"Why is that player wearing a different color jersey?"
This is an inevitable question from any new viewer of a volleyball game. Many times, the first time someone would be seeing a volleyball game is in college to support their school's team.
So what is the answer to this? That player is a libero.
The college volleyball libero is a powerful player on the court and the way the rules and regulations work around this unique player is fascinating. Most sports have a set starting team. For example, baseball has its nine players on the field and the rest sit the bench, ready to come in if need be.
However, volleyball's libero is a unique position that defies most logical rules when it comes to sports. The libero is a defensive only position. And most people who play as a libero don't play as anything else.
This isn't uncommon, usually people have their respective positions. However, the interesting bit of a libero is the way the rules have shaped to accommodate them. In collegiate level volleyball there are 15 allowed substitutions in a game for any given team.
Liberos are an exception to this rule, having an unlimited substitutions within the rules of their position. They are able to come in and out of the play field during a rotation. In most cases, they switch out with a middle blocker when they reach the back row.
They are the only position restricted when rotating. A libero is only able to play in the back row. They are unable to attack above the net to score points. They are also unable to set the ball for their teammates unless they are behind the attack line.
A libero's role in the game is to play the best defense. They are meant to be masters of defense. A libero is almost seen as the last line of defense. They are meant to get the balls that the blockers and other players cannot.
Collegiate volleyball is at the level in which liberos need to be utilized to the best of their ability. Liberos are a part of every team to bolster their defensive abilities. They also carry a large weight of the team's morale.
Team morale is something that can make or break a game, especially in college. If there is any doubt in the minds of the players, the game will reflect that.
However, a libero making an extraordinary save can raise the spirits of their teammates. A libero gives their offense another chance and they leave their all on the court to show the team that it is never over.
On the other hand, if a libero is unable to make a play that can make morale plummet. They are meant to be the best defensive player on the team, therefore if they cannot pick up a serve several times in a row, then the team casts doubt on their own ability to do it.
Putting in a libero is a strategy move, it builds the wall of defense and also can be a hail-mary to boost morale. Liberos have an incredibly important role in college volleyball and it is up to the player and the coach how much of an impact that they can have on the overall game.