Team B receives serve and over passes the volleyball towards team A. The ball is high and crosses the plane of the net in the front zone of team A's court. The middle blocker of team A approaches in an attacking motion, swings his arm contacting the ball above the height of the net and hits the ball into the net. Then the middle blocker from team A plays the ball again and his team completes 2 more contacts to return the ball to team B. Is this a legal play by team A?
By defintion, a attack hit is not a block (Rule 13.1.1):
All actions which direct the ball towards the opponent, with the exception of service and block, are considered as attack hits.
(my emphasis). However, that's not really the question you're asking here, which is "was the action of the middle blocker on team A a block or an attack hit?". For this, refer to Rule 14.1.1:
Blocking is the action of players close to the net to intercept the ball coming from the opponent by reaching higher than the top of the net, regardless of the height of the ball contact.
From the sound of it, the middle blocker's action was not an attempt to intercept the ball, but instead a separate attempt to spike the ball, so it should not be counted as a block and team A should be whistled for a double hit. This is always a judgement call on the part of the referee, but most cases are fairly obvious.
I always had the same view of this, but looking at the wording of the rules it doesn't seem to necessarily say that.
Since the attack definition specifically exclude blocks as a possible type of attack, you can't say that "because it was a spike (an attack) it couldn't be a block". Quite the opposite. You must judge if it was a block solely by the definition of a block.
Removing the phrase "close to the net" for clarity, the definition says "Blocking is the action of players ... to intercept the ball coming from the opponent...."
There's no mention of the types of actions that might be legal in terms of "intercepting the ball". Dictionary says intercept is: "obstruct so as to prevent them from continuing to a destination".
But isn't a spike an effective action to "intercept" the ball? Its intent may be more than just interception but it certainly includes interception.
In typical blocking, we are allowed to push the ball down when blocking, which is a bit more than just interception too.
So by the definitions, I think spikes could be considered valid blocks (as long as they are near the net, and over the net, and intercepting a ball coming over, etc).
Also in this case, the attempted spike was a failure and was not an action that "directs the ball towards the opponent,", which is the very definition of an attack. It was just a block that looked a bit like a spike!