The Slimy Line

I originally started thinking a lot about the short line shot, or “slimy line” as it’s often called, while I was watching Todd Rogers play in Klagenfurt. Since then I have see it used more and more. Nowadays I think it’s pretty much an essential part of any high level players side out game.

I thought I would write a short post explaining why this shot is so effective for both side out and transition.

Below are two diagrams showing two side out scenarios.

In the first diagram, the right side player is attacking the ball from near the antenna. Assuming that the block is on the line, he/she has three main options.

  1. Roll line over the block
  2. Power angle
  3. Sharp angle shot

This is a standard set up. The standard defense for this is to wait on the angle for the power hit, and then chase a shot if it comes. If you have a very big blocker, then chasing that line shot can sometimes be quite easy because the attacker needs to give the ball a lot of height to go over the block. (This was the problem that Rogers faced against Alison in the final in Klagenfurt.)

In the second diagram, the side out attacker, is hitting the set about 2.5 – 3 metres inside the antenna. While this makes the sharp angle hit a lot harder, it opens up the fast line shot option. The attacker now has the following options.

  1. Roll line over the block
  2. Power angle
  3. Sharp angle shot
  4. FAST Short line shot

This fast line shot passes the side of the block, so it is impossible for a defender to dig, unless he/she anticipates the shot and moves early. You can’t wait on the angle and chase it. It’s too fast. So now the side out player has a fast option either side of the block forcing the defender to show his/her hand early.

When Rogers made this tactical chance against Harley – Alison, Harley stayed on the angle most of the time. When Rogers played the fast line shot, it left Harley about 6 metres from the ball with no hope of making a dig.

The Slimy Cross

The logical progression of this offense is that the blocker will start to be more careful about covering the line on an inside set. This creates another opportunity for the side out player that the guys I coach have started calling the “Slimy Cross”. OK, so maybe we are getting a bit carried away with the whole “slimy” thing, but the shot works.

These two diagrams show the area the blocker is taking in pink and the opportunity that the attacker has for a clean winner in green.

The theory that I work on is that from an inside set, if the blocker blocks line, he or she cannot cover the entire half of the court from the center of the baseline all the way to the outside sharp line angle. The blocker needs to decide whether he will completely cover the line (leaving the deep middle), cover the line/middle (leaving the slimy line open), or spread block, taking the outside options but leaving a gap between his hands.

Using this tactic, the attacker is able to play side out against the blocker, keeping the back court player out of the play in most cases. This can be very effective when you are playing against a team with a blocker who does not have good technique, which is sometimes the case with the bigger blockers. It’s also a tactic to use against a team with an excellent back court defender.