Don't blink when Audrey Nalls is in synch behind the service line, especially if you might be on the receiving end.
But even those in the stands could be deceived if not paying full attention — was that a serve or a back-row attack? The answer, in theory, and if executed correctly, is nearly one in the same, explains Waxahachie head volleyball coach Sandy Faussett.
If you've been to one of the 44 matches played by the Lady Indians this season, there's a high probability you have witnessed Nalls unleash on an ace or two or 12. It would also be completely understandable if you uttered some sort of shocked noise or phrase after the ball either landed, broke a tripod of an opposing team or, better yet, caught a defender a little too far out of position.
So how does she do it? After all, if the gym ceiling was any lower, the toss alone might hit a crossbeam.
"It takes a really high toss, really high reach and you really have to pound it. That is the only way it should be hit," Faussett explained. She also noted the topspin serve is one the coaching staff has focused on with Nalls over most of the last month-plus.
It is also just the second time Faussett recalls teaching a Lady Indian how to execute the serve, with the first being her daughter, Taylor Stoops, last season.
So how high does Nalls toss that red, white and blue volleyball into the air?
During a four-set win Friday, Oct. 12 against Mansfield Lake Ridge, Nalls consistently tossed the ball about 30 cinder blocks high. The measurement might seem a little absurd, but there weren't exactly any scissor lifts and really, really long tape measures lying around.
One cinder block is eight inches tall, so she was roughly averaging about 20 feet in height per toss.
When asked after the match, both Nalls and Faussett estimated the TCU-bound outside hitter tossed her serves around 30 feet into the air.
Neither is better than a guesstimate, so we'll stick cut the difference in half and say she averages about 25 feet on per toss.
"It's usually not high enough because I always tell her to throw it higher," Faussett said. "We have been working really, really hard on that. [...] You toss it and then go get it and that is why it has to be high because it's never going to be a perfect serve."
"You have to be able to see it and time it yourself," she explained." You don't want to throw it and then take off because then if your toss isn't perfect, you are going to be off. So we have to really work on tossing it high enough to be able to see it, time it and then reaching."
And it's not going straight up — the toss goes forward, which leads Nalls into play and, yep, closer to executing a back-row attack, kind of.
"With a jump serve you can take off behind the line and land 10 feet into the court," Faussett said. "We want her to take off and land in the court with momentum and with a higher point of contact so that she can hit the ball harder. She is catching onto it now and isn't jumping straight up or falling backward."
Lastly, Faussett explained the higher the point of contact after the toss, the more the execution can be just about the snap of the wrist, much more like a back-row attack than a serve. If the hand stays flat, the ball will carry well past the opposite baseline.
So far this season, Nalls has executed the jump serve well enough to record 47 aces on 356 attempts for a 13.2-ace percentage, second on the team only to Fayth Hunt (16.9 percent). Nalls is averaging 0.5 aces per set with 170 total service points on the year.
"[...] The consistency comes with her being confident enough to hit it harder because if you don't go for it on that topspin serve, you're going to miss it," Faussett added. "I love it."