Alabama volleyball looks toward first home match after Hurricane ClassicBy Ben Boynton | 08/29/2016 1:25am
After seeing his players in action he believes they have a chance to be a truly special squad.
“I think we’ve determined that we’re probably a better balanced offensive team than what we’ve had here in the past,” Allen said. “And maybe, quite frankly, we have the opportunity to be maybe the best offensive production team I’ve had in my five years here.”
Allen may be impressed with the offensive firepower his squad has, but he sees an opportunity for improvement from a defensive perspective.
“We have got to get a lot better defensively,” Allen said. “Teams are hitting too high of a percentage against us. We have to get better as a blocking team, we have to get better in terms of our discipline defensively, from body position to position on the floor and adjustments. I think we’ve determined that the possibility is for this team to be as talented as any team that’s been here, but we’ve got to improve defensively.”
Allen liked what he saw from the new faces on the team, too. Redshirt freshman setter Shannon Mikesky made her debut after missing all of last season with a torn ACL and posted two double-doubles. Freshman middle blocker Hayley McSparin had a solid amount of playing time, including 16 kills in the 3-2 loss to Tulsa.
For McSparin, her debut for the Crimson Tide was a dream come true.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for for three years,” she said. “It was very exciting to finally put on that jersey and represent the Crimson Tide. I know Coach expected so many things out of me and I’m glad to finally be able to do that for him.”
For the players who have been around the program, the first few matches of the season are no less important than they are for the newcomers. Junior middle blocker Leah Lawrence believes early matches play an important role in team chemistry.
“It definitely helps the team gel,” Lawrence said. “It helps with the team atmosphere because we are getting used to the people playing around us more than just in practice. It really shows us what we need to work on, so it’s definitely useful.”
After practicing for weeks leading up to the season, the players are excited to be competing against other teams and to see what they’re made of. Naturally, this brings a lot of emotions with it, and these emotions are amplified for the home opener.
“I expect it to be a surreal moment for me,” McSparin said. “I hope it will be exactly what I imagine it to be, with the crowd cheering during the starting lineup, with everyone cheering when you get your first home match kill. This will be an amazing moment for me.”
Tuesday at 7 p.m., the Crimson Tide will take the court at Foster Auditorium for the first home match of the year against Samford University.
“It’s so great to be able to play at home for the first time each year, because you finally get to play in Foster and have that crowd around you that you’ve been imagining every single practice,” Lawrence said. “You go through each practice thinking ‘I can’t wait until people get here, I can’t wait until people fill up Foster’, and then you’re finally playing in that environment and it’s wonderful.”
The Crimson Tide has had some of the best attendance numbers in program history under Allen. Season attendance has surpassed 12,000 fans in all four of his years at the helm. Last season saw 15,003 fans pack Foster for the second highest total in program history.
Those numbers don’t go unnoticed by the players on the team.
“The louder Foster gets, the better it is for us, and the harder it makes it for the other team,” Lawrence said. “The more people we get, we just feed off that energy even more, and it just makes it a more competitive environment. It makes us work harder, it makes it harder for the other team to do their job, so it’s very important to get a good turnout in Foster.”