Setters are quarterbacks on a volleyball court

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IOWA CITY – There is no pitcher without a catcher. There is no quarterback without a center.

In the sport of volleyball, there are no cleats without a passer.

The 6-foot high-flying hitters that dominate the aerial affair are usually the focus of any casual volleyball spectator. However, most seem to forget about the smaller, faster passer who create all the action with just a flick of the wrists.

Iowa City West volleyball coach Scott Sanders has entrusted two of his young players, Emma Dunlap and Kearsten Lenth, with the management of his team from the position of passer this fall.

“A passer, you could think of them as a quarterback,” Sanders said. “They hit every touch or every set. It’s a pretty crucial job.

The passer is the energy source of any successful volleyball team. The passer’s primary responsibilities are to call plays, control the offense and, of course, set the ball up for the team’s hitters to dash through the net and score.

In sports such as football and basketball, the leader of the team takes center stage. Quarterbacks and playmakers have the ball in hand more than any other player and are able to show off their skills at will, often to the approval of the crowd.

If you don’t watch volleyball too much, you might not even have noticed that it was the same person placing the ball before each shot, or that the passer position even existed.

The leadership of the passer is more about staying positive and having your voice heard on the pitch. The passer is responsible for correcting playing errors on the first stroke and ensuring that the second ball can still be played by the batter.

“A lot of the weight is put on the passer because if the shot isn’t there the passer is automatically like, ‘oh no, what did I do wrong. “said Lenth, who transferred from Liberty last year.” If the pass isn’t there, the set has to run and get it back. “

Along with having a full understanding of their own offense, the passer should also be aware of the opponent’s alignment in order to counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

“I have a lot of different options so I just have to assess what’s going on on the other side of the net so I can make my best decision,” said Dunlap. “The most important thing on the other side of the net would be the blockers.”

The rest of the team certainly respect the effort and the responsibility that is shared between Dunlap and Lenth. Defensive liberos always appreciate a good passer to correct their recoveries, while hitters depend on the passer for their spikes.

“The passer is definitely the toughest position on the team because you have to call all the plays and you have to make sure you get there so that the offense can be executed,” said junior hitter McKenna Proud. “Then all hitters are picky about where they want their sets to go, so it’s tough trying to figure out where to put the sets so the batter can get the most kills.”

Dunlap and Lenth have 280 assists this season in a 6-2 rotation. A 6-2 rotation means the team is spinning between two main passers, allowing an additional offensive player to play for the first row.

While the two-passer system gives the team more offensive firepower, it can be difficult for hitters to feel comfortable with two different leaders on the field. The system is equivalent to the football team having two quarterbacks.

“We have the hitters to compensate for a 6-2. None of the (the smugglers) are good blockers, ”Sanders said. “You have more kids there, but we’re limited to how many subs we can do in a match. “

This year’s volleyball team has eight sophomores, six juniors and one senior. With the program in the rebuilding phase, Sanders envisions his second class tasked with becoming the leaders of the future.

“I would love to be seen as one of the leaders,” Lenth said. “I’m progressing slowly because I came to the West this year… so I had to meet everyone but now I’m comfortable with everyone. “

One of the biggest keys for the future will be to gel young players and develop stronger team chemistry on the pitch. As the focal points of the offense, much of that responsibility will fall on Dunlap and Lenth, who have both shown a willingness to take control of the team’s future.

“I really like (the setting) because I have a lot more authority on the court… you get the pass and you have to do something with it and turn it into a ball that your hitters can play on,” said Dunlap. . “I just like having a choice. You are much more involved mentally when you settle down.

The sophomore class has lofty goals in mind for the years to come, but for now, she’s focused on her rivals across town.

“I’m very excited for the years to come because that’s when we’re going to see all the improvements,” said Dunlap. “I want to beat City and Liberty in the years to come, I think we can and that would be good for me.”

Iowa City West setter Emma Dunlap (7) and Kearsten Lenth (8) celebrate with McKenna Proud after scoring a point against Waterloo West on September 29. (Alyssa Skala / IC West)

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