By (Terrin Waack)

Foster Auditorium is home to the Alabama volleyball team, and players say it is unlike any other gymnasium in its conference.

With the way the building was constructed, it echoes and creates an illusion that the place is packed, regardless of how many people are actually in attendance, and the fans are on top of the players during the game since most of the seating is up above.

“It’s so intimate,” sophomore Kat Hutson said. “We’re used to it so it’s not a big deal, but I think it’s difficult for opponents to come in here and adjust well because it is very loud with the band, the fans and everything.”

Alabama uses the noise and the fact that other teams are thrown off to its advantage. As luck has it, Alabama’s first regular season SEC match will be in Foster against Mississippi State on Wednesday night.

Preseason didn’t go as well as Alabama would have liked. The Crimson Tide will go into SEC play 5-8 overall, but it’s time to hit the reset button.

“We have to consider it a whole new season,” senior Kryssi Daniels said. “Preseason literally is a different ballgame than SEC play is. I think we need to start fresh. New team, new day.”

The last time Alabama lost more than three matches in Foster was 2012 when it totaled six. Last year, it only lost one home match. Now, starting its SEC play, Alabama has four home losses.

Previous years don’t matter, coach Ed Allen said. He focuses on making sure the team lives in the present and just focuses on the next match. The main goal is defeating its next competitor, SEC or not.

“For the fans, they go, ‘Okay, we’re going into the SEC play,’” Allen said. “For us, we go, ‘We’re going into our [13th] match of the year.’”

Being able to play at home does excite the team, though. The fans are important to Alabama. They make a difference, especially when the team plays in Foster.

“They don’t serve any balls or pass any balls or digs any balls, but they have the ability to kind of bring a certain level of energy to the match,” Allen said.

Hutson said she loves any opportunity to play in Foster and stay home. It helps the players’ bodies recover because matches aren’t back-to-back anymore, and it allows them to mentally invest everything they have into one match.

“It’s so much more comfortable because we get to sleep in our own beds and that may seem like a minute thing but I think that definitely helps,” Hutson said. “This is our environment and it’s what our routine is used to.”

With SEC play, everything slows down a bit as well. The team isn’t gone traveling for as long of periods due to tournaments and now, there will be less matches within a week’s time.

“We’re not just athletes,” Daniels said. “We’re also students so we have work to do as well so I think it’s going to make a huge difference, personally for me anyways.”

As a senior, this is Daniels’ last year playing volleyball for Alabama, and her last year playing in Forster. She said it’s important for her, along with the other seniors, to embrace every home opportunity they have because they’re limited now. The reality of not being able to play in Foster again after this season is hitting hard.

“The atmosphere is electric,” Daniels said. “When we have a bunch of people in here, it’s kind of like Bryant-Denny in a gym.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports