Volleyball Sweeps its Friday Opponents in St. Louis

Aug. 29, 2014

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Alabama opened its 2014 season with a pair of wins at the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic on Friday, earning 3-1 victories over Northern Iowa and Southeast Missouri State.

Alabama (2-0) hit .290 as a team between the two matches, limiting Northern Iowa (0-1) and SEMO (1-1) to a combined .140 clip. Offensively, Krystal Rivers led the team with 32 kills with Brittany Thomas close behind at 31. The Tide's front line played tall at the net, stuffing 23.5 team blocks, led by Leah Lawrence with 14 (1 solo, 13 assisted). On defense, libero Kryssi Daniels led the team with 32 digs while Rivers and Thomas combined for 47 digs as well.

Alabama Volleyball opened its 2014 season off on a strong note, battling through four back-and-forth sets against Northern Iowa to claim a 3-1 victory over the Panthers Friday afternoon at the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic.

As a team, Alabama (1-0) hit .294 while limiting UNI (0-1) to a .169 clip. The Tide notched 10.0 team blocks, led at the net by freshman Leah Lawrence's five block assists.

Freshman Kat Hutson led all players with 21 kills in her Crimson Tide debut, one shy of the Chaifetz Arena record, doing so on 51 swings with just four errors for a .333 clip. Alabama's three returning AVCA All-Region honorees each earned double-doubles, as Krystal Rivers (18K 17D), Brittany Thomas (18K 17D) and Sierra Wilson (55A 10D) paced a potent Alabama offense. Junior libero Kryssi Daniels set a new Chaifetz Arena record and a career high with 25 digs.

In the opening set, Alabama saw its early three-point lead erased quickly as the Panthers tied things back up at 5-5. Momentum would continue to swing back and forth for the first half of the frame, as the teams were knotted up at 13-13 at the halfway point. Later, a service ace by Rivers tied things up at 17-17 and a kill by Thomas and a UNI attack error gave the Tide a 19-17 lead, forcing the Panthers to take its first timeout. Alabama kept its momentum out of the break, using a 4-2 run to build a 23-19 lead which forced UNI to quickly take its second timeout. Lawrence and Wilson teamed up for a block to bring up set point and Lawrence sealed it with a kill to close out the 25-19 victory.

UNI rebounded in set two with a strong start, rattling off four-straight points before Alabama would answer with their own, making it 4-1. The Tide would battle back to tie it twice before finally taking its first lead, 9-8, off a kill by Thomas. Alabama would continue to hold the lead until, up 17-16, an attack error followed by a UNI block and ace allowed the Panthers to re-take the lead, 19-17, as Alabama took a timeout. The Tide would keep the game within reach, though they could not take the lead as UNI reached set point, 24-22, to force the Tide into taking its final timeout. UNI could not secure the win as Alabama scored back-to-back points, tying it up at 24-24 with the Panthers taking its final timeout. UNI would reach set point two more times before reaching it a third time, up 27-26, as Autumn Alitz knocked in a kill to give them the 28-26 set victory and even the match at 1-1.

It was UNI starting off strong in set three, scoring five unanswered points to take a 5-0 lead and force a frustrated early timeout by the Tide. Alabama battled back to narrow the lead, drawing within one at the halfway point, down 12-11 as the Panthers took their first timeout of the set. Alabama took its first lead of the set shortly thereafter, moving up 14-13 thanks to a kill by Rivers. The two teams would trade the lead back and forth four more times before Alabama finally started to build a larger lead, using a 4-1 run to move up 21-18 with UNI taking its final timeout.

In the fourth set, Alabama would take the first point of the set and would not allow UNI to take a lead the entire set. The Tide reached double-digits first, pushing ahead 10-6 after a UNI attack error as the Panthers took a timeout. Alabama would move up by five, 15-10, after a kill by Thomas but UNI would cut the lead with a 4-1 run to draw within two and force an Alabama timeout. Following the break, an ace would cut the lead within one but Alabama scored three unanswered points to move up 19-15 with UNI taking its final timeout. Alabama battled to reach match point, 24-21, and a Panther attack error would secure the season-opening victory for the Tide.

Alabama posted another strong performance in Friday's second game, faltering in the opening set but rebounding to post a 3-1 victory over Southeast Missouri State.

The Tide were paced offensively by Krystal Rivers, who posted 15 kills and a .323 clip to go along with nine digs, six block assists and a career-high five service aces. Brittany Thomas was close behind, notching 13 kills on 30 swings with 10 digs for her second double-double of the day. Freshman Leah Lawrence was a force to be reckoned with at the net, stuffing nine blocks (one solo, eight assists) along with eight kills. Freshman Natalie Murison also posted double-digit digs, covering the court for 12 digs.

The two teams battled back and forth early in the opening set, trading the lead six times before Alabama took its first timeout of the set, trailing 18-16. The Redhawks were rejuvenated out of the break, going on a 4-1 run to move ahead 22-17 as the Tide quickly burned its second timeout. Each team scored two points as SEMO reached set point, 24-19, and an Alabama attack error gave the Redhawks a 25-19 lead and an early 1-0 match lead.

Alabama bounced back quickly in the second frame, as SEMO scored the first point but the Tide answered with a 10-3 run as the Redhawks took its first timeout. The dominance continued out of the break as three kills, three blocks and a SEMO attack error helped Alabama to a double-digit lead, up 16-6 as the Redhawks burned its last timeout. Alabama held the same lead, up 21-11, and rattled off four unanswered points to even the match with a 25-11 victory in set two.

The momentum continued into set three, as Alabama jumped on SEMO for an early 9-2 lead, forcing an early timeout. Back-to-back kills by Thomas made it 11-2 and Alabama held the nine-point lead later, up 15-6, before kills by Rivers and Thomas and an ace by Murison made it a 12-point game, forcing SEMO into its last timeout. The Tide kept cruising for the remainder of the set, limiting SEMO to just five points as Alabama won by an identical score of 25-11 to move up 2-1 in the match.

Looking to close out the match in four sets, Alabama put together another strong performance in the deciding frame. SEMO would tie the match at 2-2 but that would be the final tie score of the set, as Alabama put some distance between the teams with a 14-5 run, leading 16-7 as SEMO took its first timeout. A kill by Leah Lawrence gave the Tide a double-digit lead and that would hold until match point, as a kill by Thomas made it 24-13. An Alabama block error kept the Redhawks alive for another point but Thomas ended it immediately after, as Thomas closed the match out with a kill, giving Alabama a 25-14 set victory and a 3-1 match victory.

Alabama concludes its weekend at the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic on Saturday, Aug. 30 with a pair of matches. The Tide open the day against Memphis (1-1) at 2 p.m. and wrap up against Saint Louis (0-1) at 7 p.m.