Preview | How UA women’s volleyball can improve in its final matches

Volleyball is the third Alabama program meant to face a worthy adversary in LSU this weekend.

Robert Cortez, Staff Reporter

Alabama women’s volleyball (1-5) returns to Foster Auditorium Sunday and Monday for its final games of the season against the LSU Tigers (2-2). Sunday’s “senior night” will celebrate the program’s three seniors and two graduate students.

Both Alabama and LSU have found a better groove as the season has progressed. Both programs got swept in their opening weekends, but are coming off successful rebounds. Alabama captured its first win of the season against Georgia last weekend, and LSU swept its two-game series against Mississippi State. 

Since 2018, The Tigers have headed home from Alabama matches with smiles on their faces. In their last three matches, LSU has outscored Alabama 9-3. But the Crimson Tide could flip the script this year, especially if they turn to junior UC Irvine transfer Abby Marjama for help.

Marjama leads the Alabama offense with 64 kills and averages 3.56 kills per set. In the past five matches, graduate setter Riley Fiskbeck showed no hesitation in setting the ball to Marjama. Marjama has led the team in kills and has a season high of 17 kills in Alabama’s 3-1 win over Georgia last Sunday. 

The Alabama block will have its hands full against LSU’s lone preseason All-SEC team honoree, Taylor Bannister. Bannister is coming off a 22-kill performance against Mississippi State and holds a season high of 27 kills against No. 8 Texas A&M in LSU’s opening weekend. Bannister also leads the LSU offense with 82 kills and averages 5.13 kills per set. 

What allows Bannister to be so effective is her height. Freshmen Chaise Campbell and Kendyl Reaugh, who are both 6-foot-3, could Alabama’s best chance at blocking Bannister, who is 6-foot-5. The Alabama block must learn from its opening weekend against Missouri’s 6-foot-4 outside hitter Kylie Deberg, the conference’s top outside hitter. If the Alabama block is unable to do so, it will be a long night.

Alabama has a more balanced offensive attack, which puts it at an advantage against LSU. The next leading killer behind LSU’s Bannister is Samarah Hill, who only has 39 kills on the season. Alabama’s Reaugh and sophomore Kennedy Muckelroy each have 50-plus kills of their own. The Crimson Tide offense can also count on sophomore middle blocker Alyiah Wells, who has 44 kills in the season.  

But Alabama’s foul record could spell trouble. LSU has played two fewer matches than Alabama but has only committed half the service erros Alabama has. LSU has a total of 22 service errors, averaging 5.5 service errors per match, compared to Alabama’s 54, averaging nine service errors per match. In a match this closely contested, it’s important to limit the amount of free points the teams give up.

The first serve between Alabama and LSU is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15, at 1 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPNU.