Pulling, Breaking or Peeling from the net

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1. Breaking (also known as pulling or peeling) from the net

Breaking from the net is when a player positions themselves at the net then retreats to the back court defence position after the set has been made. They retreat because they cannot be effective by being in a blocking position or consider being in a ‘down defense’ position favourable.
Teams position themselves as if they are going to block first. Inexperienced, younger or lower level players usually learn breaking from the net before blocking because they won’t necessarily use the block (due to height, technical ability for example) but they should still be in a position at the net to defend the tight or over set.
Timing is key to the success of breaking. If a blocker starts to move (break) before the set and then the set is tight and close to the net, they are leaving the net wide open for a strong hit. So it is important not to break prematurely.

2. Breaking from the net
The blocker, after gauging the quality and location of the set makes a decision to block or not to block and will break from the net into a ‘down defensive’ position, which is about halfway from the net to the baseline about 2 – 3m into court from the side line.
If a player makes the decision to break from the blocking position, the most important thing is to be still just before the attacker makes contact with the ball. This allows the defender to react quickly in any direction.

The start position

Some blockers prefer the square facing the net position approximately an elbow’s length from the net. Others prefer to be already on the back foot, sideways on, with the first step already taken and leaning backwards as in figure. So if they then have to block, they have to step towards the net.
The advantages for staying square are that the player can break turning to the line or the cross court while maintaining a good position to block. This way they create more opportunities to defend different shots when breaking from the net. Although it is one more step, when done effectively it can be as quick as being in the sideways position.

Blocker lined up on the inside sholder of the passer, seeing the back of his hands

Take a large first step whilst looking at the attacker

Step two is the cross over step which takes the player back into the defensive court

The third step, part of the two break step, sees the body pivoting around the head, shoulders leaning forwards to stop backward momentum.

The fourth and final brake step, squares the body towards the net, brakes the momentum, with “jazz hands” to play the hard driven ball, but ready to move in any direction.

Maria Virginia Zonta and Ana Gallay from Argentina
Ana Gallay from Argentina moving into the break position with jazz hands to defend the hard driven ball

3. Which way to turn?

The general finish position for breaking from the net, whether you decide to turn into court or turn facing the line, is with the defensive player not moving when the attacker contacts the ball and standing square to the net.

• In the first stages of learning to break from the net, most blockers break turning into court facing the centre with their first step. This means the blocker/breaker will be facing the larger area of the court

• Most good blockers will be able to turn and break in either direction depending on a number of factors: Their initial start point, the location of the pass and set and their ability to read the attacker

Factors which determine the movement

Movement can be determined in relation to where the ball is passed, set and the direction of the attacker on the opposite side of the court. The ideal final defence position isn’t always achieved and which way to turn out to break can be determined by a number of factors:

• An attacker always has a preferred way they hit; either middle or line. A breaking blocker opening out towards where the attack will be played will allow them to be facing the direction and finish towards the attacker’s favoured direction for hitting.
• With a wide set (close to the antenna), the likelihood of a line hit lessens so the blocker will break and open out towards the middle of the court.
• With an inside set (in the middle of the court), an attacker is more likely to hit back to the line, so breaking facing the line would put the breaker into a more practical position.
• A blocker has a preferred way in which they move faster and therefore will set themselves up in the final break position much faster.

4. Area to break into
The simplest way to decide which area to break into is based upon your team mate’s signal; if a line block is signalled, then the blocker breaks into the line position; if a cross court is signalled, the blocker breaks into the cross court position.
Alternatively regardless of the call, some teams always break into the line position. The defender will play a central defence for this type of block breaking to happen. Discuss beforehand which area and system of breaking will be used.

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