After a five-set upset of No. 19 Texas A&M on Friday night, the Alabama volleyball team took its eight-match winning streak into Sunday’s match against No. 6 Florida. The Crimson Tide was unable to keep its momentum from Friday going, though, as it lost in three sets to Florida. The loss drops the Crimson Tide to 12-3 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC.
After getting the big win over the Aggies, coach Ed Allen was disappointed in how his team played against the Gators.
“We didn’t compete at the level that we are capable of,” Allen said. “We didn’t execute at the level that we are capable of.”
Florida led for almost all of the first set, but Alabama kept it close before losing, 25-22. The second set started in a similar fashion, but after a 7-7 tie, the Gators were able to pull away by stringing together several runs of consecutive points before taking the set, 25-14.
“They started serving a little bit tougher and kind of attacking our passers,” redshirt freshman setter Shannon Mikesky said. “That’s kind of hard to get out of your head after a bit, especially after they serve you again and again and again. They started blocking better. They got a few on Krystal [Rivers], and a few on the outside.”
The third set was close early, but once again, the Gators took control and maintained it on the way to a 25-19 set victory to earn the sweep.
The Gators had 11 team blocks, including four from 6-foot-4 Rhamat Alhassan. Florida boasts 10 players on its roster who stand over six feet tall. The Gators were also able to dominate at the net for most of the match.
Alabama hit just .196 on the match, while Florida hit .375.
Junior middle blocker Leah Lawrence said dealing with bigger front lines needs to be a stronger focus.
“I think we can do a little more in practice working around bigger blockers,” Lawrence said. “We are going to see that more now that it’s SEC play. Just getting smarter and working on shots more [should also be a focus].”
Alabama’s offensive struggles are partially due to the absence of junior outside hitter Kat Hutson, who has missed action this season due to concussion issues. As a result, the offense is heavily weighted toward redshirt senior middle blocker Krystal Rivers. Of the team’s 97 total attacks, Rivers accounted for 45 of them. Senior outside hitter Brittany Thomas was a distant second in attacks with 15.
Allen is still searching for someone to step up on offense.
“It’d be nice if the other kids we have on the outside continue to develop so that they can be productive out there,” Allen said. “We have an L1 position right now that we’re getting nothing out of, and I don’t know of any team in the country that can win getting very little offense out of that position.”
Mikesky believes the team did a better job attacking the tall front line by aiming lower on its shots, but also that the defensive approach to taller attackers wasn’t the best.
“Defensively, our blocking could have been a lot better,” Mikesky said. “Those middles are hard to defend, they’re blocking high and swinging high.”
Alabama will hit the road for the next portion of its season. After an eight match homestand, Alabama has two straight road matches. The Georgia Bulldogs host the Crimson Tide on Sept. 30, then Alabama will travel to take on Mississippi State Oct. 2.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports