People undervalue the importance of a libero or think the position doesn’t require strength or athleticism, because it’s not jumping or playing at the net. It’s actually the opposite. A lot of physicality is required.
At Nebraska, we look for athletes who can move around the court in a mechanically efficient way; players who have great leg strength so they can get in a defensive posture and then move out of it efficiently. They also have to be explosive in all four directions, because volleyball is not a game that’s played just in front. You’ve got to be able to turn to pursue balls behind you and move laterally. You need a strong, steady, balanced platform to move with your lower body in an established position. You’ve got to be quick, because the time frame in which the serve is to you is short.
We want defensive players who cover a lot of court to pursue balls. We want them to be tenacious, aggressive and think that nothing’s going to hit the floor. It’s an attitude. You want them flying around and making plays and being aggressive at the ball.
On top of all that, you want someone who has court presence and who will control the defense. You want her to communicate with other players on the court.
We don’t recruit just liberos. We look for players athletic enough to hit and play the net, and who have some size. If we think an athlete will make a good libero, we’ll recruit her into that position.
Sullivan started at libero for Team USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and served as co-captain at the 2000 Games in Sydney.