CHANNAHON – When most people watch a volleyball match, the attention goes right to the net, where the hitters take big swings and blockers try to stop them. Little do they realize at the time that the play usually started with someone making a good pass to the setter.
The position used to be called defensive specialist, but has since been changed to libero. But what does a libero do?
The position was added to the game in 1999 along with special rules for play to foster more digs and rallies and to make the game more exciting. The libero remains in the game at all times and is the only player not limited by rules of rotation. He usually replaces the middle blocker position when they rotate to the back row and never rotates to the front row himself.
Also, the libero is responsible for a great deal of the passing in serve receive. Often the libero will be responsible for a much greater part of the court than his teammates. The libero is in the game to add ball control, so his main responsibility is to pass the ball well so the team can run the offense. On defense the libero needs to dig well, getting a hand on every ball he can to keep the play alive. Because the libero has no attack responsibilities, he must chase down every ball he can. He may also be responsible for setting if the ball is dug by the setter or out of the setter’s range.
Sounds a bit like a thankless job, but don’t tell that to Minooka’s Armani Zuniga, as he has helped lead the Indians to their third straight Southwest Prairie Conference title this season.
Oesterle: What made you decide to be, or how did you become, a libero?
Zuniga: I first started playing (volleyball) as a freshman, and I wasn’t as tall as all the other guys. Passing was kind of my forte, so I ended up here.
Oesterle: I see a lot of banners around the gym for the volleyball program. Is keeping up that tradition important to you?
Zuniga: Our goal for the season is definitely to go back to state. That’s the big one. We won the conference. We have a lot of smaller goals that we want to reach on the way to the bigger goals, and winning the conference was one of those.
Oesterle: Does practicing against your own players help you out when game time comes?
Zuniga: Yeah, knowing that I am practicing against guys that are better than most of the guys on the other teams really helps out. I pretty much face my toughest competition in practice every day.
Oesterle: Do you have a routine that gets you ready?
Zuniga: During warmups, different guys will go to different stations to practice. Some will serve, some will hit. We have music going, and that helps get us ready.
Oesterle: What’s on the playlist?
Zuniga: Good Vibrations (by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch)is a good one. That really gets us pumped up.