Late surge not enough for Alabama volleyball

Robert Cortez, Staff Reporter

A second-half surge was not enough for Alabama volleyball to capture a season-opening win Wednesday night. The Crimson Tide fell to the No. 7 Missouri Tigers 3-1.

Alabama found itself in an early 2-0 deficit due to inconsistency at the service line and on the attack. A total of 19 service errors and 21 attacking errors were committed within the first two sets. The most critical service errors came at the hand of graduate student Riley Fisbeck. When the Crimson Tide was within a couple of points of tying the match, she made three service errors, allowing the Tigers to pull ahead and capture the set. 

“I think a little bit of nerves took over,” head coach Lindsey Devine said. “What we will reinforce is the small details that we talk about every day at practice when it comes to serving, which is to go back with the mentality that you create an out-of-system serve.”

The third set victory for Alabama can be attributed to the consistency at the service line, which only committed two total service errors. Alabama was on the verge of winning the fourth set and pushing the game to a deciding fifth set, but two service errors allowed Missouri to tie the game and inevitably win the game. 

Sophomore Kennedy Muckelroy was the X-factor for Alabama, as the offense clicked when Muckelroy found kills. In the first two set losses for Alabama, Muckelroy combined for a .111 hitting percentage. However, in the Alabama third set win and extended fourth set, Muckelroy had 11 kills. Muckelroy finished the day with 15 kills and a .500 hitting percentage. 

“We’re gonna run a lot of balls through Kennedy this year,” Devine said. “She has great range, a great IQ. She sees what’s in front of her, and we like when the ball’s in her hands.”

Missouri’s Kylie Deberg showed why she was named to the All-SEC preseason team, as she accumulated 22 kills and a .367 hitting percentage. Deberg also found some success in slowing down Muckelroy’s attack. This will be a matchup to look out for tomorrow night. Devine said Alabama will have to play better matchups against Deberg to slow down her attack.

“We have to use our eyes a little bit better when we’re making our line on our block against her,” Devine said. 

The starting lineup for Alabama may have caught Alabama faithful’s attention. Only two of the starters, senior Doris Carter and sophomore Aliyah Wells, were from last year’s starting lineup. Fisbeck, Muckelroy, freshman Kendyl Reaugh, freshman Chaise Campbell and graduate student Madelyn St. Germain are all new to the lineup. Seniors Meghan Neelon and Kaylee Thomas still were mixed into the rotation throughout the game. 

With this rotation, there can be two setters, Neelon and Fisbeck, and two liberos, Thomas and St. Germain, on the court at a time, which happened a few times in Wednesday night’s match. 

“New faces [starting players] means nobody knows really knows how to scout us,” Devine said. “Every day is an opportunity for a player to compete for a position.” 

Alabama and Missouri will play the second and final game of the series tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.