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College Women's Volleyball Rules

By Michael Keenan

Volleyball was invented in 1895 in a YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It was first organized as a collegiate women's sport in 1970 by the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. (Women's collegiate sports came under the control of the NCAA in 1981.) The only significant difference between the men's and women's rules is that the net in the men's game is 7.5 inches higher.

Playing Area

The playing court for volleyball is 59 feet long and 29.5 feet wide and is split in half by the centerline and net. The women's college net is 7 feet 4 1/8 inches high at the top. The NCAA requires at least 6.5 feet on all sides of the court to be clear of obstructions, but recommends at least 10 feet along the sides and 15 feet behind the court. The ceiling above the court must be at least 26 feet high, though the NCAA recommends 41 feet.


Each team has six members on the court at a time, three in the front row and three in the back row. Once the ball is served, the players may move around the court without restriction. However, players who are in the back row may not spike the ball in front of the attack line, located 9 feet 10 inches from the net, or block the other team's spikes at the net. Teams may substitute at any dead ball. Players who have left the game may reenter as long as they are reinserted into their original place in the rotation. Each team may substitute 12 times per set.


An NCAA match consists of up to five sets; the first team to win three sets wins the match. The first four sets are played to 25 points, but a team must win by at least 2 points. For example, a team could not win, 25-24; the game would continue until one team had 2 points more than its opponent. The fifth set, if necessary, is played to only 15 points. College volleyball uses a rally scoring system, which means that one team scores on every point no matter which team had the serve. A team wins a point when the ball lands in the other team's court, the other team fails to return the ball in bounds or when the other team is called for breaking a rule.

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