A few years ago, Beth Launiere, the Utah Utes’ women’s volleyball coach, abandoned the defensive roll—a move commonly used to get off the floor and back into position after a dig—in favor of the pancake—an unconventional play more often seen in the men’s game. To use the pancake, you just extend and slide one hand [palm-down] across the floor as you dive, so the ball bounces off the back of your hand.
The switch helped transform the Utes into one of the best defensive teams in the country and win the 2006 Mountain West Conference Championship. Here, Launiere explains her move:
We felt like the roll itself was becoming more important to the women’s game than actually getting the ball up. Players spent more time learning how to roll than actually digging the ball. We also felt like the roll took longer, because the player could lose sight of the ball, or sometimes she’d roll into another player. So we just removed it completely. We also did a little study during practice. We looked at the number of balls we were getting up using the pancake, and it was significant enough that we added it to our package of defensive moves. It’s a last resort; but unlike the roll, you can keep extending forward. We get an extra six to 12 inches of extension using the pancake instead of the roll.