Archive for Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Volleyball players adjusting to libero role

October 5, 2005

Lee-buh-row, luh-bare-oh or luh-beer-oh.

Volleyball players differ on the pronunciation of libero.

However libero is pronounced, it's a welcome word in Tonganoxie volleyball.

The position, which has been around a few years in college and club volleyball, debuted this season at the high school level.

The position is derived from the libero position in soccer. In soccer, the libero -- or sweeper -- is the last line of defense before the goalie.

Lindsey Himpel and Hannah Herrstrom are the Tonganoxie volleyball team's two libero position players. The libero can enter and leave the game at any time, but can only play in the back row. She can't jump or attack, and she is required to wear a different-colored uniform. In addition, high school liberos can't serve, although they are allowed to at other levels.

For Himpel, the new position hasn't required much adapting. In the off-season, she played the defensive-minded position at the club level.

"I like being libero," Himpel said. "It's my favorite thing now."

Himpel said the position is an added bonus to the sport because it can help stop an opponent's momentum, especially if they keep serving to a player in the back row.

"If you have a girl in a rut, you can pull her out and bring in the libero," Himpel said.

And, of course, that player can come right back in for the libero.

Liberos clearly stand out because they're required to wear noticeably different colored uniforms from their teammates.

Himpel said she doesn't mind standing out a bit.

"I don't think it's that weird," Himpel said.

Tonganoxie's other libero agreed. In fact, Herrstrom embraces being the "odd ball" when it comes to the uniform color.

"I like it," Herrstrom said with a big smile. "Everybody asks me that."

Unlike Himpel, Herrstrom hasn't had club experience with the new position, so it's taken some time to adjust.

"Sometimes when I'm hitting a down ball, I have to remember not to jump," Herrstrom said. "It's different. I like it, though."

Being a libero requires another important trait -- total concentration at all time.

THS co-coach Tiffany Parker signals to her libero several times during a match, Herrstrom said.

"I'll be getting a drink, and she'll say, 'Now!'" Herrstrom explained.

Rules stipulate that a team may have only one libero per match. That means co-coaches Tiffany and Brandon Parker must evaluate their liberos and practice and choose a libero the day of the match.

Brandon Parker explained that choosing a libero sometimes comes down to who is serving better in practice. The better server will throw on the regular uniform, while the other player will wear the libero uniform.

Like a lineman in football, a back row or defensive specialist in volleyball doesn't receive the same fanfare as a hitter or setter. The libero position, though, helps put another player in the limelight.

"It gives a little more recognition to those back-row players who don't get many accolades," Parker said.

From a coaching standpoint, the libero position also creates more options. Coaches have more substitution opportunities because they aren't using allotted substitutions for the libero.

"It frees us of substituting," Parker said. "It gives us the opportunity not to run out of subs."

It also gives players an opportunity to pronounce a word that is Italian in origin and also is the name of a Subaru microvan.

Himpel prefers pronouncing her position "lee-buh-row."

Herrstrom prefers "luh-bare-oh."

"That involves too much work," Herrstrom said of the other pronunciation. "It just sounds better, I don't know why."

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