Alabama started off sluggish but finished strong to upend the Mississippi State Bulldogs Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Newell-Grissom Building.
The Crimson Tide dropped the first set 22-25, but it claimed the final three 26-24, 25-17 and 25-23, respectively.
Alabama improved to 15-12, with a conference record of 4-11, while Mississippi State fell to 4-20 and 0-15 in the SEC.
“We’ve got such a young team and playing so many young players, I think any win continues to build confidence,” head coach Ed Allen said. “That’s important to us as we finish down the stretch. We’ve got five matchups left, and I think all five are winnable matches.”
The Tide struggled in the first set, and the Bulldogs took advantage of Alabama’s sloppy play.
“I think we just need to be consistent and keep our composure,” senior outside hitter Kayla Fitterer said. “We came out in the first set and just weren’t consistent. We had a lot of errors.”
But Fitterer and company tightened their efforts and took control of the game.
Alabama blocked a season-high 14 team blocks, but Allen thought the team could have had more on Sunday.
“We’ve got to get better defensively, particularly in the back row,” Allen said. “I know we had a season high in [team] blocks, but we easily could have blocked 20-23 balls today. But we spent a good chunk of the season fortunate to have three blocks, and here we’ve almost got five times that.”
Several Tide players set career highs in Starkville, Miss. Leigh Moyer, Laura Steiner and Kanesha Burch each posted personal bests in total blocks and assisted blocks. Senior Kelsey Melito recorded 16 digs, her own career record.
Allen was especially pleased with junior middle blocker Burch.
“Kanesha came up huge for us,” Allen said. “She’s going to get those opportunities when people choose to release on our outside hitters, and she’s going to get a chance to go one-on-one. She did a great job for an extremely high percentage. When we’ve got a middle that’s doing, that you’ve got a chance.”
Fitterer finished with 15 kills, 15 digs and a .279 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Pricilla Duke-Ezeji led the Tide with 19 kills. Junior defensive specialist Christina Areanas posted a team-high 23 digs.
Four players ended the game with double digit kills. The offensive balance is something that Allen wants his team to harness as it closes out the regular season.
Compared to last year’s team, the Tide has drastically improved and matured up to this point in the season. Allen has noticed the change in a year’s time.
“Oh my gosh, it’s so much better, it’s unreal, “Allen said. “We’re a whole lot more competitive. This team’s more physical, it’s more balanced, it’s more offensive than last year’s team. It’s just going to continue to grow and get better.”
I’m most pleased that we chose to compete in a difficult situation because last year’s team would not have won this match. This year’s team is at least fighting to the very end and representing The University of Alabama in a way that it deserves to be represented.”
Alabama’s next three games will be in Foster Auditorium, starting Friday with the Kentucky Wildcats.