NCAA changes double contact rule in volleyball starting the 2024 season

The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee proposed to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel that they should allow players to use any part of the body on a single attempt to contact the ball more than once as long as the ball is put in motion to another player.

The only exception to this rule is if the double contact sends the ball over the net to the other side. It will get ruled as a fault and the point will automatically go to the other team.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the proposal to allow double contacts in a single attempt.

The original rule said that a double contact means a single player contacts the ball twice in a row or the ball makes contact with their body twice in one motion. Previously, if a player made double contact with the ball, the referee would call it “ending the volley” and the point would automatically go to the other team.

All proposals took place on Feb. 20 and were debated amongst the panel. According to NCAA, the topic of double contacts in volleyball has been an ongoing debate between the officials and coaches of the teams. The goal of this ruling is to “bring more consistency to the game.”

With the debate, one side is that the rule will promote more game play and ensure less interruptions. It will also eliminate bad calls by refs because some double contact calls are questionable if the setter really touched it twice. The other side of the debate is directed more at setters and the craft their perfect to be a good setter. By changing this rule, teams don’t have to have a great setter and instead can get away with an average or mediocre setter because they won’t need high quality sets to finish the play.

The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee “felt that it would promote the continuation of play, which would make the game more entertaining for the players and fans.” Only a small portion of calls would actually be changed after the NCAA analyzed data from the 2022 season.

WCIA shared some reactions from players and coaches after this rule was re-evaluated to allow double contacts.

A lot of statements were focused on setters feeling that the work they have put into their craft is being taken away. I did not play volleyball at the collegiate level, but I played from a young age through high school. I was a DS, or defensive specialist, so in my position, I initiated the play by passing the ball to the setter. As a DS, I was in control of where the ball goes and then the setter has to continue the play from wherever the ball lands. DS specialize in passing the ball to a specific area where it’s easy for them to set to the hitter.

By the time you reached the varsity level, it was more uncommon to see a double contact ruled by the referee. If it happened, you lost a point, but you moved on. It didn’t undermine the confidence of the athlete or classify them as an unskilled player, it was a simple mistake. From my experience, when our setter was called for a double contact, she would shrug it off and not get in her head about what happened. Our coach would never get upset about this mistake because it’ll happen occasionally.

At the collegiate level, there should be more chances to gain skills and compete in a faster paced game and tougher practices. A double contact rule won’t bring more consistency because that shouldn’t be happening often in the first place.

Setters are quick getting to the ball and it takes skill to get underneath and execute a great play. That skill is what prevents double contacts. If a setter isn’t able to get to the ball quick enough without administering a double contact, they need to play and simply bump the ball to the hitter versus setting it, or they can tip it over if they are in a good position.

The double contact rule is going to change the future of gameplay in a negative way. Players will get away with a lot more calls than they should and it’s going to prevent players from learning and perfecting certain skills because they won’t need them.

The panel also approved other proposals by the committee:

  • Each team can have two liberos on the roster for each match set. Only one libero can be on the court at a time.
  • If spectators intrude on the court and the school’s administration doesn’t take action, the officials can issue a red card or administrative sanction to the home team.
  • Coaches can challenge interference above the net to put the play under review by the officials.
  • Players can wear “snug-fitting nose rings and ear cuffs.”
  • Protests must be resolved during the match.
  • The experimental rule was approved allowing women’s teams, during the nontraditional season, to use the men’s/international volleyball which has a non-smooth cover.

Photo from The Scribe archives.