‘What’s in front of us’: Volleyball goes half-and-half in double-header finale

After months of uncertainty, schedule changes and practices, Alabama volleyball’s fall season finally came to an end.

Game 1

Alabama volleyball (2-5) claimed a 3-1 win over the LSU Tigers (2-3) Sunday night, Nov. 15, in Foster Auditorium.

The night did not start as head coach Lindsey Devine had hoped for. The team dropped its first set 25-21, but came back to win the last three. Devine credits the team’s ability to come back from a loss to its relentless effort off the court.

“It is a testament to the worth ethic and expectations we have in practice,” Devine said. “The practices should be really hard so when you come into the game it is easy.”

Heading into the match, LSU’s senior outside hitter Taylor Bannister was the player to look out for. She was the only player from either team to be named to the preseason All-SEC team. Bannister made her presence known early, hitting .800 individually in the Tigers’ first set win. The team finished with an overall .600 hitting percentage. After the completion of the first set, Devine told her team it needed to be assertive, rather than defensive. 

“The biggest thing we kept saying to our players is to not wait for them [LSU] to do something, but do it yourself,” Devine said. 

The Alabama offense took that aggressive mentality into the final three sets, which created tough shots out of bounds for the LSU offense, slowing down its attack. LSU’s offense hit .600 in the first set, but then declined to .205, .182 and .147; finishing with an average hitting percentage of .272. Bannister also hit under .200 in each of the last three sets. 

Devine said Alabama’s ability to widen its focus beyond Bannister’s playmaking ability and instead understand that she was going to make a lot of plays for LSU allowed for the team to be successful.

Alabama’s third set was its best of the night. The offense hit for a combined .469 percentage and did not commit a single service error. Sophomore Kennedy Muckelroy dominated, hitting .625 with two service aces. 

“We have the utmost confidence in her,” Devine said. “She has the opportunity to take over a match, and this afternoon she did what she needed to do. [The coaching staff knows] that we can put a lot of balls through her.”

For senior Kaylee Thomas, this night was a dream come true. She had known from a young age that she wanted to put on the Alabama uniform. Thomas described the night as a high-energy match and one that will make her forever grateful to be able to play for Alabama. 

“Being able to be on this team means so much to me, and everything about this program means so much to me,” Thomas said. 

Game 2 

Alabama (2-6) fell in consecutive sets, 3-0, against the LSU Tigers (3-3) in its fall season finale Monday afternoon at Foster Auditorium. 

In game one, Alabama was able to stifle LSU’s Bannister, but game two was a different story. Bannister had a season high of 11 kills in the afternoon, averaging out to a .333 hitting percentage. Bannister closed out LSU’s first set win, 25-20, with a kill to put her in the top-10 for kills in LSU history. 

LSU dished out tough balls behind the service line. The Tigers had 13 service aces, five coming from Bannister, and created many shots out of bounds that were hard to play. The Crimson Tide was unable to do so, and committed 11 service errors. 

“We played kind of tight today,” sophomore Alyiah Wells said after the match. “A lot of us were getting down on ourselves, and I don’t think we did a good job of bouncing back tonight.”

The out-of-system balls created by the LSU service line kept the Alabama offense out of sync. The Crimson Tide hit under. 200 each set and finished with a .133 hitting percentage on the match. In game one, Muckelroy proved to be an offensive star, but she hit for a negative .188 mark in game two. 

“Our first ball contact today was shaky,” Devine said. “We took something simple [serve and receive] and added something else to it.”

Despite the offensive struggles, senior Doris Carter had a solid performance with seven kills on 12 attempts, .583 hitting percentage, and tallied a service ace. 

Alabama volleyball will return in the spring with 12 matches against six different SEC opponents. Whether Alabama will play against any out-of-conference opponents has yet to be decided. 

“We’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected,” Devine said. “We need to bring our best selves and prepare for what’s in front of us.”