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How Long Is A Volleyball Game? (High School, College, Beach)

how long is a volleyball game (high school, college, beach)

Volleyball games can be tricky to predict the time for. This is due to the large number of variables involved in the scoring and win conditions, as opposed to the strict time limits in soccer, basketball, or football.

Rather than a bad thing, this makes volleyball even more interesting and dynamic to watch, as it truly is anyone’s game if they take the time to come back. 

Still, there should be a definitive answer…

So, how long is a volleyball game? On average, a volleyball game lasts between 60 to 90 minutes depending on the amount of sets played. Best of three matches are shorter, averaging at an hour, while best of fives can approach the two hour mark. Beach volleyball has different timing, resulting in an average of 45 minutes per game.

These numbers are dependent on the estimation of each set lasting 20-25 minutes each. 

This is typical, but can vary shorter and longer wildly within the same match. When setting time plans for volleyball matches – whether to book or watch – always estimate high. After all, if there’s one thing volleyball players love, it’s to subvert expectations.

In this article, I’ll be discussing:

  • Factors that affect time in volleyball
  • High school vs college match lengths
  • Some frequently asked questions

3 Factors That Make A Volleyball Game Longer or Shorter

3 factors that make a volleyball game longer or shorter

Volleyball is a game that is determined by many different factors, any of which can extend the duration of the match or shorten it considerably. 

Here are some of the most common to consider.

1. Number of Sets

The primary factor in determining the length of any volleyball game is the number of sets played. 

The less sets played, the less time both teams spend on court, and winning sets efficiently can make the difference to a team’s future performance in a tournament or other match.

In a best of three – usually played at the middle school and high school level – each team must win two out of the three to win. 

If each set takes around 20 or 25 minutes, this means that the shortest match might be finished in around 40 minutes. A tiebreak set would push the match length closer to an hour, and a best of five would extend the time even further.

That’s not all though. 

Volleyball sets can only be won with a two point lead, and in a close back-and-forth the points can exceed the normal limit of 25. This makes for great competition and athletic drama, but also extends the length of the game.

Amazingly, in 1979, a set lasted to 87-85 before concluding. This was due to volleyball’s old rules that only allowed a team to score on their own serve, and eventually contributed to the revision of the entire system to avoid something like that happening again.

Overall, the number of sets played in a volleyball game can be very unpredictable, with the times of the individual sets themselves alternating wildly. This makes event planning and booking complicated, so it’s always better to overestimate how much time you’ll need!

2. Timestops

Timestops are the next factor that determines how long a volleyball game will last. As their name implies, the time is either stopped or play suspended while these occur. This includes timeouts, substitutions, injury (emergency) timeouts, and breaks.

Timestops are usually very brief, but they can add up. 

Each team has two timeouts and six substitutions to use per set, and a clever coach can use these times to stall the game, plan with his team, and make a comeback or extend their lead. Doing so extends the time of the set by several minutes.

In professional play, technical timeouts also exist. 

These are an automatic timeout that is taken the first time a team reaches the 8th and 16th points in a set – excluding the final tiebreak set. Lasting only 30 seconds, they are more of a chance for players to catch their breath than a real stop to the match.

Emergency timeouts and breaks are entirely different though. 

These can last from five minutes to five hours, depending on the situation, or even beyond. Injury on court, a fire in the building, or weather conditions are all factors that come into play here, and while they ideally will never happen, all have potential to affect the length of a match.

3. Beach vs Indoor

We’ve talked about number of sets before, and how indoor volleyball uses either best of three or five for its matches. In beach volleyball, it’s always best of three. Additionally, sets are played to 21 instead of 25, with the final tiebreak set to 15 as usual.

Beach volleyball is exhausting enough to move around on the sand, but best of five matches with only teams of two are both grueling and unpleasant. Because of this, beach sets are shortened and the sets capped at three to make them more fun, intense, and enjoyable to watch.

How Long Is A High School Volleyball Game?

How long is a high school volleyball game

A high school volleyball game typically lasts around an hour. Varsity matches can last longer though, up to around an hour and a half.

The differences in length can primarily be chalked up to the differences between JV and varsity teams. 

While JV teams (or freshman) teams usually play a best of three, varsity teams typically play a best of five. 

This, combined with their higher level of play and rate of return, extends the length of play.

How Long Is A College Volleyball Game?

How long is a college volleyball game

A college/university volleyball game typically lasts around an hour and a half. While matches can end as soon as the first hour mark, it’s also not uncommon for high levels of competition to approach the two hour mark.

This level is unique in that it holds the highest disparity of ability. 

Some players joining collegiate teams may never have played before, while others regularly compete at the national level and possess a similar level of attack and defense as professionals. 

This difference in ability contributes to the most unpredictable match lengths of any level, and has as much to do with division level as individual ability.

This unpredictability also makes this level one of the most enjoyable and entertaining to watch. 

Not only that, but for many of these student-athletes it will be the last season of volleyball they ever play, giving their teams motivation and fervor not often seen at other levels. 

Whenever possible, get out there and cheer for your local collegiate team, and see some fantastic volleyball while you’re at it.

How Long Is A Beach Volleyball Game?

How long is a beach volleyball game

A beach volleyball game typically lasts around 45 minutes. This is due to the lower amount of points needed and the lower set cap than indoor (best of three).

While indoor teams usually play a max of two or three matches a day in a tournament, beach players can play up to five or even six games a day in some tournaments, though this number is lessened at higher levels.

Beach volleyball is a fast-paced sport that doesn’t disappoint. Try checking out a local tournament to play in or watch for a fun afternoon and your daily dose of vitamin D. It’s always better in person.

How Long Do Volleyball Tournaments Last?

How long do volleyball tournaments last

Volleyball tournaments can be divided into two groups: endurance types and progression types. 

Endurance types typically take place in a single weekend and involve two days of teams playing 2-4 matches each. These tournaments usually last 10 or 12 hours each day, with reduced hours on the second as teams get eliminated.

Progression tournaments, on the other hand, are competed in over a series of weeks or even months. Teams play 1 (or sometimes 2) matches on a determined day, travelling to their opponent instead of a tournament venue. When the tournament gets to the quarter- or semi-final stage, teams meet at the venue for a single day of usually 8 hours.

While both types of tournaments are good, progression style tournaments require a lot of extra planning and time in the long run. That’s why they are usually used at the pro and university level, while endurance tournaments are run at the high school and club level.

Key Takeaway:

  • Progression tournament – 4-5 single matches + 8 hour venue day.
  • Endurance tournament – 1 weekend of 10-12 hours each day.

Related Article: How to Make the Volleyball Team Without Experience (12 Tips)

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Is A Volleyball Set?

A set in volleyball is typically between 20 and 25 minutes long for indoor volleyball. Between equally matched teams or in a heated back and forth however, sets can be as long as 30 minutes. This means that some matches in a best of five can surpass the two hour mark.

What Is The Longest Game In Volleyball History?

The longest league match in volleyball history was between Allianz Milano and Top Volley Cisterna in November 2021, which lasted a grand total of 2 hours and 55 minutes of play. This exceeded the previous record set in 2020 in the Italian Cup by just one minute. The match was won by Cisterna 3-2.

What is the Longest Volleyball Competition?

The longest indoor volleyball marathon lasted 85 hours and was achieved in 2011 by members of the Netherlands SVU Volleyball teams in Uilenstede in Amselveen, Netherlands. Competing sides played a total of 63 matches of continuous play, marking off 338 individual sets and scoring a whopping 14,635 points on completion.

What Is The Longest Set In Volleyball History?

The longest set in volleyball history ended at 87-85 points and was recorded in 1979. This was due to existing rules at the time that only allowed a team to score on their own serve, and eventually contributed to the revision of the entire system to avoid that happening again.

What Is The Shortest Set In Volleyball History?

The shortest set in volleyball history is difficult to pinpoint, but is probably the first set in Russia vs Algeria in the FIVB Women’s 2015 World Cup in Japan. The set ended 25-5 in Russia’s favor and lasted just over twelve minutes in total. This beat the previous record in the same tournament, also by Algeria, against China.

Other Rules In Volleyball

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