Alabama volleyball heads to California to open season

Alabama volleyball heads to California to open season

Alabama volleyball secured the program’s first NCAA Tournament win last season. CW / Danielle Parker

The Alabama women’s volleyball team is back, literally.

Returning the entire starting lineup from last year, the Alabama team's preseason should have been a breeze, yet it was anything but. The team faced injuries, with four players undergoing significant surgeries during the off season, and two leading offensive players changed positions.

“Preseason has been a nightmare to be quiet honest,” coach Ed Allen said. “We’re as banged up as any team that I’ve coached in 24 years.”

Regardless of the injuries the team has faced, Allen is still confident in his team to power through it all.

“Anybody can play healthy,” he said. “It requires a very talented player to be able to still put up great numbers given the fact that everything or a lot of things around them, including their body, is less than ideal.”

Alabama isn’t the only team that returns its players from last year, though. The top five teams lost very few people off last year’s roster as well, Allen said.

Although it may seem intimidating for freshmen to join a team that had such a successful season last year, going 26-8 overall, the girls focus on having a positive team culture.

“I think it’s nice to bring back that chemistry right off the bat that we had last year and continue to improve on it without losing too much ground,” senior setter Sierra Wilson said. “The freshmen coming in add a great deal to what we started off with.”

Just because the team has the returners, Allen said, doesn’t mean things are going to be the same. He said he expects to see a lot out of newcomers Tabitha Brown and Quincey Gary, and the only other freshman is setter Shannon Mikesky, who tore her Achilles heel Saturday and will be unable to play.

Allen shook up his offense this season, moving dominant hitters Krystal Rivers and Kat Hutson. Rivers started as a middle hitter her freshman year then was moved to right side, and now, as a rising junior, Rivers moves back to the middle. Hutson, on the other hand, moved from the left side of the court as an outside hitter to the right side.

As their setter, Wilson said flexibility with the team is a good thing and doesn’t see an issue with the change.

“If you’re able to develop chemistry on one side, there’s really no trouble developing chemistry on another side with a certain player,” she said. “It’s more about your connection in terms of person-to-person as opposed to me just setting to a location on the floor.”

Allen believes that this change in rotation will end up benefiting the team and making them stronger offensively.

“We have a product that’s worth selling,” he said.

The players will be able to test out their new positions during Alabama’s three matches this upcoming weekend. As the team heads to California to compete, both Wilson and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Brooke Feld will be familiar with the area, as the two lived there before coming to Alabama.

“I feel like it’s going to be a big advantage to me and Sierra [Wilson] especially because we get that home feel,” Feld said.

Feld said she grew up playing at these gym and is very familiar with them, along with some of the California players.

“We know kind of what to expect from these west coast teams because it’s a lot different than playing teams the south,” she said. “They have a different kind of style to how they play – that’s how I used to play.”

Both Wilson and Feld are excited to back in an area where their friends and family from home can come and support them.

Alabama will start its season at the LBSU/CSUF Baden Invitation, first at Long Beach State at 9 p.m. Friday and then Saturday at Cal State Fullerton at 1 p.m. After, it’ll head to Pepperdine for the Pepperdine Asics Classic at 8 p.m.

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