After some good advice on this site, I have finally found a good combination for volleyball ( indoor, fast action, no flash ). I have a D7000 and a Nikon 50mm 1.4G lens (sorry can not afford professional level glass, the D7000 body was a stretch).
I was orginally not very happy with my D7000 focus performance, thinking my focus was out of wack ( which I did have looked at under warrenty, but checked out OK ). Ultimately I feel my two issues holding me back were a) shooting at 1.4 aperature and b) trying to keep low ISO resulting in low shutter speed ( 1/300th or less range ), not good for the level of stop action I was looking for.
Here is what I have found to work very well (for me, mileage may vary for others):
1) Depth of Field at 1.4 is almost useless for action Volleyball. All you get is very soft pictures and out of focus more than not. 2.8 or 2.4 seem to be the lowest aperature with reasonable depth of feild and result in sharp photos.
I had also suspected that the 50mm 1.4G may be slow to focus too, but after the below I do not really see this as an issue for at least what I want.
2) Really need to get shutter speed up to 1/750 or 1/1000 to stop the ball & hitting arm for impressive action shots.
3) Embrace AutoISO, with max set to 3200 or even 6400. JPEG + high intenal noise reduction is acceptable, RAW + external noise reduction very acceptable. As I have seen other say, Noise is acceptable if the rest of the shot is spot on. I see what they mean now.
4) I shoot volleyball mostly at the side of the net, allowing clear view of net action and good view of back row for diggs. From this position, lighting is basically consistance and I can shoot in manual mode to fix aperature at 2.8 (or 2.4) and keep shutter speed at 1/750 or higher. If I move to the back of the court, I will take a few sample shots to evaluate the result and adjust as needed ( 2.4 vs. 2.8 or accept slower shutter speed ). Really not to hard to figure out for each new standing locations. Most games I really do not leave the one spot I am in.
Could this be done in shutter or aperture priority, likely, but I honestly found it easier to just use manual mode.
5) Metering is one notch above spot, not sure what this is called. Maybe it is traditional center weight, sorry not near the camera or manual to confirm.
6) I have not played with exposure compensation much. I would say my shots are slightly on the dark side, but look very close to what you see in the Gym. It is very easy in software to punch up brightness a bit based on taste, but have not have time to find an exact value boost for brightness. May be playing with the exposure compensation may improve things, but I am very happy with the exposure result.
7) Focus is spot, with Continious Focus mode. Shutter relase is focus priority, but I need to play more with shutter release priority.
So now instead of a few picuture in focus ,out of 50 or 100 shots, I have more than I can handle. The noise from the high ISO after post processing is really only noticible if you pixel peep.
I am sure there maybe further improvement to this ( as I am no pro but try to learn from their advice and see what works for my exact situation ) , but just wanted to share this for others.
It looks like my focus issues where operator error type. HaHa, its never the operator...