Hannah Saad | @hanna_saad21
The Alabama women’s volleyball has a steep mountain to climb as they open their season on Oct. 21. Alabama will take the court in Foster Auditorium against the No. 7 Missouri Tigers to open up its long awaited 2020 season.
Wednesday night’s match was originally scheduled for this past Saturday, Oct. 17, but it was pushed back four days due to some Missouri players with COVID-19 having to quarantine. This delay has allotted both teams more time to watch film and practice its game plan heading into the match.
Since 2017, