If you go to a women’s volleyball match you might see something a little peculiar.
Take a look around at the players on the court and, chances are, you will notice one player on each squad with a different colored uniform.
No, they didn’t forget to pack the away jersey or leave the home uniform in the dorms, it’s just an indicator for a new position allowed by the NCAA — the libero.
Not all Division I teams need to have one on the court, but if teams choose to then they are allowed only 12 substitutions instead of the usual 18.
The reason the libero wears the opposite uniform as the rest of team is to let officials know who they are.
There are restrictions to this new position, but they’re simple.
Libero’s aren’t allowed to go above the level of attack—striking over the head and spiking the ball—and must remain behind the line of attack, which is the black line that divides the court.
Temple has decided to go forth and experiment with the libero position and has designated the spot to junior Yamit Haba, one of the more dominant outside hitters on the team.
“We just found out in the late spring that we were able to have a libero,” coach Bob Bertucci said.
“It just has to be a player that passes very well,” and defends well, too.
Haba has proven she can do all of the above.
Last season she was named to the Atlantic-10 All-Conference team and led the Owls in kills (329) and digs (361) and posted 31 blocks.
This season she has already tallied 106 kills and with the new position has upped her digs to 223.
For Haba, being stuck in the middle and anywhere behind the attack line is a change, and not being able to spike at will takes away from some of the more enjoyable aspects of the game.
But you won’t hear her complaining.
“That’s the fun part but we can be more effective and more efficient if we play with the libero,” Haba said.
“The most difficult thing is to pass perfect and dig.
It helps the team.”
In her 10 years of competition, Haba has seen it all. When she was 18 and a newcomer to the Israel National team she caught her first glance of the libero.
This past summer she was able to return home for some exhibitions in a European tournament.
She originally joined the Junior National team at the age of 15 and served as captain before receiving the promotion, but has never played the libero until this season.
Still, the new adjustment hasn’t given her much grief.
“Not for me,” Haba said. “I’ve been passing and digging.
I’ve been learning how to read in the middle and the right side.”
But Bertucci won’t implement the position all the time and will give Haba a rest or place her elsewhere when deemed necessary.
“I think we’ll use her in certain situations as a libero,” Bertucci said.
“But in other situations when we want to play her outside we’ll use somebody else.”
The libero position puts some limits on what can be done, but not on one’s talent.
So far the Owls (8-5) have reaped some benefits from the new position and will continue to use it unless things start to go downhill.
“If you have a libero and they can do that job, you play them all the time, they become just like a starter,” Bertucci said.
“I think other than the setter it’s the most important player we’ve got.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com