Volleyball in Texas: Go big or go home

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

Go big or go home for the Alabama volleyball team, many players are doing both this weekend. 

“It’s exciting because I think there’s five girls from Texas on the team, all from around the Dallas area,” outside hitter Kendyl Reaugh said. “So, we’ll have a big fanbase coming in.” 

The volleyball program heads to Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend for their last tournament before conference play. The Crimson Tide will face the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Texas Christian University and Texas State University at the Horned Frog Invitational. 

Alabama (5-4) will go into the tournament as one of the best serving teams in the nation. With 85 total aces, the Crimson Tide has the fourth most in the NCAA rankings. Outside hitter Abby Marjama has nearly a third of Alabama’s aces, earning her the No. 2 spot in the individual NCAA standings. 

Libero Sydney Gholson has eight of those aces as her own, despite only playing this past weekend in Muncie, Indiana.  

“Our goal is to serve aggressive and not focus on the misses,” Gholson said. “So, I try to dial in on my serve and go in with the right mindset, being aggressive with every time I’m serving and getting them out of system.” 

The Crimson Tide has nearly double the aces of every team they will play this weekend. 

University of Louisiana at Lafayette (4-3) Friday at 1 p.m. CT 

Although Alabama and Louisiana haven’t faced each other since 1990, both teams have played against the same teams, including University of Texas at San Antonio (3-6), this year. The Crimson Tide beat the Roadrunners in straight sets while the Ragin’ Cajuns beat them in five, including an exciting 30-28 first set.  

Louisiana is coming off a successful 15-11 season where they made it to the quarterfinals in their conference tournament. Junior Kelsey Bennett who played with Alabama outside hitter Emily Janek in high school to win a district title returns from last year and already leads her team in kills and digs. 

The Ragin’ Cajuns will come into the match with a powerful offense, but Reaugh says that the Alabama defense is prepared.  

“We’ve just gotten better and better at it [defense] as preseason’s gone on,” Reaugh said. “Don’t let the ball fall. Have that mentality of just getting everything up to where we can run an offense off of it.” 

Texas Christian University (3-5) Friday at 7 p.m. CT 

TCU is the only team to come into this weekend’s tournament with a losing record, but two of their losses are at the hands of top-10 teams, No. 4 Wisconsin (5-1) and No. 6 Minnesota (4-2). 

Alabama has played them twice in school history and lost both times their latest matchup was lost in three sets. 

Although the Horned Frogs will have the home-court advantage this weekend, Texas-native Gholson said she’s just as excited to be playing at TCU.  

“All my family’s coming,” Gholson said. “So I’m just excited to see them and just be back in my home state.” 

After an 8-18 campaign in their 2021 season, the Horned Frogs have a lot of new faces on the court, including Baylor transfer Callie Williams and freshmen Sarah Sylvester and Keagan Polk. Head coach Jason Williams is also in his first season with the Horned Frogs after coaching at Baylor University for seven years. 

Texas State (6-3) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT 

The other Texas team in the Horned Frog Invitational will face Alabama in its final match of the tournament. The Texas State Bobcats are on a 2022 revenge tour after losing the 2021 Sun Belt Conference championship to the University of South Alabama. If they had won, it would’ve been their fourth straight championship. 

Their 20-12 record last season included a 3-1 win against Alabama in Texas.  

In the 2022 season, they are off to a similarly great start with a 6-3 record, with one loss from then-No. 23 UCLA (5-2). 

The 2022 Bobcats squad also has a lot of new faces, including five freshmen and Stephen F. Austin State University transfer Alyssa Ortega, who leads the team with 14 aces. That’s half the number Marjama has, but Reaugh says that there’s more to the game than just serves.  

“We’ve been working a lot on the connection with the setters,” Reaugh said. “It all starts with a pass, so you have to give credit to our back row players, our defense specialists and liberos. It’s really just an all-team effort.” 

The TCU match this weekend can be watched on ESPN+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]