It took Allie Holland some self-belief—and some urging from her coach, Katie Schumacher-Cawley ’02 Com—to have confidence in her jump float serve, but since finding it, she hasn’t looked back. Penn State’s junior middle blocker tied for the team lead with 27 aces last season. Here are her keys to a consistent and hard-to-return float serve.
Skip the Spin
Ensuring that she contacts the ball straight on allows Holland to knock spin off the ball and flummox opponents. “When the ball is spinning, you can kind of predict where it’s going to go. But when it’s floating, it looks like it could be coming right at you and then move at the last minute. It’s harder to gauge the speed or direction of the ball.”
Holland, who uses a four-step serve, focuses on hitting (pushing) the serve in the center of the ball (above left), or slightly on top of it. If she gets under it (above right), the float serve tends to float out of bounds.
Attack the Zone
A serve doesn’t have to be perfect to help her team earn a point. Hitting it to the right spot and making it difficult for the opponent to pass it can throw off the other team’s entire attack. “Aces are important, and they’re exciting, but getting the ball to the zone is the game plan and getting [opponents] out of system is my goal,” she says.
EXPERT ADVICE FOR YOUR NEXT BACKYARD GAME: You don’t need to jump to give opponents a hard-to-return serve in recreational games, says Holland: “If you sky the ball up into the air, people will lose it in the sun.”