Other Sports

What you'll see tonight

Men's volleyball differs from women's volleyball in many of the same ways as basketball.

Above the net or above the rim, the athletic ability of the men produces different strategies and different thrills.

If you attend Wichita State or high school volleyball matches, you are used to a game with rallies, played from side to side. The women are acrobatic and athletic, but not at the same height as the men.

This weekend's men's FIVB World League matches are often played on a different level. More plays are made above the 8-foot net (eight inches taller than in the women's game) and the ball moves more quickly, often in a direct line to the floor.

"The men's game is a vertical game," said Hank Van Arsdale, commissioner of Heart of America Volleyball, the USA Volleyball affiliate for Western Missouri and Kansas. "The ball goes straight down. It's so much harder to defend when a ball is coming from 10 feet in the air."

Don't expect long rallies this weekend between the United States and Russia. And don't get caught up in missed serves. The World League athletes will smoke jump-serves across the net at around 60-70 mph, trying to take away good passing opportunities.

"They're going to miss a larger amount of serves," WSU assistant coach R.J. Abella said. "Those serves are going to be jump hard and spike right at the passers. The whole point of them serving tough is that guys are a lot more physical. If they get a perfect pass, it's pretty hard to stop."

In the women's game, back-row attacks often result from poor passing or desperation. Back-row attacks are more common and more effective in the men's game.

"Guys jump so high, setting them in the back row is just as powerful as setting them in the front row," Abella said. "They kill it like it's a front-row ball."