Let Serve in Volleyball

Woman serving volleyball
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A let serve in volleyball occurs when the delivered ball hits the top of the net in the middle of the court, but still makes it over the net and to the opponent’s side of the floor.

Prior to 2001, a let serve was considered to be a service error. Following a let serve, play would stop immediately, and the ball was returned to the server, who was allowed another attempt. The umpire would say or signal “let”, or “net” in order to signify that a let serve has occurred and that play has been stopped.

Rule Change

Any serve that made contact with the net used to be considered a service error. However, in 2001, in an effort to speed the game up, make it more exciting, and eliminate some of the whistles and umpire impact on the game, let serves became legal. Now, a serve that hits the net, but still makes it to the other side of the net, is playable, just as a regular shot that grazed the net would be. Via USA Volleyball:

In the 2000-2001 USA Volleyball indoor rules, it will no longer be a fault for the serve to contact the net. If the ball dribbles over, it's playable just like any other ball that contacts the net on the way over. If the ball fails to clear the net, it will become dead when it either hits the serving team's court, or is contacted by a player on the serving team, or when it becomes clear (in the first referee's judgement) that the ball will not clear the net--whichever happens first.”

Types of Serves

A let serve can occur on any type of serve. There are three other main types of serves utilized in volleyball:

Floater Serve

float serve, also known as a floater, is a serve that does not spin at all. It is called referred to as a floater because it moves in extremely unpredictable ways, which makes it difficult to receive, corral, and pass. A float serve catches the air and can move unexpectedly to the right or the left or it can drop suddenly.

Topspin Serve

topspin serve does exactly what its name implies – spins rapidly forward from the top. The server tosses the ball a little higher than normal, strikes the ball towards the top of the back in a down and outward motion and then follows through with his or her swing.

The topspin serve has a much more predictable movement than the floater serve, but can it can still be very difficult to handle because of the quick speed that is generated

Jump Serve

The third common type of volleyball serve is the jump serve. The jump serve utilizes an even higher toss than the topspin serve, and that toss should be several feet in front of the server. In a jump serve, the server utilizes more of an attack approach, jumping and striking the ball in the air. The extra motion generated allows the server to put additional power on the ball and this can make the serve very difficult to handle for the receiving team.

The drawback to a jump serve is that all that all of the extra motion utilized in the serve process can lead to a higher incidence of serving errors. Jump serves are at times difficult to control for the server, and can also work to tire the server out.

Typically, jump serves have a degree of topspin on them, but it is also possible to jump serve a floater with no spin at all.