By (Ehsan Kassim)

The Alabama volleyball team got its season started last weekend, as they traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana and won two of their three matches. Alabama defeated Cleveland State, 3-2, and Oral Roberts, 3-0, on Friday, but dropped its matchup against No. 25 Purdue on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide will travel south this weekend to Mobile, Alabama for the Jaguar Invitational, hosted by South Alabama, hoping to build on its success. It will face host South Alabama on Friday at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, Alabama plays a doubleheader, with matchups against Southern Miss at 10 a.m. and McNeese State at 4 p.m.

One of the continued goals for head coach Ed Allen is to get his young team to continue building, especially with the graduation of their star player, Krystal Rivers, the SEC Player of the Year a season ago.

“If you have the solution to that, I need it,” Allen said. “You know a kid that has meant a great deal to the program, but the reality is how do we replace Krystal? We replace her with a stronger team everywhere. And we are, we are deeper and more athletic, in almost every position.”

Despite the success Rivers had last season, Alabama finished just 20-11 (9-9 in SEC play) and fell short of a NCAA tournament bid.

This year, with the responsibility being spread around, Allen believes the team can be more diverse and exciting for fans to watch. The team won’t be centralized around one player.

“I think we have a chance to be a little bit more of an exciting team to watch because there’s going to be more exchanges,” Allen said. “You’re not going to have somebody go up there and crunch the ball and finish a rally. You’re going to get a chance to see a team defend and exchange more than we’ve ever had a chance to do.”

The spreading of responsibility was on display, even in Alabama’s loss to Purdue. Abolanle Onipede, Leah Lawrence and Hayley McSparin combined for 12 of 19 kills against the Boilermakers.

Lawrence, a senior, felt the team spent the offseason focusing on the right stuff and that the team will be improved because of it.

“I think we had a very productive off-season,” Lawrence said. “We made a lot of progress in areas we struggled in last year. Mental toughness, energy and working together, just important areas like that.”

With just five seniors and eight freshmen on the team, Lawrence knows she has to step up in a leadership role to help the team grow.

“We have four years of experience with coach, so we know what he is looking for,” Lawrence said. “We are there to help them, because he (coach) cannot be everywhere. We can point out the small things and help them fix it.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports