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Sand Volleyball Rules

Stonewall Sand Volleyball

Stonewall Sand Volleyball 2023 Comprehensive Rulebook

Match Structure

  1. Each match comprises 3 rally score sets. The initial two sets go up to 25 points (cap at 30), while the third set is up to 15 points (cap at 20).
  2. A team wins a set by reaching the point threshold with a minimum 2-point lead. If scores are tied, play continues until a team gains a 2-point advantage or a team reaches the cap score.
  3. There are no longer any mid-set court swaps. 
    1. Note: In previous seasons we would swap courts on the 3rd set, this leads to confusion and takes up court playing time. 
  4. The match duration is 50 minutes. 

 Time Restrictions

  1. Each team can call one 60-second timeout per set, except in the third set.
  2. If time runs out mid-set, the set is completed. In a 1-1 situation, the third set proceeds but is shortened to a 10-point game with no interruptions.

Playing Area and Equipment

  1. The free area around the playing field may vary due to venue constraints.
  2. A player is permitted to chase a ball that’s headed out of bounds until it reaches another court or the grass around the courts. However, all gameplay must occur on the sand; any play outside this designated area is considered a fault.
  3. For recreational Sand Volleyball the net height is set at 7’9 5/8”.

Gameplay Regulations

  1. Players: All players participating in the Stonewall Sand Volleyball sport must be registered members and in good standing.
    1. For insurance and legal reasons, we cannot permit the participation of individuals not registered and affiliated with our organization.
  2. Team Talk (Pre-Match)
    1. Game start time is optimally slated to occur within a 5-minute buffer following the set scheduled time, but should not exceed a 10-minute delay. Should there be fewer than 4 players ready to compete by this 10-minute threshold, the match will be consequently deemed a forfeit.
    2. Prior to the start of the match, the referee will summon both team captains to participate in a simple challenge, such as ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ or ‘Guess an Even or Odd Number’. The victor of this contest earns the first choice of either the “first serve” or “court preference”. The second choice is granted to the unsuccessful challenger.
    3. During the third set, team captains may reconvene for an additional simple challenge, thereby determining the serve or court preference once more. This fosters an environment of fair play and keeps the spirit of friendly competition alive throughout the match.
  3. Serving: The server must stand behind the end line and between the court’s outer lines. The server is permitted one ball drop per service, provided the ball isn’t contacted before hitting the ground.
    1. Serving violations, like contact before a ball drop or crossing the boundary line before ball contact, after a referee’s warning, result in a point and service transfer to the opposing team.
    2. If the server touches the line after the ball leaves the hand – like in a jump serve, that is allowed.
  4. Rally Scoring: Points are awarded for each rally. A team can win a point through a fault by the opposing team or by getting the ball into the opposing team’s playable area.
  5. Player Rotation: All players must play at least one set per match. Players must rotate positions after each side-out, maintaining the chosen rotation order throughout the set. No out of order or skip rotations are allowed.
  6. Substitutes: If a team only has 3 players, there may be 1 substitution allowed from another team. 
    1. Substitutes are not permitted for playoffs.
    2. All substitutions must be registered members for the current season.
  7. Late Players: If a team has late players arriving after the start of a scheduled game, and the team is under 6 players on the court, the captain may rotate in late players for up to 6 players.
    1. Note: This exception only applies if the team has less than 6 players on the court during the set.
  8. Net Play: Players cannot touch the net during play or cross the court’s centerline. They may reach over the net to block a ball without interfering with the opponent’s play. The foot may be on the centerline, but the ankle must not pass the centerline, that is considered a fault. The ball must cross the net between the poles and may not touch the pole to remain playable.
    1. The serve is not permitted to be blocked or attacked.
  9. Hits/Passing: Hits or passing below the shoulder must be completed with a closed fist or the back of the hand. Open hand hits are considered faults. 
    1. Referees may issue warnings for first time offenses, but continuous violations are considered faults. 
  10. Forfeits and Scoring: Should a team fail to assemble a complete roster at the designated match time, resulting in a match forfeiture, the recorded score will reflect the forfeit as a 2-0 match victory for the opposing team. Furthermore, each individual set within the match will be noted as a 25-0 victory in favor of the opposing team.

Team Composition

  1. Teams can comprise up to 12 registered members (13 with board approval), including the captain. A team must have at least 4 players present at their scheduled match time or face forfeiture.
  2. A team must have a minimum of 4 players to play, otherwise it will be considered a forfeit.
  3. A team can field 4-6 players per set, which cannot change mid-set. 
  4. All players must complete a full serve/receive rotation before the end of the second set.

