Volleyball takes one set in loss to No. 18 Kentucky

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

Alabama volleyball fell to No. 18 Kentucky in four sets Saturday afternoon in Lexington. The Crimson Tide (6-10, 0-4) won a dominant third set to avoid getting swept by the 2021 SEC conference champions.  

Outside hitter Micah Gryniewicz said it’s a good start to what the team has been working on. 

“We’ve changed our mentality as a group,” Gryniewicz said. “This was a big step in the right direction.” 

Head coach Rashinda Reed also said she’s happy with the team’s performance against Kentucky. 

“I was proud,” Reed said. “The ladies executed the game plan and stayed in it. They minimized unforced errors which was the focus.” 

In the first set, Kentucky (8-5, 3-1) was first on the board, but Alabama outside hitter Abby Marjama quickly responded with a kill to get her team’s first point. The teams stayed neck-and-neck, but the Wildcats took the lead at 8-7. The Crimson Tide stayed competitive, but for every point it scored, Kentucky went on a scoring run in response.  

Alabama lost the first set 17-25. 

Once again, Kentucky started off with a strong lead — but down 5-8, Alabama came back. Outside hitter Kendyl Reaugh tallied four kills before Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner called a timeout to slow her down. The Crimson Tide tallied one more point after the timeout, ending a five-point scoring run that gave them a 10-8 lead. 

Unfortunately, that was Alabama’s only run of the set, and Kentucky responded with their own 5-0 run that gave them back the lead and eventually the set. The Wildcats won 25-18, taking a 2-0 lead in the match. 

Reed says that going into the third set, being reminded of the game plan was the main focus.  

“I just reiterate what the game plan is,” Reed said. “In the huddle, [we talked about] controlling things that are controllable. We were giving them a lot of points we shouldn’t be giving them.” 

Apparently, that was exactly what the Crimson Tide needed to hear. 

To start off the third set, outside hitter Alyiah Wells drilled a kill into the Kentucky floor. The first point set the tone for the rest of the set — the offense rallied around that first point and maintained a .342 hitting percentage throughout the set. Alabama refused to be swept, remaining tied for a majority of the start. 

At 14-14, Wells tallied two kills in a row, finally giving the Crimson Tide the momentum it had been missing all match. A challenge won by Reed changed the score from 19-17 to 20-16 and gave Alabama enough of a lead to eventually win its first set of the match, 25-19. Still trailing the Wildcats 1-2, the Crimson Tide at least had momentum on its side going into the fourth set. 

Alabama stayed close at the start, but in the end, Kentucky simply rallied for more runs. Timeouts and challenges couldn’t slow down a Wildcat offense that was mostly led by outside hitters Haley Melby and Erin Lamb. Together, they led Kentucky to a 25-13 fourth-set victory and a 3-1 win. 

For Alabama, though, winning one set against a team like the Wildcats is a start.  

“I’m always looking to improve,” Reed said. “Overall, I thought we did some very nice things. It’s just being more consistent for longer periods of time.” 

Gryniewicz says that the mentality is there, but the team still needs to work hard.  

“We’re so close,” Gryniewicz said. “We just have small things to work on. But our effort and energy level are there.”  

The Crimson Tide’s next match will be against Ole Miss next weekend. Alabama will play the Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi, on Friday at 7 p.m. CT and Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. The Friday night match will air on the SEC Network.

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