By Kayla Montgomery | Sports Editor
The preseason hasn’t been easy for the Alabama volleyball team. Entering into this weekend’s Crimson-White Tournament in Tuscaloosa, the team, which returned all of its starters from last year, was sitting at 2-5.
“We’ve been talking a lot about how this is an opportunity to grow through adversity,” setter Sierra Wilson said. “The team has been successful for the past two years, so we don’t have a lot of people who truly know the adversity of building, so we’re suffering for that now. We really have to take it, use it to grow, and come back even harder in SEC play.”
On Friday afternoon, the Crimson Tide swept Troy, adding another match to the win column, but Friday night’s match did not pass so quickly.
Among bellows of “one at a time,” and cheers by fans, the team battled to keep the lead in the fifth set against Saint Louis. After fighting back to 15 all, a kill and an attack error decided Alabama’s second match in the Crimson-White Tournament. After taking the first two sets, the team dropped three consecutive sets and the match, 3-2. The team logged 34 errors while Saint Louis recorded 17.0 blocks.
“Offensively, we’re not even close to the same team that we have been,” coach Ed Allen said. “We’re hitting considerably lower than we believe should be in our season average, and we’re still trying to get some players to return to the form that they were in last year.”
On the season, the Crimson Tide dropped to 3-6.
Alabama opened the match in dominant fashion, taking the first set 25-19, hitting .444 to Saint Louis’ .235. Senior Brittany Thomas and junior Tabitha Brown led the team with four kills; Wilson led the team with four digs.
“At times, we weren’t able to start off with a quick tempo, our own tempo, and impose that on the other team consistently,” setter Sierra Wilson said. “As the match continued, it was harder and harder to compensate for that.”
The Crimson Tide hit .178 in the second set, outscoring Saint Louis 26-24 in a closer margin of error. The team then logged a negative hitting percentage in set number three, hitting -.053 to Saint Louis’ .158. Alabama dropped the last three sets with scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 17-15 after leading more than half of the final set.
On Saturday night, Alabama returned to the floor against Virginia, topping the Cavaliers in four sets, winning the first set 30-28, dropping the second set 25-17 and taking the final two sets 25-17 and 25-18. On the night, Thomas led the team with 16 kills while Krystal Rivers posted 14 kills of her own. On the night, she hit .500.
“We knew that we needed this match—we need every match, but particularly this one, and that was going to take us being greedy and playing with energy,” Rivers said. “I was trying to go out and play my game and provide some energy for the team, and it worked. I got some numbers and was able to help.”
Senior Laura Steiner followed with 11 kills, entering the game off of the bench and hitting .524. Steiner was named to the all-tournament team with Natalie Murison for what Allen called the best performance he’s seen from a player off of the bench.
“I just wanted to get out there and support us vocally because that’s been something that we’ve struggled with lately,” Steiner said. “Sierra did a great job of getting me the ball, and they weren’t really expecting it.”
For the past week, Steiner said the team has been working to increase its energy and that her role includes serving both as a motivator and support system while the team looks to get its season back on track.
“You have to be ready and to know what you bring to the table, and luckily I’ve been here for four years now, so I know my role and I know how to support every player,” Steiner said. “When I do come out, it’s pretty easy. I love when I have the opportunity to find the hidden talent that needs to come out in other people.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports