Volleyball ties Tennessee in final series of season


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama volleyball’s seniors are recognized after the Crimson Tide’s three-set loss to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Nov. 25 at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

In Alabama volleyball’s final series of its 2022 season, the Crimson Tide (10-20, 4-14) played one of its best games of the year. The team’s 13 aces during its Wednesday night match were one of its best performances since early September, and nearly 60 kills contributed to a hitting average (.201) that the team hasn’t seen since October.  

Alabama’s 3-1 win over the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers (17-13, 11-7) on Wednesday night was a huge victory for the program, even though they got swept on Friday. 

Head coach Rashinda Reed said her team set a standard on Wednesday that was hard to match on Friday. 

“Tennessee did a good job of making adjustments,” Reed said. “Our serves and offense were just not as productive as they were on Wednesday.”  

Wednesday, 3-1: 22-25, 25-21, 29-27, 25-23 

On Wednesday night the Crimson Tide surrendered some points before they could gain any momentum. The first point of the match was an Alabama service error, and the Crimson Tide quickly fell to a 10-3 deficit that forced an early timeout.  

Alabama couldn’t string any points together until a Tennessee service error put outside hitter Abby Marjama behind the service line. Six Alabama points followed, including three service errors, tying the set at 19-19. A few points later, another ace from libero Sydney Gholson put Alabama up 21-20.  

The Lady Volunteers quickly put a stop to the Crimson Tide rally, though, and rattled off three kills in a row. Alabama errors gave them the final two points they needed for the first-set victory. 

The Alabama blockers came into the second set locked in. They refused to let the Tennessee kills cross over to their side of their court, and the Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead.  

The Lady Volunteers inched closer and closer, and the lead bumped back and forth. An ace from middle blocker Alyiah Wells gave Alabama a mid-set 15-14 lead, but momentum wasn’t established until another ace from Gholson gave the Crimson Tide a 21-19 lead.  

Tennessee called a timeout in hopes of a momentum change, but Wells delivered a kill to keep the energy going. A Marjama kill eventually ended the second set — where Crimson Tide hitting averaged .294 — and tied the match at a set apiece. 

The third set started close, but at the media timeout, Alabama trailed 15-8. The Crimson Tide was able to string a couple of points together to narrow the deficit, but its most important scoring run happened when the team trailed 24-20.  

Three Marjama kills and a poor Tennessee set combined to stave off the Tennessee set point. Three more Marjama kills kept Alabama in the set until middle blocker Chaise Campbell earned set point and a Tennessee attack error gave Alabama the two-point lead it needed to win.  

Alabama was first to score in the fourth set but quickly fell down 10-5, necessitating an early timeout. Marjama’s time behind the service line helped close the gap but Alabama didn’t pull ahead until defensive specialist Victoria Schmer’s serves — including back-to-back aces — led the way to a 17-14 lead.  

The Crimson Tide led the majority of the rest but at set point, a kill from outside hitter Sami Jacobs was overturned, sending the ball over to Tennessee instead of ending the match. Alabama finally celebrated its victory when the on-court players watched a Tennessee serve land outside the lines, sealing the 3-1 win.  

Friday, 0-3: 21-25, 18-25, 24-26 

Friday night did not fare as well for the Crimson Tide. Although the effort and mindset were there, Alabama just couldn’t pull together the come-from-behind rallies necessary to take even one set. Tennessee right side hitter Morgahn Fingall was a formidable presence in her team’s sweep over the Crimson Tide. 

Fingall led the Lady Volunteers with an astounding .656 hitting average, 26.5 points, 23 kills and a team-high two aces. Her setter, Natalie Hayward, contributed six of her own kills to the Tennessee offense which averaged .354 on the night.  

The Crimson Tide’s lack of effort was no excuse for the Lady Volunteers’ dominance. Gholson and the Alabama serve-receive kept the balls in the air and fought off several Tennessee aces by running down faulty passes. In the end, it all came down to the fact that the Crimson Tide just couldn’t keep each set going long enough for the team to come back from behind.  

Alabama came close in the third set — the Crimson Tide led 23-21 before the Lady Volunteers scored three in a row to bring the set to match point. After an Alabama timeout at 24-23, a Tennessee service error gave the Crimson Tide a second chance.  

Reed said she called the timeout to give her players a chance to refocus.  

“We talked about staying patient,” Reed said. “Executing each point and just keep battling.”  

Two kills in a row ended the match, though, with Fingall delivering a final kill that toed the back line. Reed challenged the point, but the referees gave the win to the Lady Volunteers.  

“I don’t agree in the sense that I’d like to keep playing right now,” Reed said of the call. “But the referees are fair, and I recognize that.” 

After the match, the Crimson Tide recognized its six seniors in their last game at Foster Auditorium. Marjama, Wells, setter Emily Janek, and defense specialists Katie Shook, Dru Kuck, and Taylor Drapp were all honored. 

Alabama will be back in action next fall. 

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