University's converted setter, said.
"[Pero] mahirap kasi parang sayo lahat nakasalalay. Kailangan, kahit anong pangit ng receive, mapaganda mo kasi syempre iniisip mo rin yung magiging atake tapos kung paano maa-apply yun sa kalaban," she added.
And considering that all spikers were not made equal, the burden of consistency falls on the setter. After all, the spiker has the lead when it comes to attacking, the setter has to match and not impose her own will.
"It's the accuracy of setting," Estranero said. "Accuracy and consistency ng pag set niya sa spikers niya. It's important that all setters know ano yung heigh, gaano kalayo [ball placement]. Basically, kung ano yung tamang set sa bawat spiker."
COMMUNICATE AND CONNECT
Volleyball is a sport where connection is key, and to connect, you have communicate.
It doesn't matter if the form of communication is verbal or by hand signals as long as you perfectly understand the habits of your spiker, the tendencies of your receiver, and the actual game plan of your coach.
"As a setter, very important yung communication," Estranero says. "Kasi kahit konting miscommunication lang, sira na agad. Sira na yung timing ng play, sira na yung timing ng spikers, and basically sira lahat if walang communication."
While the individual play of the receivers and spikers are still crucial to one team's attack, it's the setter that makes sure the ball goes from point A to point B with the outcome preferably a point in their favor on the scoreboard.
"Sobrang importante na mag-connect yung libero, tapos yung setter to spiker kasi paano kami magkakaintindihan kung di ko sinasabi yung play na pwedeng gawin," Nabor said.
"Tapos paano makakapalo yung spikers namin kung di rin kami magtutugma nung receivers," she added.
THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Who doesn't love the player that scores the most points right? Or the player that makes an insane receive to cancel out an insane spike?
Setters don't usually get all the highlights. They don't typically make the most exciting play even if what they do may be the most important part of the game.
Sacrifice usually comes with playing as a setter.
Maybe if you're a fan and just starting out on the sport of volleyball, you might want to give the position a try before anything else.
"If you want to be a setter, you should be someone who is up to take the challenge not only physically but mentally and emotionally," Estranero said on what it takes.
"Mentally kasi ikaw yung nagiisip for the team, you think of the plays, you think of how to break the defense of the other team para mabilis yung pag-score ng spikers," she added.
Sure, spiking the ball is an incredible feeling, but knowing that you made that play happen is a different bliss all on its own, one that entails sacrifice.
It's an art. An art we should start to appreciate.
"Ang sarap kasi sa feeling na setter ka tapos kahit hindi ka nakakapalo okay lang. At least nagiging magaan yung pakiramdam ng spikers sayo tapos ang sarap sa feeling na nananalo ka dahil setter ka, dahil sa mga play na nagagawa mo," Nabor said.
"Tinanggap ko na lang, syempre gusto ko rin pumalo pero mas iisipin ko yung makakatulong sa team ko," she added.
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