By (Ben Boynton)

The 2016 volleyball season officially starts on Friday for the Crimson Tide, as it travels to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take part in the Hurricane Invitational. There the Crimson Tide will play three matches in two days as part of the tournament, facing South Dakota, Tulsa and the University of the Incarnate Word.

“We’re anxious to get a chance to see somebody else and play against someone other than people on our own team,” coach Ed Allen said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces in our program, as well as a significant core back here from last year’s team. We do expect to be able to start the season probably in a little better shape and healthier than what we started last year’s season with, but [we’re] anxious to test ourselves.”

The Crimson Tide has eight new players on the roster, and redshirt freshman setter Shannon Mikesky is essentially a newcomer after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The team returns senior and Pre-Season All-SEC middle blocker Krystal Rivers and four 
other starters.

The Hurricane Invitational will provide Allen with an opportunity to get his first good look at how his team competes against other programs.

“[We’ll get] the opportunity to play more people than what you would play just in an individual match situation,” Allen said. “We’ll obviously get a chance to test several players and how they respond to pressure situations.”

The first match of the season can be an emotional one for players. This weekend also serves as an opportunity to build something that will last for 
the whole season.

“The first match is always really exciting,” senior outside hitter Brittany Thomas said. “There’s always a lot of nerves. I feel like each year we’re just anxious to get on the court and play against somebody that’s not our teammates, and it’s always a lot of fun to set the tone for how we want the year 
to play out.”

Even with a lot of new faces, Thomas likes where the team is, and she said she’s noticed a good energy in the gym. The team has been busy practicing how it works together on the court, but the players have also been developing their chemistry off the court.

“I think we’re all getting along really well,” libero Natalie Murison said. “We haven’t had any problems, and I think Brittany and Krystal have done a really great job of being the leaders, being seniors. And even us juniors, we’re helping all the new girls get used to it [the team] and they’re learning
 really well really quickly.”

The Crimson Tide opens the season against South Dakota at 10 a.m. on Friday and will play Tulsa at 7 p.m. that evening. Alabama’s involvement in the Hurricane Invitational concludes with an 11 a.m. match against Incarnate Word on Saturday.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports