Kinds of Volleyball Tournaments

By James Bisson

Tournament organizers have plenty of formats to choose from when it comes to setting up volleyball competitions. The type of event often depends on the number of teams, and the time frame in which the tournament is operating. Shorter competitions are easier to organize, while longer events can be more complicated but provide a more reliable method of ensuring the best teams end up on top.

Single Elimination

The single elimination volleyball tournament is the easiest to organize and run. These tournaments pair teams up in groups of two, with the winning team advancing and the losing team eliminated from the competition. The tournament continues until just two teams remain, and then they square off for the championship. Single elimination tournaments work best when the number of teams is a power of two (four, eight, 16, 32 and so on), but can be accomplished with any number of entries. In cases in which the number of teams is not a power of two, higher-ranked teams are given first-round byes as a reward for strong pre-tournament play.

Double Elimination

In a double elimination format, a team is removed from the tournament only after two losses. Teams that win their first-round matches advance to the second round of the winners' bracket, while the losing teams drop into the losers' bracket. Any team suffering its first loss from that point forward are relegated to the losers' bracket, with their round placement depending on how far they have advanced before their first defeat. On the losers' side, teams suffering a second loss are out. Play continues until only two teams remain. One of those teams is undefeated, while the other has one loss. They face off to decide a winner. If the unbeaten teams wins the first match, the tournament is over. If the one-loss team is victorious, the teams play a second time for the championship.

Divisional Play

For larger volleyball tournaments, such as the world championships or the Olympics, qualifying teams begin play in two divisions. For the Olympic Games competition, 12 teams begin the tournament in two groups of six, with each team facing a divisional opponent in the preliminary round. The top four teams from each division advance to the quarterfinal round, with the fourth-place team in Division A matched up against the top team in Division B, the third-place team in Division A playing the second-place team in Division B and so on. From that point, each match is a single elimination, meaning the winning team advances while the losing team is finished. The final two teams play for the championship. The four non-playoff teams play to decide placings from ninth through 12th.

Round-Robin

Round-robin events are similar to divisional competitions. Teams are divided into multiple pools the square of two, with each pool competing in a round-robin format (each team plays every other pool opponent once.) The top two teams in each pool advance to the championship bracket, while the bottom finishers are knocked down to the consolation round. From that point, it's single elimination. The top two teams of the championship bracket play for the championship, while the top two teams of the lower bracket play for the consolation title. This format is popular in high-school, club and some college competitions.

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