By (Ben Boynton)

Alabama played two very different volleyball matches Saturday, but it ended both with the same result: a victory.

In the first match, Alabama survived a rally by Presbyterian to win a fifth-set tiebreaker for the 3-2 match victory. In the second match, Alabama had solid control and swept Georgia Southern, 3-0, to end the Hampton Inn Crimson-White Tournament with a 3-0 record.

Despite winning all three matches, Alabama coach Ed Allen was not pleased with his team’s performance during the weekend.

“It’s nice to be 3-0, but we played pretty miserably,” Allen said. “We’re not thrilled with the way that we played all weekend in any of the matches. There were moments where we were pleased at how we battled but it was less than a great performance in several facets.”

The Presbyterian match started off in Alabama’s favor. The Crimson Tide won a lengthy first set, 31-29, to take the early lead, then it breezed to an 8-3 start in the second set. From there, Alabama was in control, later scoring eight straight points en route to a 25-13 set victory.

Presbyterian battled back, though, taking the third set, 25-20, and the fourth set, 25-22, to force the decisive fifth set. Alabama managed to come away with the 15-13 set victory to take the match, 3-2.

The match marked the second start for freshman outside hitter Mahalia Swink and saw freshman setter Alexa Tomlak play the whole match in place of the team’s usual setter, redshirt freshman Shannon Mikesky. Redshirt senior middle blocker Krystal Rivers also didn’t play until the fourth set.

“We have a lot of people on the bench that are able to get in and help us out, so that gives us the confidence to just get in there and get the job done,” sophomore libero Quincey Gary said.

Swink is seeing extended playing time due to the injury of junior outside hitter Kat Hutson, and Allen has expressed a desire to get more playing time for Tomlak to help her develop her game.

“In the world of sports, we carry 17 players and everyone has to be ready to contribute at all times,” Rivers said. “They’re doing a great job of contributing and on the floor we’re just trying to help them with where they should be and what they should be doing.”

In the evening match, Alabama earned the three-set victory by playing better. After hitting just .201 in the first match, the Crimson Tide hit .294 against Georgia Southern. It took all three sets in a closely contested match. The first set went to Alabama, 25-20, and the second set was a 25-21 affair. The final set was another 25-21 score to give Alabama the win.

“It was good [to win in three sets],” Gary said. “We’ve struggled to get three set matches this year, so just to come out and get that, it might’ve been ugly but it was a great win.”

Gary played a key role in the third set, stepping up to the front line to contribute offensively after some struggles from Swink. She contributed three kills with a .429 hitting percentage to help key the victory and impress her coach.

“Quincey stepped up very nicely in the last set,” Allen said. “She just did a nice job of settling us down as much as anything else. That’s a lot for a kid that hadn’t played front row in two years.”

Gary was one of three Alabama players named to the All-Tournament team.

Senior outside hitter Brittany Thomas had 17 kills and a career-high 21 digs against Presbyterian for a double-double, and she added 8 kills and 13 digs against Georgia Southern to earn a spot on the team. Rivers was named tournament MVP after putting up 54 kills on the weekend.

The win against Presbyterian marked Allen’s 600th career win, and Rivers moved into second place in Alabama history in kills during the Georgia Southern match.

Alabama has a week to prepare for its SEC opener next Friday. It hosts No. 16 Texas A&M Friday night, then No. 7 Florida comes to Foster Auditorium two days later.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports