In beach volleyball, a question concerning a open handed set shot over the net: I read that shoulders must be squared, feet set and ball must be perpendicular, but how can you judge if the ball is being directed with the fingers? Is there a certain height minimum that the trajectory must have or something of that nature?
Answer: Great question, Irving!
The “overhand set used as an attack to the opponent’s court” is one of the most difficult calls beach officials face. It’s usually a pretty surprising play when it happens, which is a large part of the problem.
You’ve identified all the key elements of the play… so I’ll just try to describe the process a bit more.
The spirit of the rule here is that it would be far too easy for players to win a point if they could hand set deceptively, with finger-action control, to any part of the opponent’s court at any time. There’s alot of sand over there, and only two players to defend it.
To even the odds a bit, a player who attacks “open-handed, with finger action” must do that only “straight ahead, or straight behind.”
This play develops quickly, and it can take a moment to register in the referee’s mind, “Yep… that just happened!” As you realize the decision you’re facing, take a moment to review in your mind a “map” of where everything occurred:
The attacking player moved in from there…
And set the ball from here…
And it went over to exactly there.
With this map in mind, you must judge whether the attacker actually set the ball straight ahead (or straight behind). We commonly call that “being square.”
Another part of your decision will be based on those elements that you mentioned: Did the attacker square up hands, shoulders, and hips with the line of attack? This is where judgement and common sense take over. As a general guideline, if the hips and shoulders and hand are all in line with the angle of attack, the attack is legal. If the player fails in any of that, then you should call an illegal attack. And no, the attacker doesn’t have to set the ball to a certain height; it’s the “square” part that makes the play legal.
You also asked, “How can we judge that the ball is being directed with the fingers?” That’s getting back to the idea I mentioned about finger-tip control. The pads of our fingers (where the finger-prints are) offer a high level of control when contacting the ball. That’s why we judge setting, and also tipping, so critically in beach volleyball. If a player opts to use finger-action in setting, serve receive, defense, or attacks, we pay special attention to the play.
So, as the referee, ask yourself, “Did the player contact the ball with the pads of the fingers, in an attempt to gain greater control?”
Last thought: Below is video clip of an open-hand attack with finger-action that demonstrates all the things we’ve discussed here.