Volleyball goes undefeated in first day of opening weekend

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Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama volleyball setter Brooke Slusser (16) celebrates with her teammates in the Crimson Tide’s victory over the UTSA Roadrunners on Aug. 26 at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter

The Alabama volleyball program had a fired-up crowd watching every point as they went undefeated on the first day of the Crimson Tide Invitational Friday night in Foster Auditorium.  

At the end of each game, head coach Rashinda Reed thanked the crowd for their attendance. 

“The crowd had a huge impact,” Reed said.  

The Crimson Tide (2-0) beat McNeese State University 3-1 and took University of Texas at San Antonio (1-2) in straight sets.

McNeese (3-1: 25-19, 19-25, 25-15, 25-22)

In the Crimson Tide’s opening set, McNeese (0-3) scored first but then stayed close at their heels after losing the lead. Despite several attack errors and some miscommunication on the court, Alabama led most of the match. 

Outside hitter Kendyl Reaugh brought the set to its final point after peppering the McNeese defense with two attacks in a row and a block that finished the rally, leading to a score of 24-19. Setter Brooke Slusser won the set for the Crimson Tide with an ace, bringing the final score for set one to 25-19. 

In the second set, McNeese was once again the first to score, but this time the Cowgirls led most of the set. Seventeen of McNeese’s 25 points came from Alabama errors, including two service errors and three attack errors in the final eight points, leading to a 25-19 win for McNeese.  

Despite losing momentum, the third set looked hopeful after coach Reed won a challenge. From there, the Crimson Tide went on an 11-0 run dominated by outside hitter Abby Marjama’s four service aces, and two kills each from outside hitters Alyiah Wells and Micah Gryniewicz. Alabama took the set 25-15 and went into the fourth set with a 2-1 lead.  

The Crimson Tide carried their momentum into the fourth set with a 6-0 lead and never relinquished the lead the rest of the match. Despite several well-placed taps over the net from McNeese setter Dejah Dade, Alabama stayed in control and ended the fourth set 25-22 and the match 3-1.  

Freshman Gryniewicz had 15 kills in her debut with the Crimson Tide, and veteran player Marjama led with nine kills of her own plus five service aces.  

At the end of the match, Reed was presented with the game ball for her first win with the program. She addressed the crowd with gratitude after accepting the ball.  

“I’m really speechless, honestly,” Reed said. “Thank you so much for being here in support. Keep coming back. This team is an awesome team, and I want you guys to continue to support them throughout the season.” 

University of Texas at San Antonio (3-0: 25-23, 27-25, 25-20)

With classes done for the weekend, the Crimson Tide fan base flooded into the Foster Auditorium Friday night to do just as coach Reed asked. 

Despite the electric atmosphere, the Crimson Tide was unable to gain any momentum throughout the first set. Although nearly half of UTSA’s points were the result of Alabama service errors, the Crimson Tide eventually rallied behind several untouchable kills from Gryniewicz and Wells.  

Alabama thought it had won the set with an out-of-bounds UTSA kill, but the challenge revealed it was tipped out by a Crimson Tide player. Despite the setback, Wells put one over the net to win back the set.  

Just like in the first set, the lead bounced back and forth across the net during the second. The teams tied 17 times as they both battled to take the momentum back despite multiple service errors.  

Toward the end of the set, outside hitter Sami Jacobs stepped up and took back the lead three times, but still, the Crimson Tide was unable to take a decisive lead. At 25-25, Slusser’s first kill of the match eventually gave Alabama the momentum it needed to take the second set 27-25.  

With only one set in the way of an Alabama win, the Crimson Tide finally took off. Early in the third set, Alabama went on a 9-1 scoring run that gave them a healthy 10-3 lead. While the Roadrunners attempted to work their way back into the lead, the crowd fed the Crimson Tide’s energy, making them unstoppable. 

“It can be a tough atmosphere to play in,” Reed said. “Our ladies really feed off that [crowd’s] energy.” 

With the score at 24-20, one point stood in the way of a Crimson Tide victory, and Foster Auditorium knew it. The fans took to their feet as Campbell served the final ball, leading to an ace, a win and a roar from the crowd.  

Over the course of both games, Gryniewicz had a total of 27 kills, and Wells followed with 19. The duo combined for a total of 55.5 points, nearly half the day’s total.  

“It feels great,” Gryniewicz said of her debut with the Crimson Tide. “I feel like we have a really good support system with the coaches and just my team surrounding me.” 

The Crimson Tide also combined for a total of 42 service errors across the two games, but Reed says she isn’t worried.  

“I want them to be aggressive on the service line,” Reed said. “I don’t want any easy serves because what’s going to happen is you’re going to have an amazing service team that’s going to put balls up and it’s going to be hard to defend.”

Up next 

Alabama will play their final match of the Crimson Tide Invitational against Southern Mississippi at 3 p.m. in the Foster Auditorium. Both teams are 2-0 in the invitational.

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