Game Disputes

  1. If a challenge is found to be appropriate, no point will be awarded to either team, and the serve will be replayed.
  2. If a challenge is overruled and the original call by the referee stands, the appropriate team will be awarded the point as originally intended. Serve will remain with the scoring team.
  3. Only the team captain can challenge referee decisions. Two unsuccessful challenges result in using a team timeout. 
  4. A board member may override the referee’s decision if there is an oversight or game dispute. No other player may challenge a call or argue with the referee or line judges.

Uniform and Safety

  1. Players must wear the official Stonewall Sand Volleyball Pittsburgh shirt for that season. Players may customize their shirts as long as the logos remain unaltered.
  2. Footwear is suggested but optional, and any protective gear is allowed.

Weather Delays

  1. Matches proceed without interruption under light rain. However, the safety of players is paramount; hence, the immediate onset of lightning or thunder will result in instant cancellation of all games. Scheduled games may resume provided there has been a clear absence of lightning or thunder for a minimum of 30 minutes. The board will relay all necessary updates concerning game rescheduling due to adverse weather conditions.
  2. Make-up games missed due to inclement weather will be played as time permits and court availability within the playing season and may require changes to the season schedule. 

Season Structure

  1. Standings: Season standings are determined by win-loss record and point differential. This formula is used when deciding the seeding for the final playoff tournament. 
    1. If there are enough teams for divisional playoffs, the board will determine the seeding order based on a range from the season standings.
    2. Each week, league management will update the league standings.
    3. League standings are determined (in the following order) by:
      1. Win-loss record
      2. Overall point differential
      3. If a tie is present after the first two criteria are determined, the team with the lower points-scored-against (PSA) will be ranked higher in the standings.

Reffing & Line Judge Duties

  1. Team Responsibilities: Each team must have at least one member eligible to serve as a referee, and two line judges. These duties will happen before or after the players scheduled game. 
    1. At the end of every set, the referee or line judge must inform the Head Referee or another board member of the score to be logged in the score book.
  2. Failure of Responsibilities: Failure to provide referees and line judges repeatedly may lead to playoff disqualification.
    1. If a team is unable to complete reffing duties as assigned, there will be a 10 point (or 5 points if partial refs/line judges arrive) will be deducted from their next or previous game.
      1. If a captain finds a substitute referee, two line judges, and notifies the board this penalty will be waived.
    2. Repeated offenses of not providing referees or line judges (2+ games) throughout the season may result in a team being ineligible to participate in the playoffs, this decision is at the board’s discretion.

Game Misconduct

  1. In the course of play, if any player infringes on the regulations of the league or breaches the guidelines of the Stonewall Sports Pittsburgh organization, the game’s referee holds the authority to issue verbal warnings or enact player removal from the match. 
  2. The disciplinary process will proceed through three successive stages:
    1. Initial Verbal Caution to the Captain: The first instance of misconduct will result in a verbal warning directed to the team captain, serving to highlight and address the issue.
    2. Team-Wide Verbal Notice: Should the issue persist, a verbal warning will be issued directly to the offending player(s), reinforcing the seriousness of the situation. However, this warning extends to the entire team, demonstrating collective responsibility. The consequence at this stage involves the transfer of service rights to the opposing team.
    3. Player Ejection: If the misconduct continues unabated, the player will be ejected from the match by the referee. A substitute may be brought in to replace the ejected player.
  3. Post-match, any ejection will be thoroughly reviewed by the Stonewall Sand Volleyball Pittsburgh leadership board. This review will serve to ascertain the reason for the player’s removal and to determine whether further disciplinary action is required, in accordance with the organization’s bylaws.

Playoff Rules

    1. At the conclusion of the regular season games. The board will formulate and approve the official playoff rules, ensuring they are communicated to the league before the playoffs commence.
      1. The final playoffs will be one of the following.
  • Divisional Playoffs
          1. Determination of an upper, middle, and lower bracket will be determined by the board with considerations for the season standings, and the teams competitive nature.
          2. The divisional scale range(s) will be decided at the board’s discretion. 
  • All Team Playoffs
        1. All teams will be ranked against each other and the seeding order will be determined by the Season Standings.

These rules will generally follow the regular season rules while making accommodations for the number of teams, seeding, divisional playoff brackets, court availability, and time constraints. All these considerations aim to uphold safety, fun, fairness, and competitiveness throughout the playoffs.


Should any circumstances or challenges to the rules arise that are not expressly addressed in this rulebook, our guiding principles will default to those found in the comprehensive ‘Complete Beach Rulebook’ as provided by USA Volleyball. Rulebooks and Interpretations – USA Volleyball