St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Caffeine-infused volleyball

Rally scoring speeds up games, and every play can result in a point.

Published September 28, 2003

Since 1974, when the Florida High School Athletic Association recognized volleyball, teams have relied on the rules of sideout, playing matches that were best-of-three games to 15 points.

Not anymore.

To keep up with an evolving sport, the FHSAA switched to rally scoring this season.

The system is played in a best-of-five game format, and all plays result in a point regardless of who serves. The first four games are played to 25 points (no cap), with the winner holding a two-point lead. The fifth game is to 15 and must be won by two.

With such sweeping changes, many wondered how long it would take for players to adapt.

The adjustment period, though, was nonexistent for players such as East Lake middle hitter Chelsea Lazar, who has been exposed to rally rules in club ball the past four years.

"It was actually more of an adjustment coming back to play sideout in high school because I was so used to rally scoring," Lazar said.

"I like the change. Rally scoring is fun. Games are quicker, but you get to play for a longer period of time. And you have to be on your game in order to win."

FIVB, the sport's international governing body, was the first to implement rally rules, in 1999. The system was used in the 2000 Olympic Games, and the NCAA adopted it the following year.

The last holdovers of sideout play were at the prep level.

But after years of discussion, the National Federation of High Schools - the organization that sets rules for all but two state associations - approved rally scoring in January and mandated states apply the format by 2004-2005. Wisconsin, Ohio and Mississippi have yet to make the change.

"The players want a faster-paced game, and rally scoring does that," said Cynthia Doyle, NFHS assistant director and liaison to the rules committee. "We've done a lot of research and had some states experiment with the scoring system the past two years. So far, the response has been positive."

Paul McLaughlin, the FHSAA's volleyball administrator, said there has been a growing acceptance from coaches and fans who like the excitement generated by the new system.

"America loves points, and there's a chance to score on every play," McLaughlin said. "People definitely get their money's worth."

Still, some traditionalists didn't want to see sideout competition go the way of six-player girls basketball.

"I don't like rally scoring," said Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly, who played sideout in high school and college and coached under the format the past 11 seasons. "To me, it's not volleyball. It changes the way the game is played, and I'm not big on changes. I like regular volleyball the way it's supposed to be played."

McLaughlin admits the system is a work in progress. Matches have gone longer than expected, and the NFHS will review how many games are played per match and the scoring caps on games.

"We're going to be tinkering with some things," McLaughlin said. "But I think overall it's working."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.