By (Ben Boynton)

The Alabama volleyball team has had some of the best attendance in program history during recent years, and players point to the crowd noise in Foster Auditorium as something that boosts their play.

Whether or not it’s true, the two went hand in hand Tuesday night during the Crimson Tide’s 3-0 win over Samford for its home opener.

“We had a pretty great crowd,” redshirt senior middle blocker Krystal Rivers said. “Foster is just an amazing place to play. It’s amazing to get our fans in here and they definitely helped us win this match.”

The first set of the match was rather contested, with nine tie scores. Alabama pulled away at the end to win 25-20, though. The second set started similarly, with three tie scores and three lead changes early on, however, Alabama stopped the back-and-forth action there and ended up winning the set, 25-14.

Rivers thinks a change in attitude helped spur the breakout run.

“We started to have fun,” she said. “I said to the group, ‘This is the most fun I’ve had here,’ and that just helped us loosen up and just play our game.”

Junior libero Natalie Murison believes staying energetic was key to maintaining the team’s play.

“We were really loose and we weren’t tense like we were sometimes last year,” she said. “We held the service line and we had so much energy, which really helps, and the crowd was great.”

The third set began with Samford holding an early 7-6 lead, but Alabama went on another run and pushed itself ahead, 17-12. Samford made it a two-point set at 18-16, but that was as close as the Bulldogs got in its game of catch-up.

Alabama held a match point at 24-18 and held off a Samford rally to win the set, 25-22.

Coach Ed Allen was very pleased about his team’s performance, especially during the big second-set run.

“Settling down and being patient, that’s one of the things we talk about,” Allen said. “We’ve got some physicality, some arms, and I think the ability for us to settle down and relax and not feel the pressure if they reel off two or three points [is important]. They played well, it was the best match we’ve played this year and we expect to grow from that.”

Rivers was the only Crimson Tide player with double-digit kills, finishing with 14. Junior outside hitter Kat Hutson had nine, and freshman middle blocker Hayley McSparin and senior outside hitter Brittany Thomas had six apiece. Redshirt freshman setter Shannon Mikesky had 33 assists to lead the team. Murison led the team in digs with 13, followed by 10 from Thomas and six from Mikesky

Next up for the Crimson Tide is a trip to Puerto Rico to participate in the Puerto Rico Clasico. It takes on Virginia Tech on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports