A volleyball game can last anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes with many factors that determine its length based on the rules of the game which we will discuss in this article.
Let’s take a look at the general consensus around the length of the game and then take a deeper look at what determines the final outcome.
Length of the Game
So, how long is a volleyball game? Generally, a volleyball game can be anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes long.
However, this is not a fixed length. Volleyball does not have an indicative time period that marks the end of a match.
Usually, the number of sets that are played in a given match is used to figure out how long a volleyball game will last. Depending on the format of the game, there could either be three or five sets in a game.
It is only until a team wins a majority of the sets (2 of 3 or 3 of 5) that the game comes to an end. Each set generally takes around 20-25 minutes. There are several other considerations involved here as well.
What Determines the Length of a Game?
There are many considerations that go into determining how long a volleyball game will last. Let’s take a look at some of these factors in detail to get a better understanding of the length.
Level and Format
Volleyball is played at different levels across the world. This could include a high school level, college level, regionals, states, nationals as well as international levels. Depending on where a particular team is playing, the length of a game might differ.
For example, in lower levels of tournaments, there might only be 3 sets involved in each game, out of which one team needs to win 2 sets. In the finals or as the levels advance, there might either be 3 or 5 sets.
Each set requires 25 points to be won with a two-point lead.
In beach volleyball, since there are only 21 points in each set, the overall game can go on for around an hour.
Number of Sets
A game can include either 3 or 5 sets in a game of volleyball, depending on the level or format in which the game is being played.
When it comes to 3 sets, a team needs to win 2 sets for the game to end. Each set tends to include 25 points (21 for beach volleyball) so that the teams can move onto the next set.
In some cases, however, the third set might only include 15 points to determine a winner, especially in the case of a tie in the previous two sets.
For 5 sets, a team has to win 3 sets. The points are the same, with the fifth set having 15 points to determine the winner. This usually takes longer than a 3-set game.
Duration of Each Set
How long each set lasts can also set the course of the match and decide how long the game will last. The duration of each set not only depends on the scores required to win but also on additional factors such as breaks, substitutions and more that we can look into later.
You can expect each set to typically last for 20-25 minutes or until the 25 or 21 points have been achieved by a team.
In some cases, however, the end of a set may also see both teams at a tie or deuce with the same number of points. For instance, both teams may have 24 points each.
Since volleyball requires a two-point lead to win, the teams need to keep playing until a team reaches 26 points or even more in case the deuce continues.
This could increase the length of a set significantly.
Points and Rallies
The points and rallies could also determine the length of a volleyball game.
We have already seen that each set includes 25 or 21 points in a given set depending on the format. Each team needs to maintain a two-point lead to win a match. Whoever reaches 25 0r 21 points first with this lead wins the set.
In some cases, a team might be able to win two consecutive sets, which could shorten the game a bit. However, in case one team wins one set while the other team wins the other, they will need to play the third set to determine a winner.
The same applies to a 5-set match.
A rally refers to how long the ball is kept in the air by both teams without it falling to the ground. If a rally goes on for a long time, the duration of the game could also increase as this means that it would take longer for a team to win a point.
The average rally duration is only 5-7 seconds, but can certainly go on for much longer in some situations.
Timeouts and Intervals
A volleyball game, like most other sports, is not played continuously without any break in between. Each team is allowed a certain number of timeouts in each set to have discussions or change strategies in their plays.
This timeout can be significant in changing the momentum of the set or game or interrupting a winning streak by the opposing team. These timeouts can either be 30 or 75 seconds long and can be called twice in each set.
Intervals between each set are also held so that the players can catch a break before moving onto the next set. These intervals can add a few more minutes to the overall duration.
The serves in each set determine the beginning of a rally. These serves are important to set the ball in motion so that the game can begin and teams can win points.
Each server gets a total of eight seconds to make the serve. Once these eight seconds are over, the referee blows a whistle to indicate the end. If the server has not managed to serve, then the point can go to the other team.
The players can either serve immediately or wait for a few seconds to serve. The referee can also determine when they blow their whistle to start the rally.
Within each match, substitutions can also have a small impact on the overall duration of the match. While this impact is not significant, it can still increase the duration of the match by a couple of minutes overall, depending on how many substitutions take place.
There are usually limited substitutions allowed in each set or game, whether that includes the players or pinch servers.
Further, the libero of the team also keeps going in and out of the rotation.
In case one or more of the players in a team violate some rules of the game, the game might pause for a few seconds. This can also lead to substitutions after a point or asking the player to sit out for the remainder of the set or game.
This can add to the duration of the overall game. In some cases, it might also take a few minutes to figure out the cause of the violation or to argue against it.
While this might be a rare occurrence, it can definitely make the game longer.
Sometimes, players might have the option to challenge the referee or the opposing team in case they have doubts about a point or a play. This could then lead to reviews on behalf of the referee to confirm the validity of the point.
This could increase the length of the game if the review lasts for a few minutes. Once again, this is rare and is only allowed in more advanced tournaments and matches. The rules for these are also established to prevent unnecessary delays.
Other circumstances can also cause a game to last for longer than expected, such as injuries of players.
Several records have been set in different leagues when it comes to how long a set or game has gone on. For instance, a college-level match in the US that took place in February 2021 had a set that went on for 88 points.
On the other hand, this set between Serbia and Algeria ended in less than ten minutes as the Serbian team had a 14-0 lead that ended with a score of 25-3, making it one of the shortest sets.
To sum up, usually, a volleyball lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, but it can be even shorter or longer. There are several factors that determine this duration, most of which we have described to you in sufficient detail.
While some of these factors might not always occur in a match, it is still important to keep them in mind in case something unexpected comes up during a match.
Further, many of these factors might only end up adding a few more minutes to the overall duration.
Yet, being aware of these factors can help build up stamina while preparing for games, especially when it comes to ongoing rallies and multiple sets.