Olympic volleyball matches are best-of-five sets. In the first four sets, the team that first reaches 25 points with a minimum lead of two points wins the set. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one team gains a two-point advantage. Fifth sets are played to 15 points, again with a minimum lead of two points needed to end the match.
There are several ways a team can score a point in volleyball. Among them: by successfully grounding the ball on the opponent's side.
- When the opponent hits the ball more than three times before getting it over the net
- When the opponent hits the ball over the net, but it lands out of bands without being touched
- When the opponent's team commits a service fault
- When the opponent touches the ball on the other side of the net, before the player's attack hit
- When the opponent touches the net while playing the ball
A rally is the sequence of playing actions that decides each point, from the moment of service until the ball is out of play. The 2000 Sydney Games marked the implementation of a new scoring system in which a point is awarded after every rally, regardless of which team serves. If the serving team wins a rally, it scores a point and continues to serve. If the receiving team wins a rally, it scores a point and gains the right to serve. This is called the "rally system" of scoring.
Previously, a team could only win a point if it served the ball. If a rally was won by the receiving team, it would only win back the serve, not a point. Winning the serve back from the opposition was known as a side out. The new system was designed to make the scoring easier to follow, and to make games faster and more exciting. The rally system also shortens games significantly, thus, sets are now played to 25 points instead of 15 to make up for some of that time. Previously, the first four sets had a ceiling of 17 while the final set required at least a two-point winning advantage.