Dec. 5, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - In the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament, Alabama suffered at 3-1 (25-20, 19-25, 19-25, 23-25) loss to the Oklahoma Sooners on Thursday night from Maples Pavilion. With the loss, the Crimson Tide completed the season with a 24-9 overall record. Oklahoma (24-7) will play the winner of the Stanford versus Hampton match tomorrow night at 9 p.m. CT.
"We came out and approached things very aggressive tonight and hit for a very high percentage in the opening set," head coach Ed Allen said. "What we experienced in this match is what we've seen all season long, we have to be better defensively and become a better blocking team. We had four blocks in the match, that's one block per set, we should have players that average that individually. That has been an achilles for us, particularly over the past two years. We just have to get better at that."
Laura Steiner paced the Tide with 16 kills, as the sophomore outside hitter connected for a .238 hitting percentage, committing seven errors on 37 attempts. Joining Steiner in double figures was Krystal Rivers with 14 kills and Brittany Thomas with 11. Rivers posted a .357 hitting percentage in the match and Thomas notched her ninth double-double of the season with 10 digs.
"Steiner has one of the livest arms and as she continues to develop as a volleyball player and adds more shots, she's going to be a good outside hitter for us," Allen said. "Krystal Rivers' best days are still ahead, and as we continue to bring in more players around her, she's going to be in a better place to compete in December."
In its first NCAA tournament match since 2007, the Tide was out-hit .238 to .351, as the Sooners posted 18 blocks, compared to four by Alabama. The Tide had a .577 hitting percentage in the opening set, before the Sooners defense clamped down to limit Alabama to a .000 mark in the second, a .219 percentage in the third and a .205 mark in the final set. OU hit over .300 in three of the four sets, including a .455 mark in the third.
"They had good size at the net and did a good job extending over the net to get to our attack," said Rivers. "We have to be better offensively, in terms of hitting off the block and utilizing it to our advantage. But credit them because they put up a good block tonight."
Alabama got a team-high 12 digs from Kryssi Daniels, Bria Green added six digs and Sierra Wilson finished the season with 52 assists, two kills, four digs and a block against the Sooners.
Oklahoma had four players reach double figures in kills and was paced by Sallie McLaurin's match-high 19. McLaurin also led the Sooners' defense, collecting nine total blocks, including two solos and seven assisted. Keila Rodriguez added 14 kills, Kierra Holst had 13 and Madison Ward chipped in with 10. Setter Julia Doyle had 49 assists to go along with three kills, five digs and a match-high 10 total blocks (1 solo, 9 assisted). Rodriguez had a double-double after adding a match-high 13 digs.
With the Tide leading 6-5 in the opening set, Bama went on a 4-2 run to open a 10-7 lead following a kill by Thomas. The Tide extended their lead to seven, 20-13, following a kill by Rivers and an ace by McQuaid. Steiner recorded the final two kills of the first set for Alabama, as the Tide won the opening set 25-20.
"In the first set we competed hard and executed well and played our game," Rivers said. "Things fell off in the middle sets, but we just continued to fight in the fourth set. It's disappointing to lose, but we fought hard to the end."
The Sooners answered by winning the second set 25-19 to even the match, as Oklahoma posted a .375 hitting percentage in the set. With the score tied 14-14, Oklahoma went on a 4-0 run to open an 18-14 lead. Alabama closed the deficit to 18-16, but the Sooners held on and scored the last three points to win the set by six.
Oklahoma came out of the locker room and scored the first five points of the third set, a deficit the Tide could not overcome. Alabama got within three (20-17) following an ace by Daniels, but Oklahoma didn't allow the Tide to get any closer, closing out the set with 5-2 run for a 25-19 victory.
In the fourth set, neither team held more than a two-point advantage. Oklahoma held an 8-6 lead after a kill by Holst, but the Tide answered with an 8-4 run to open a 14-12 lead following a kill by Wilson. A 3-0 run by the Sooners put the Tide behind by one then Alabama used a 5-2 spurt to hold a 19-17 lead. Following an Oklahoma timeout, the Sooners scored back-to-back points to even the set at 19-19. After trading points, UA gave up the advantage following a block by OU's Doyle and Micaela Spann for a 23-22 Sooners lead. Rivers answered with a kill, but the Sooners closed the match with kills by Rodriguez and Holst to win the fourth set 25-23, ending Alabama's season with a 3-1 loss.
"This was a team that played hard all season long and they played hard in this match," Allen added. "Playing hard is one piece and then playing smart and playing together for 25 points is something we have to get better at doing. This is a team that plays incredibly well for 22 points per set, but we have to do better at closing out sets."
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