On Aug. 17, the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll was released for the upcoming volleyball season. The Alabama Crimson Tide found itself in sixth place with 90 points, 47 points behind No. 1 Texas A&M Aggies. After a fifth place finish last season and the loss of several prolific seniors, sixth place seems like a good preseason ranking for a team looking to prove itself, but the Crimson Tide is aiming higher.
“Our goal is to win every match that we play,” coach Ed Allen said. “We’ve got 32 of them scheduled, and the goal is to win every one of those matches.”
Senior middle blocker Krystal Rivers echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“Our goals are to start strong, finish strong,” Rivers said. “Our goal is to win every match during the year, but we have to take it one at a time.”
The Crimson Tide is coming off of a 17-15 season that earned it a fifth place SEC finish. The Crimson Tide posted a 11-7 record in conference play. After two trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2014, last season wasn’t what Alabama was looking for, dealing with injuries and disappointing results. However, there were signs of improvement towards the end of the year, as the team closed the season on an 8-3 run.
“We’re a talented team, maybe as talented as what I’ve had here,” Allen said. “This is a hungry team, and we underachieved last year. Sometimes you can’t control that, but it doesn’t change that that’s what happened. We’ve got a team that understands that and embraces that and is going to give an effort that will be conducive to what we expect at Alabama.”
Now, the team isn’t focused on what didn’t go right last season. They’re trying to put the past behind them and focus on the upcoming season, not paying attention to anything other than their own play.
“Our team goal is just to forget about the rankings, forget about what people are saying and just go out there and play,” said Shannon Mikesky, a redshirt freshman setter and team captain. “We definitely have the ability. That’s been the whole focus…that we’re looking for magic, looking for that team that just gets on a roll and becomes unstoppable.”
The players also have their own personal goals that they have set for themselves this season. Rivers is looking to get back to the level of play that made her a third team All-American in 2014.
“I want to push beyond that,” Rivers said. “Even if I don’t make the team, I want my stat line to look better than that, to raise my hitting percentage. I think that will help me get to that point.”
Some of the players’ goals are just as ambitious as the goals the team has set.
“I’m going out there every day thinking that I’m going to be the best setter in the SEC,” Mikesky said. “[The] sky’s the limit. The harder I work, the better I can get. That’s what I need to be for my team, is to focus on them and getting them balls so they can take care of it and score points for us.”
Allen’s tenure has included some of the best seasons in program history. The two postseason appearances in his time are two of the five Alabama has made, and he also led the team to its first tournament win in 2014. In addition, the team’s 26-8 record in 2014 is a program record.
Making history is what Rivers wants to get back to in 2016.
“I’ve been a part of a couple record breaking seasons here; I want to go out with another one,” Rivers said. “I can’t specifically say which record we’re going to break, but I say if we start strong and finish strong we should break some records.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports