How many sets are in a volleyball game and how many points to win a set? (Answered)

The volleyball scoring system has evolved over time. Also, the way the points are awarded has evolved. In the past, you could only win points when your team was taking the initiative by serving. Nowadays you can also score points when your team is not serving. This makes it easier to score points than before. Let’s discuss how the scoring system works now.

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 How many periods are there in a volleyball match? How many games are in a volleyball match?

Nowadays volleyball is played in sets. This means that each team can win a set when they score a certain amount of points. This amount of points depends on the set that is being played. The first sets are until minimum 25 points (more if the team has an equal amount of points as you need to have 2 points more than the other team to win the set). The final set is played until a minimum of 15 points (again with the requirement to have at least 2 more points than the other team at the end.

WomenSet 1-2Set 3 (only if no team has won 2 sets)
Women minimum of 25 pointsminimum of 15 points

Men play a maximum of 5 sets as one team has to win at least 3 sets to win the match. Women play a maximum of 3 sets per match as one team has to win at least 2 sets to win the match. Matches often last between 90 and 120 minutes but there is no time limit (except in some tournaments to make sure that it ends on time). Some matches can be done in 30 minutes while longer matches can last more than 2 hours. This depends on how close the teams are and if a tie-break is needed after two teams have the same amount of points. 

MenSet 1-4Set 5 (only if no team has won 3 sets)
minimum of 25 points minimum of 15 points minimum of 15 points

Once this score is reached the team can celebrate. Let’s take a look at some of them:

How many sets in high school and college volleyball in the USA?

This depends as the rules that can be set on the federal level but each state can also have its own rules. 

The National Federation of High School (NFHS) rules state that a match lasts 5 sets. The first 4 sets have 25 points, the last one has 15 points. They leave the option open for states to set their own rules. Some state associations have modified this rule.

In Illinois, for example, they work with 3 sets per match but each set has 25 points. This can give the teams from Illinois a disadvantage if they have to play in another state as they are not used to the 5 sets per game rule and might get tired earlier. 

The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) states that all matches will 5 sets. There are no state exemptions but there are expectations for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) as they allow 3 sets. 

Tournaments can also create their own rules so you will have to check in advance what is possible. In general, they will also stick with the 5 sets per game but they might change it to 3 sets. The number is always 3 or 5 sets. One set would be too short and 7 sets would be too long and players would get too tired to keep going.  

Players in high school leagues often don’t have a lot of ball control and they drop the ball quite often. This is why they use 5 sets to make sure that the games last long enough and everyone gets the chance to play.

It can be quite intense to play 5 sets per match and the games can last quite long. For some players, it can be challenging to keep playing for that long. Luckily the coaches can substitute players that are tired during the match. NFHS allows up to 18 substitutions per match. NCAA only allows 15 per match. 

When does a volleyball game end? Volleyball Set versus Match

A volleyball game ends when one of the teams wins the required sets. This is 2 sets for women and 3 sets for men. There is no time limit and games keep going until a team has won. In some instances, this can lead to long sets as both teams have the same amount of points during a set. Then one team has to make sure that they get 2 more points than the other team to win the set. A setpoint is a rally that can make one team win the set.

This is often very exciting as most teams fight hard to make sure that they don’t lose a set. A tiebreak is a rally that has to decide which team wins the set as both teams have the same amount of points at the end of the set. Winning a set is a big deal as you are getting closer to winning the match. You can still lose the match after winning a set so teams have to stay active.

For example, the Russian team won from the Brazilian team in the Olympics after being 2 sets behind. They worked hard and played well together and were able to beat the Brazilian team with 3 sets against 2. This doesn’t happen that often but from time to time you see teams making a great comeback.

It can be hard to plan the day when you have a volleyball match as they can last a long time. In a lot of other sports, such as basketball or soccer, there is a time limit and you know in advance when the match will be done. In volleyball, you also have timeouts, substitutions, and pauses between the sets that make the game last even longer. In general, I haven’t seen a lot of matches that lasted more than 2 hours but it is possible that a match drags on for a while.

 To conclude, we can state that volleyball games last a maximum of three (for women) or five sets (for men). The goal is to win two sets (women) or three sets (men) per match to win it. High school volleyball often lasts a maximum of 5 sets as well as players have less experience and drop the ball more often, leading to faster points.