GREENFIELD — Before Hancock County volleyball teams put up their nets next fall, county coaches and players are preparing to adjust to a few changes in the game.

Last month proposals for a number of rule alterations were accepted by the Indiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association, officials said. These proposals will be reviewed by the Indiana High School Athletic Association on Feb. 16 for approval, representatives said.

Additionally, the National Federation of High School Associations Volleyball Rules Committee made adjustments to the sport’s rules.

The potential regulation changes are designed to improve the pace of play and to accommodate the increasingly competitive atmosphere the sport has grown into, officials said.

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Serving Up New Ideas

The IHSVCA accepted three proposals made by a coalition of coaches from around the state. One proposed regulation states in six-team bracket tournaments, a team that receives a bye in sectional will face off against teams that won earlier matches.

This decision is a smart call for the board to make, said Kelli Whitaker, New Palestine’s head coach. Other sports use this during bracket tournaments, so it makes sense for volleyball to follow suit, she said.

The Dragons have encountered some mismatched sectional finals in the past, but this would eliminate that problem, Whitaker added. Not allowing teams to progress due to the luck of the draw will make the game feel more competitive, she said.

“It will actually feel like a championship,” Whitaker said.

The second proposal approved by the IHSVCA would shorten the season by two matches. Teams would play in a maximum of 23 matches and two tournaments throughout the season, the rules state.

This is especially beneficial to multi-sport athletes who want to jump into basketball season right after volleyball season is over, said Eric Bulmahn, Mt. Vernon’s head coach. He also is supportive of the shorter season to give students a chance to focus on their studies more, he added, noting that the Marauders volleyball team averaged a 3.85 GPA last year.

“Being a student athlete certainly comes into play at our program,” Bulmahn said. “A lot of high school players at an elite level across the state are like that.”

The final proposal accepted by the IHSVCA eliminates the cap in the third set for junior varsity and freshman matches. The proposal states that matches must be won by two points, as is the case with their varsity counterparts.

Whitaker said she likes this rule; even their junior varsity matches get ultra competitive, and close games could feel pretty brutal when you only have to win by one point, she said.

“This is a positive step,” Whitaker said. “They should have the chance to compete in the same way that a varsity team does.”

Several of these changes proposed by the IHSVCA are progressive moves that will benefit the players, who are operating in an increasingly-competitive environment, said Greenfield-Central head coach Travis Fuller.

One example is how the coaching staff communicates with its players; if one proposal is passed, the assistant coach will no longer be required to remain seated in between sets and during play, allowing them to assist the head coach in instructing players in both the front and the back row, Fuller said.

The sport of volleyball has become advanced enough that specific coaches are assigned to setters, attackers and back court players, he said.

It is often frustrating to have coaches sitting on different ends of the benches just to communicate to their serving zones, he said. If passed, this rule will hopefully allow coaches to more effectively coach their team during live play, he said.

The proposals passed by the coaches association — along with another that was voted down that concerned the provision of adequate warm-up time/space for the athletes before the game and in between sets — are slated to be reviewed by the Indiana High School Athletic Association executive committee Feb. 16.

Fine Tuning Procedures 

Many of the changes made by the NFHS Volleyball Rules Committee are small adjustments that focus on fine tuning certain procedures that hindered the pace of the game, such as the signal for calling a penalty, officials said.

Fuller is pleased to see the organization become more relaxed in handling issues like double contact penalties, which occur when a players touches the ball twice in a row or hits it with more than one body part.

This penalty can often appear subjective depending on the referee, especially if it’s a close call on whether or not the player’s hands touched the ball simultaneously on a set, Fuller said. The committee maintaining a standard on how referees deal with penalties is crucial to the integrity of the sport, he said.

“Let the game decide who the better team is,” Fuller said.

At a glance

Rule changes for the 2018-19 high school volleyball season were recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Volleyball Rules Committee at its January 7-9 meeting in Indianapolis and subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

• 2-4-1b: A referee shall stop play when any player gains an illegal advantage by contacting any team member while playing the ball.

• 5-5-3b(10) (NEW): The second referee has the responsibility to ensure that the head coach remains in the replacement zone no closer than 6 feet to the sideline, when standing during play.

• 5-5-3b(13), 5-5-3b(20), 5-8-3a NOTE (NEW): When multiple courts are in use, the second referee may end a time-out or interval between sets with a long whistle in place of the timer sounding an audio signal (horn).

• 9-8-2 EXCEPTION (NEW), 11-4-1b (NEW): When a replay is signaled due to an injury/illness and the injured/ill player cannot continue play, the head coach may request a substitute or complete a legal libero replacement for the injured/ill player or take a team time-out(s) if the team has remaining time-outs.

• 10-2 PENALTIES 2: After a team is charged with an unnecessary delay, the coach may request no further substitutions until the next completed rally.

• 11-5-3 (NEW): Between sets, teams may warm up in their playing area, but may not hit volleyballs over the net into the opponents playing area.

• SIGNAL #21: To signal unnecessary delay, raise the hand on the side of the offending team beside head, palm facing shoulder, hold the appropriate card on the wrist of the raised hand.

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Evan Myers is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3228 or emyers@greenfieldreporter.com.