By: Elliott Scully
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Though the season is a few months away, the Alabama volleyball team is staying competitive through their annual spring matches.
The Tide scrimmaged Samford (25-14, 25-14, 25-13, 25-15, 15-8), Alabama State (25-11, 20-25, 25-15, 25-14, 15-6), and UAB (25-19, 25-20, 25-15, 22-25) in the three week stretch.
“When you’re in your own gym seeing the same thing over and over again, you get into a routine. You want to be able to shake up your system,” said Head Coach Rashinda Reed.
Standout freshman OH Micah Gryniewicz led the team in kills with 38 in the team’s opening three match weekend this past August. However, a knee injury left her sidelined for much of the 2022 season.
“It’s taken a lot, but I feel like, for once in my life, I was actually working on a part of myself outside of volleyball,” said Gryniewicz. “Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be one hundred [percent], but my ninety [percent] is pretty good. With luck, she will be a key player going into her second year on the team.”
As expected, rising junior S Brooke Slusser is quarterbacking the offense, with returning starter Chaise Campbell and rising senior Aliyah Wells at MH.
With Gryniewicz sidelined, the Tide utilized the benefit of an official-free scrimmage, and ran an “illegal” lineup, in which rising senior Kendyl Reaugh and rising junior Sami Jacobs accounted for all three pin positions. Reaugh and Jacobs both operated at OH as normal. However, when Slusser rotated to the back row, Jacobs would take over at Opp.
Most likely, assuming Gryniewicz will be back for the fall, we’ll see her and Reaugh at outside and Jacobs on the right.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the special lineup with Reaugh and Jacobs, there was no back row offense. Hopefully, it is a dimension of their game that the Tide can continue to perfect behind the scenes, as it was quite effective in 2022.
An interesting positional battle is the Libero competition. Returning players Victoria Schmer and Taylor Drapp both saw action in the white jersey, along with recent transfer Francesca Bertucci. Drapp saw the most time with 7 sets, followed by Schmer with 4, and Bertucci with 3. As of now, Drapp likely has an edge over Schmer, but both are solid options who, with a few more months of offseason practice to go, can win the spot.
On April 2nd, the Samford Bulldogs visited Foster Auditorium to play 5 individual sets with the home Crimson Tide. Against inferior blocking, the Tide put on an offensive showcase, pounding ball after ball at a reactionary Bulldog defense. As an added bonus, serving efficiency seemed greatly improved from the fall. Granted, Samford struggled in serve receive more than an SEC opponent would, but service errors were few and far between.
All 5 sets were won convincingly, with the only point of uneasiness early in the 5th set after the Bulldogs got out to a fast start. However, Alabama regained control, starting the month off with a dominant win over Samford (25-14, 25-14, 25-13, 25-15, 15-8).
About a week and a half later, the Tide faced off against the Alabama State Hornets. Similar to Samford, Alabama State was slow defensively, and the Tide easily took the first set 25-11 with another impressive offensive performance.
However, there seemed to be a degree of ‘playing down’ to the Hornets’ level in set 2, as the Tide swung into a few single blocks and failed to effectively defend against tipping, unexpectedly dropping a set 20-25. It was an unfortunate loss, but they regained composure, taking the final three sets by large margins to take 4/5 on the day (25-11, 20-25, 25-15, 25-14, 15-6).
The final spring match saw the Tide play easily their toughest opponent of the three in the UAB Blazers. The Blazers came to play, putting up a whopping 5 terminal blocks in the first set alone. Despite this, the Tide was able to take set 1 25-19. Two more sets went in favor of the Tide, but a multitude of errors in the fourth and final set led to a Blazer victory. While it was unfortunate to lose the final set of the spring scrimmage series, the Tide still took 3/4 against a solid UAB team (25-19, 25-20, 25-15, 22-25).
Coach Reed commented, “I think our blocking struggled a little bit… I’d just like us to slow some more balls down.”
With a successful spring performance under their belt and some insight into where the team can improve, Alabama is poised to make some noise in the SEC this fall.