How long is a volleyball game? (All Levels Explained)

How long is a volleyball game

Volleyball is a popular sport played and loved by people of all ages. But what sets it apart from other sports like football and basketball is its unpredictability of time.

The length of a volleyball match depends on many variables, such as time stops, the team’s skill level, the number of sets, and weather conditions.

If you plan to book a volleyball match ticket, be ready for surprises in the match’s timing.

But how long is a volleyball game? A volleyball game takes around 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the number of sets.

Each set typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes, with best-of-three matches taking around an hour and the best-of-five reaching up to 2 hours.

A beach volleyball match is relatively shorter and can end in 45 minutes.

To better explain the concept of a volleyball match duration, I will briefly explain the factors affecting the duration, the difference in length in each match format, and a sneak peek of the longest game and set in volleyball history.

How Long is a Volleyball Set?

A volleyball set usually lasts around 20 to 30 minutes, with different factors affecting its duration.

A set’s length typically depends on the team’s ability to reach 25 points first.

If both opponents are strong and the players are highly skillful, the set duration could be more than 30 minutes.

As there is no time limit for each set, this is an edge for the players as they can return to the game anytime.

How Long is a Rally in Volleyball?

The average length of a rally in volleyball is about 5 seconds.

However, rallies can be much longer in professional matches because of the skillful players and the intensity of the games.

A rally in volleyball refers to the constant play of the ball until a team scores a point.

After getting the point, the serving team rotates, and the new server prepares to serve the ball.

One important concept to discuss here is the pseudo-rally, which refers to a situation when the serving team gets the point without a whole rally.

It can happen due to any violation, such as a lift violation, caused by the serving team before a properly established rally.

An interesting report compiled by FIVB shows that during the 2016 Rio Olympics, the average rally duration of men’s teams was 5.5 seconds, while that of women’s teams was 6.6 seconds.

The report also shows that without pseudo rallies, the average rally duration for men was 6.8 seconds and 7.8 seconds for women.

A volleyball ball in the air

Factors Affecting Volleyball Match Duration

There are a lot of factors that affect the overall duration of a volleyball match.

They contribute to the total length of a rally, set, complete game, or season.

Let me shed light on each point in detail.

1) Timeouts

Timeout means a pause in the volleyball game, called by the team coach or the captain during the set.

It can increase the duration of a set up to 5 minutes.

Each team can use two timeouts per set. According to the NCAA, you can take each timeout of 75 seconds per set, and FIVB recommends taking each timeout of 30 seconds per set.

The team captain or the coach can take advantage of these timeouts to discuss and plan upcoming strategies with their teammates.

Technical timeout also exists in professional matches, which occurs automatically when a team reaches the 8th and 16th points.

Its duration is 1 minute, and such timeout doesn’t occur in the final and the 5th set.

2) Match Formats

One of the most critical factors affecting the duration of a volleyball game is the match format, meaning if it’s best-of-three or best-of-five.

The more sets in a match extend the overall length of it, as each set takes 20-30 minutes.

A team must secure at least two sets to beat its competitor to win the best-of-three.

This format is used at lower-level competitions and in middle schools, etc.

In best-of-five, winning at least three sets is required for a team to win the match.

It is the format used at the professional level and takes 90 to 120 minutes as an average length for a game.

To your surprise, a best-of-two match format also exists, practiced when there is a time or space issue.

The match finishes in less than an hour, with fewer delays in the game.

Beach volleyball differs from indoor volleyball because it has a maximum of 3 sets in a match.

It means the game ends within an hour compared to a traditional volleyball match lasting up to 2 hours.

An overview of a volleyball tournament

3) Substitutions

Every volleyball team can substitute players six times per set, according to FIVB.

This process is quicker and doesn’t take more than 15-20 seconds.

It affects the length of a volleyball match, but not too much.

For the substitution, the coach must request the match officials for it.

4) Challenge

A challenge is a request made by the team to review a specific decision made by the officials during the match.

It ensures that only the correct calls occur during the game.

The challenge system affects the volleyball match duration because the referee has to stop the game, review the video replay, and make a revised decision.

The whole process can take from 30 seconds to 1 minute.

If the challenge is successful, the referee reverses the call, and that rally or set has to be replayed.

It further increases the duration of the game.

5) Intervals

Intervals are the pauses or breaks that occur between two sets.

They help the players to relax and dehydrate.

The coaches take advantage of it to make substitutions and plan strategic changes.

An interval lasts 3 minutes, and the gap between the second and third sets can be as long as 10 minutes.

During the interval, the teams change the court, and in the deciding set, the court changes when the winning team reaches 8 points. 

How Long is a High School Volleyball Game?

A high school volleyball game usually ends in an hour.

The difference in length depends on whether it’s a JV (Junior Varsity) match or a Varsity.

JV features young and relatively inexperienced players, while Varsity involves experienced and more skillful players.

Most high school games contain a best-of-five sets format, each set up to 25 points.

A team needs at least a two-point lead to win the match. 

If I talk about the Varsity matches, they can last around 1.5 hours, which is more extended than the JV.

Also, the JV teams match has the best-of-three set format compared to Varsity containing best-of-five.

How Long is a College Volleyball Game?

Like a professional match, a college or university game lasts about 60 to 90 minutes.

The matches here are usually best-of-five, lasting up to 2 hours.

The level of volleyball at college is highly professional because of the skillset of the players.

Many regularly play in the national leagues and have the same enthusiasm as professional players.

This diversity makes the match outcome unpredictable in terms of duration.

You can find a diverse mix of players in the college volleyball team, ranging from the newbies taking their first steps to a volleyball court to the professionals on the path to representing the national team.

As you sit in the stands, consider this an invitation to support your local collegiate team.

You will witness the display of fantastic volleyball skills and get to support the shining stars.

How Long is a Beach Volleyball Game?

A beach volleyball game consists of best-of-three sets, lasting approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

The match ends quicker than the usual volleyball format, with two players on each team.

Each set consists of 21 points, requiring a lead of 2 points for a team to win. In a tie, the third set lasts up to 15 points.

On a side note, I recommend you dedicate time on a sunny day and watch a local beach volleyball match.

Trust me! It would be too much fun as beach volleyball is fast-paced, has dynamic support, and ends sooner than regular volleyball matches.

Beach Volleyball Court

How Long do Volleyball Tournaments Last?

The volleyball tournaments last from a few hours a day to a week or multiple weeks, depending on the type of competition, the number of teams involved, and the games played daily.

There are two types of volleyball tournaments:

  • single-elimination
  • double-elimination

They could either be one-day tournaments or multi-day tournaments.

In the single-elimination type, if a team loses a match, it is out of competition, and the winner advances to the semi-final.

This tournament usually finishes within a day, and teams are generally less competitive.

Double elimination is the most common type of volleyball tournament, ensuring that each team plays at least two games.

If it wins, it advances to the winner’s pool; if it loses, it goes to the loser’s pool.

If a team has more points, it can move to the next pool; otherwise, it is eliminated from the tournament.

In this way, the teams proceed toward the semi-finals and the final match.

How Long is a Volleyball Game in the Olympics?

The Olympic volleyball game lasts between 90 to 120 minutes, depending on whether it’s beach or indoor.

Indoor volleyball in the Olympics requires best-of-five sets to win, so a match generally takes around 2 hours.

On the other hand, beach volleyball demands the best of three sets to win, so the match finishes in around an hour or a maximum of 1.5 hours.

Every match in the Olympics is also highly dependent on the competitiveness of the teams.

So, expect a two-times lengthier game if both opponents struggle to get into the next round or it’s a final.

What is the Longest Set and Game in Volleyball History?

The longest set in volleyball history happened in 1979 during the Men’s Czechoslovak League, and the set ended at 87:85 points.

The reason for such a prolonged set was the volleyball rules, which stated that you could only score a point if you were serving.

This most extended set in volleyball history lasted for about 3 hours.

The longest game in volleyball history is 2 hours and 55 minutes longer, played between Milan and Cisterna in 2021.

The previous record was 2 hours and 54 minutes, played between Lube and Perugia in February 2020.

So, the match between Milan and Cisterna set a new record, surpassing the previous one by just one minute.

Conclusion

To summarize, the length of a volleyball game depends on the timeout, whether it’s a best-of-three match or a best-of-five, no. of substitutions, the challenge, intervals, and even the weather conditions.

A regular volleyball game lasts about an hour or 90 minutes, while the set takes half an hour to finish.

Whether you enjoy an indoor volleyball match or love injecting Vitamin D by watching beach volleyball, remember that the unpredictable nature of the game’s duration makes things exciting!

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