Home » By Mark Lebedew: What Makes This Play Great? – The Pascual Effect

By Mark Lebedew: What Makes This Play Great? – The Pascual Effect

by WoV
source: marklebedew.com; Photo:CEV author: Mark Lebedew

Exactly what is this Pascual Effect, I hear you ask. That is a great question. The Pascual Effect is something that I completely made up. It is named after the great Spanish opposite of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rafael Pascual. For a time during that period he was considered by many to be the best player in the world. His most notable characteristic as a player, aside from being excellent, was his range of attacking solutions. He was neither especially big, only 194cm, nor strong compared to some of his contemporaries but he was able to score in many ways. He was a master at using the block, at getting around the block and most importantly for this story, tipping. For him tipping was not the variety of pushes and throws used by current players, but tips over the block into empty spaces. These tips were particularly infuriating, as he did them often and they always seemed to be juuuusssst out of reach.

Mark Lebedew – Photo: CEV

For reasons that I will hopefully get into at some point, I spent some time studying him closely in 1999 and worked out that far from being a genius with infinite range (after all nobody is), he had a few tricks that he used to hoodwink the defence and make it seem like he was a genius. This action from a fairly recent Polish league match reminded me of one of his tricks. See if you can figure out what the trick is.

On the first look you probably see an opposite, Maciek Muzaj from Resovia and Poland, score a tip against Erik Shoji from Zaksa and USA. The tip looks fairly harmless, landing past the 3m line, but Shoji, one of the very best liberos in the world doesn’t even take a step to it. How can that be? Obviously because Muzaj utilised the Pascual Effect.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Just as Earvin N’Gapeth does simple things that are unconventional, Muzaj, like Pascual, has one simple trick here. If you watch closely, even easier to see in slow motion, you will see that the set is not good. You would probably even say the set was unhittable. And you would be right. The disconnect here is that the defensive team does not watch the set. They watch the spiker. And the spiker does a full approach and jump, as if the set were perfect and he was about to crush it. One blocker makes a strong block move, and the other moves his hands away to prevent an attack off hands. The libero moves backwards and camps on his heels ready to take one on the chest if necessary. But the spiker just gets his hand to the ball, luckily he is 2.07m, and barely manages to poke it over the blockers. An unhittable set is turned into an improbable point. The spirit of Rafa Pascual is channeled. The Pascual Effect collects more victims.

As it happens, Pascual had a few other tricks that I figured out, Sydney 2000. But that is a story for another day.

About Mark Lebedew:

Mark Lebedew – Photo: CEV

Mark Lebedew authors the At Home on the Court Blog. He coaches professionally in Poland, from january 2021 with eWinner Gwardia Wrocław, in season 2019/20 with Aluron Virtu CMC Warta Zawiercie and in the period 2015-2018 with KS Jastrzębski Węgiel. That follows five seasons Germany where his Berlin Recycling Volleys won three straight league titles and a CEV Champions League bronze medal. He has prior professional experience in Belgium and Italy. Mark was also Head Coach for the Australian Men’s National Team. From 2021/2022 until the end of the 2023/2024 season he was at the helm of VfB Friedrichshafen, while in 2022 he led the Slovenian national team during the Volleyball Nations League.

Mark partnered with his brother and father to translate and publish “My Profession: The Game“, the last book by legendary Russian coach, Vyacheslav Platonov.

With John Forman, he is behind the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project (link http://volleyballcoachingwizards.com/) which identifies great coaches from all levels, making their experience, insights, and expertise available to people all over the world. The project has produced multiple books, a in e-book format available here ( link to http://bit.ly/34yakou ) or at Amazon here (link https://amzn.to/2JRqTE6).

In 2021, he launched project Webinars and Presentations on Demand. If you are interested for coaching presentations and webinars available on demand, click here.

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