On a night where Alabama volleyball raised awareness for breast cancer in its annual Power of Pink match, the Crimson Tide fell in three sets to the visiting No. 4 Florida Gators. 1,703 fans were in attendance on Friday night, a season-high total for Foster Auditorium.
“The atmosphere is always strong in Foster, particularly on a Friday night match,” head coach Ed Allen said. “It seems to add a little bit more excitement when it is a Power of Pink match. It’s great that we have an opportunity to bring awareness to a great cause, and it’s a match our players look forward to every year.”
The Crimson Tide faced a difficult challenge in a Florida team that had just one loss on its record: to No. 8 Kentucky last Sunday. Senior middle blocker Leah Lawrence is Alabama’s tallest player at 6’3”; Florida has at least five players that tall, including 6’8” sophomore Rachael Kramer. The Gators also have the 6’4” Rhamat Alhassan, a three-time All-American.
The visitors’ size showed Friday night as they were able to rack up 10 team blocks, with Alhassan playing a role in six.
“You’re dealing with two kids [Alhassan and Kramer]…that they’re having to play against and that does create intimidation,” Allen said. “We’ve got to get offense out of the middle. We’ve got to ball control at times to allow that offense to come out of the middle.”
Alabama hit just .058 as a team, with only sophomore outside hitters Mahalia Swink and Ginger Perinar putting up a positive hitting percentage.
“They have big size and strength, they’re talented, but just have to look on our side of the net,” junior libero Quincey Gary said. “We can’t look too much at them, we just have to play our game and unfortunately we didn’t come up with the win today.”
Perinar was a bright spot for the Crimson Tide, leading the team with 12 kills. It was her fifth straight match with a double-digit kill total, and her eighth time in the past nine matches.
“She’s just continuing to get better,” Allen said. “She’s continuing to come along and it’s been fun to watch her progression. I think ultimately our team will have chances in postseason play based on her continued improvement.”
The team’s next matchup is Sunday in Foster at 2 p.m., when the South Carolina Gamecocks come into town. The team won’t ignore this match, but they’re focus isn’t on the past.
“We’re not going to let this loss influence the match on Sunday,” Gary said. “South Carolina is a great team. It’s a quick turnaround but we’re looking forward to it, we just have to stay on our game and apply pressure and do our thing.”
Part of Alabama’s plan for South Carolina and the rest of the season is the continued improvement of the middle.
“[We’re focused on] getting better in the middle and trying to be more consistent out of serve-receive,” Allen said. “Our middle play has got to get better. We’ve got to defend better out of the middle.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports