Volleyball travels to last away series of season at Arkansas

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

Alabama volleyball is back on the road this weekend for its final away contest of the season against the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. 

Although the Crimson Tide’s latest victory has given the team more conference wins than last season, the team hopes that the two-match series in Fayetteville will defeat its overall win percentage from last year as well. 

Head coach Rashinda Reed said that the main challenge this weekend will be managing errors. 

“Arkansas is a very well-coached team,” Reed said. “They play very clean volleyball and don’t give away a lot of points. I think it’s us managing our side, managing our unforced errors and staying patient.” 

Reed said that her team has been focusing on their offense and communication in practice this week — a necessity if the Crimson Tide (9-17, 3-11) wants to challenge the Razorbacks’ .261 hitting percentage. 

Arkansas’s offense is nationally ranked, with its hitting percentage at No. 31 and its kills at No. 42 with 13.7 kills per set. Although the Razorbacks sit in the bottom half of the SEC rankings, their offense doesn’t reflect it. 

The Razorbacks (16-8, 7-7) are coming off a clean sweep of the Missouri Tigers in Columbia, a team that the Crimson Tide also swept. Both teams also have at least one win against Texas A&M and South Carolina, but for the Razorbacks, their season has not been as successful as they had hoped.  

Last season, head coach Jason Watson coached his first Arkansas postseason appearance and ended the season 20-11 in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. Arkansas also led the SEC in service aces and was highly ranked in many of the offensive statistics. Although his 2022 team is far from bad, they have yet to show the same dominance. 

This year, the service ace column has been dominated by Alabama with outside hitter Abby Marjama as its main contributor. The California native has 61 aces, averaging .66 per set, making her No. 1 in the SEC and No. 5 in the NCAA.  

Marjama said that she has big goals behind the service line for this weekend’s matchup. 

“I try not to think about it because it makes me really nervous, but I have five aces until I can be in the top-10 service aces for the school,” Marjama said. “It’s really messing with my head, but that’s what I really want. I’m so close.” 

Another nationally ranked player taking the court this weekend is the Razorbacks’ middle blocker Tatum Shipes. Shipes averages 1.34 blocks per set, which is No. 3 in the SEC and No. 22 in the nation.  

Other Arkansas standouts are middle blocker Abigail Archibong and libero Hailey Schneider, but solely because they are former teammates of Alabama players. Defense specialist Dru Kuck and Archibong played together at Kansas State University before they both transferred, and setter Brooke Slusser played high school volleyball with Schneider. 

Despite the reunion, both teams have a tough weekend ahead of them — Alabama seeks to improve from its 2021 record and Arkansas hopes for a winning percentage in the conference. As the season winds down, both teams are fighting for the chance to go out with a bang. 

Reed said that her team just needs to focus on what’s in front of them. 

“[Arkansas is] a very clean, very good technical team,” Reed said. “We need to make sure we’re just doing our job.” 

First serve is at noon CT on Saturday, Nov. 19, and 3 p.m. CT on Sunday, Nov. 20. Both games can be watched on SEC Network+. 

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