Marjama has record-breaking performance despite back-to-back sweeps at Arkansas

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

Despite a tough pair of losses in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this weekend, Alabama volleyball saw a record-breaking performance at Barnhill Arena. 

Outside hitter Abby Marjama served her 66th ace, the last ace she needed to take her place in Alabama volleyball’s single-season and career top-10 records.  

“I put a lot of effort and time into [serving],” Marjama said. “In the back of your head you’re always thinking about it, but at the end of the day, I went into the game and just put myself and my team in the best opportunity.” 

The accomplishment was the one bright spot in a weekend that saw six lost sets and back-to-back sweeps by the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. 

Saturday (0-3: 10-25, 19-25, 21-25) 

Alabama (9-19, 3-13) tallied their least number of kills (26), averaged their lowest hitting percentage (.027) and tied their lowest set point total (10) of all season on Saturday. Outside hitter Kendyl Reaugh, the team leader in kills and second in digs, left early in the first set with a rolled ankle, and the Crimson Tide struggled to fill her absence the rest of the weekend.  

Head coach Rashinda Reed said that her team adjusted well as the weekend continued.  

“In the beginning it was a little shaky, but today it was better,” Reed said. “It’s difficult when you lose a player, especially a player that produces as much as Kendyl and has that presence and leadership, but I was really proud of our resilience.” 

Alabama attempted to crawl back from the first set, and although the team gradually improved, it couldn’t claim any set victories. The attackers’ average hitting percentage climbed out of the negatives and their point deficit grew smaller with each set, but Alabama only became a serious contender in the third set.  

In the final set, the Crimson Tide held the Razorbacks (18-8, 9-7) to a tie seven times. At 15-15, though, Alabama allowed five consecutive Arkansas points. Despite four of Alabama’s five match aces being served in the third set, they weren’t enough to keep the match going. The Crimson Tide stayed in range, as close as 21-19, before giving Arkansas the sweep. 

Middle blocker Alyiah Wells hit .353 throughout the match but three other attackers finished in the negatives, contributing to the Crimson Tide’s low .027. 

Although the offense took a hit on Saturday, Reed said she wants to focus more on the defense. 

“Our defense was a little shaky,” Reed said. “Our backcourt defense needed to execute a little bit better and just stay patient. Defense is something we’ll continue to work on.” 

Sunday (0-3: 18-25, 16-25, 27-29) 

On Sunday, Alabama attempted to put Saturday in the past by getting on the board first. The first six points were ties until Arkansas jumped ahead to 9-6 with a three-point run. From there, the Razorbacks stayed in the lead. 

A late three-point run from Alabama attempted to keep the set going, but outside hitter Jillian Gillen put an end to the rally, and Arkansas won 25-18. 

The Razorback blockers helped their team to an early lead in the second set, but an ace from Marjama gave Alabama its first lead at 10-9. Arkansas never strayed far behind, though, and kept its scoring runs going despite Reed’s efforts to break them up with timeouts. 

A pair of Razorback kills completed the second set, with Gillen placing the final shot. 

The third set was Alabama’s best performance of the weekend. The Crimson Tide took a six-point lead, tallied five aces and fended off two match points to take the Razorbacks to extra points.  

Most importantly, Marjama etched her name in the Alabama volleyball record books. With back-to-back aces separated by an Arkansas timeout, she served her 65th and 66th aces, tying for 10th place with two other Alabama players.  

“Being in that moment and knowing I had just one more left, I was trying to focus on not putting so much pressure on getting that last one,” Marjama said. “I focused on just putting in a big, aggressive serve and putting my team in the best position I can.” 

Unfortunately, after Marjama’s time behind the service line ended, Arkansas managed to outscore Alabama 12-1, taking a substantial lead.  A five-point Alabama response — including back-to-back aces from defensive specialist Victoria Schmer — tied the game at 18-18.  

Alabama stayed close, and after falling down 22-19, the Crimson Tide battled back to another tie at 23-23. A kill from outside hitter Sami Jacobs took Alabama to set point, but Arkansas tied the set. 

The two teams traded set points back and forth until a solo block from Arkansas middle blocker Tatum Shipes ended the set and match. 

Wells said that the result was not what the team wanted but they all fought hard in that final set.  

“The goal was to play our game and focus on what we can do on our side in those high-pressure moments,” Wells said. “The goal is to leave it all out on the court, and I feel like we did that today.” 

Alabama will play its final series of the season this week against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. First serve is Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. CT, and play will continue Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. CT. The first match can be watched on SEC Network. 

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