Tide Volleyball Outlasts UALR at UTA Hilton Invitational


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Erin Heffner

» Box Score

ARLINGTON, Texas – It took all five games but the University of Alabama volleyball team remained undefeated with a hard-fought 3-2 (30-22, 30-22, 28-30, 24-30, 15-11) victory over Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday night at the UTA Hilton Invitational.

The Crimson Tide, playing in their first five-game match of the year, improved to 6-0 and finished the weekend’s tournament with a 2-0 mark. Alabama’s six straight wins equals the team’s best start in head coach Judy Green’s nine-year tenure. The Tide also opened the 1998 and 2002 campaigns at 6-0.

The victory also pushed Green’s career record at Alabama to 132-132, marking the first time she has been at the .500 mark.

“I am very proud of how this team kept fighting and found a way to get the win,” said Green. “We’re still learning what it takes to be a good volleyball team. This weekend taught us a lot and hopefully we can learn from things we did.”

Alabama struggled to find the court with its serve early in the opening game, but UALR was unable to take advantage of Bama’s miscues. UA eventually turned up the serving pressure posting back-to-back four point runs to take an eight point lead (19-11). The Tide maintained that gap for the remainder of the frame en route to a 30-22 win. Alabama’s offense clicked at a stellar .405 pace including 11 kills by Erin Heffner.

Game two featured a classic side-out battle with neither team able to seize the momentum. The squads traded points to 18 before the Tide made its move closing out the stanza with a 12-4 run. The Crimson Tide offense again performed at a high level hitting a .469 in the game with just four hitting errors in 32 attempts.

The Trojans grabbed an early three-point advantage in the third game only to see Bama fight back to tie the score at nine. Again the two teams went through a point-trading stretch, but UALR made the move this time pushing in front by as much as seven points (26-19). A determined Bama group refused to quit fighting back to finally even the score at 28. Unfortunately, UA’s comeback bid came up just short as the Trojans were able to score the final two points for the 30-28 win.

The fourth game continued the point-for-point trend as the two teams stayed even to 17. The Trojans used strong serving to gain a slight lead margin, 25-20. This time Bama was unable to make a late charge dropping the decision, 30-24. UALR capitalized on shaky Tide passing to get their offense on track with a .484 hitting performance.

Bama got things rolling to start the deciding game scoring four of the first five points. UA extended their lead to five (11-6) only to have the Trojans trim the deficit to a single point at 12-11. At that point Heffner, the All-American candidate, put the team on her shoulders scoring the next two points on thunderous kills from the left side. Sophomore Rachael Green and freshman Brigitte Slack teamed for a solid stuff block to score the final point of the game and match.

Heffner continued her amazing season start recording a career best 33 kills and a .434 hitting percentage. Crystal Hudson finished with 15 kills and Julie Farley had 14 to join Heffner in double figures. For the match, Alabama hit at a .318 clip with Slack tallying a season best 67 assists in the balanced attack.

Senior Kory Tull paced the Bama defense recording 14 digs followed by Jessica Yearout with 11. Yearout now needs just seven more digs to record 1,000 in her career.

Bridget Fuentez, a freshman from nearby Tomball, Texas, saw her first extended action of the season for the Tide playing outside hitter during the third game.

Ana Carolina Buccini had 18 kills to lead UALR’s offense and Kimberly Boone posted 18 digs as the Trojan’s top defender.

Alabama has little time to rest as the Tide return to the court on Tuesday night against in-state foe Birmingham-Southern. The BSC match is slated to start at 7 p.m. in the CAVE.