Net Games

For a setter, it’s among the most annoying things an opponent can do, and Liberty High School’s middle blocker Nicole Anderson did it to Carondelet’s Caitlin Luquet during a battle of undefeated teams on Oct. 11.

While on defense, Anderson placed her hands just off the net so that the ball, which plowed into the net on an overpass from the offensive side, would push the net into her hands and make the ball change direction. It’s legal and drives the setter, who’s trying to control the ball off the net, crazy.

The move is supposed to be used as sort of a veteran trick, something that isn’t obvious and can’t be picked up, like a slower defender in basketball grabbing a speedy player’s shorts to keep pace.

In other circumstances, the trick usually draws smiles from all and maybe an "A-ha, you got me" from the opposing team.

But Anderson used the trick (we call it that for lack of another word) at a significant juncture, in a significant game, during a significant match, and so it was significantly magnified.

The rule, according to one coach, states that if a player’s hands are at the net, its OK if the ball pushes the net into the hands, but the player can’t move her hands to create the contact. The referee explained it to a couple of angry parents, motioning with his own hands that if Anderson didn’t push the ball, she could make contact through the net. It seems the debate lies in whether the player makes unintentional contact or just makes it look unintentional?

Luquet was already trying to make a great play by setting the ball off of the net on an arrant pass, now you got someone essentially interfering with the ball on your side of the net. The trick killed Carondelet’s chance to rally and extended the Lions late surge for the win.

So is the "net trick" considered cheating or just a heads up play? On this night, or any other, I guess it depends what side of the net you’re on.