Volleyball Serving Rules

Volleyball Serving

At the beginning of each rally of a volleyball game, an offensive player serves the ball into the opponent’s court. Serving is the action of putting the ball into play by hitting it over the net and into the opponent’s court. Find more information about the different rules regarding a serve in volleyball below.

When Do Teams Serve?

In volleyball, after each point is scored, there is a serve. If the point is scored by the serving team, the same player on the same team serves the ball. If the point is scored by the receiving team, the next player in the rotation on the other team serves the ball.

Can You Score on a Serve?

If the receiving team fails to receive the ball on a serve, the serving team scores a point. This is called an ace. Aces are usually recorded in the box score and are desired by any team, as the team will gain a point without having to play defense.

Where Does Serving Happen?

Volleyball Server

There is a service area about ten feet wide and behind the end line. Players are not allowed to cross or touch the end line before making contact with the ball otherwise a foot fault will be called, and a point will be awarded to the other team.

Rules of Service

The rules of serving the ball are as follows:

  • Serves put the ball into play.
  • The back-right player makes the serve, and they must serve it from within the service zone.
  • The first service of the first set and the deciding fifth set is determined by a coin toss.
  • The first service of the second through fourth sets is given to the team that did not serve first in the previous set.
  • A player can serve underhand or overhand, jump when they serve, or stay on the ground when they serve.
  • A player may allow a toss to hit the ground if they do not like the way it was tossed. 
  • A player cannot hit the ball with two hands, toss the ball in the air twice, or dribble or move the ball around before the serve.
  • A player must stand behind the end line and serve the ball within eight seconds.
  • If the serving team wins the rally, the same player serves again.
  • If the receiving team wins the rally, they rotate, and the player now in the service zone serves the ball.

Goals of Service

The main goal of serving is to begin a point while putting your team in the best position to win a rally. Servers want to make it as difficult as possible for the opposing team to receive the ball. This can be done by serving the ball with a powerful or deceiving nature, serving to an empty area, or serving to the poorest passer on the opposing team. 

Serving Strategies

When players serve, they are almost always hitting it in a strategic spot. A server can target the serving zones of the court to get an advantage when serving. For example, a short serve is one hit in the front court to zones two, three, or four.

A server can make the ball harder to hit by serving a floater, which usually has no spin to it. A line serve is one hit to the sideline so that the defense has to run to the sideline to retrieve it. While topspin serves can be predictable, a jump topspin serve creates enough power to make it difficult to receive.


What is an illegal serve in volleyball?

There are a few types of illegal serves in volleyball. Any time a server steps on or crosses the end line before making contact with the ball, it is considered illegal. Also, while players are allowed to serve underhand, they must do so with a closed fist. Lastly, any serve that does not make it over the net or land in bounds will be a side out for the opposing team. When an illegal serve occurs, the serving team will lose service, and a point will be awarded to the other team in rally scoring

Can you hit the net while serving in volleyball?

Yes, you can hit the net while serving the ball in volleyball. Unlike other net sports, if the ball makes contact with the net before crossing over to the opponent’s side, the ball is in play. Because of this, front-row players must always be ready to receive the ball in case it trickles over the net into the front court.

Where does the server stand in volleyball?

The server must stand in the service area on a volleyball court. This area is behind the end line and around ten feet from the right sideline. While the referee will usually warn the server if they are outside of this zone, serving the ball from outside of the service area is illegal.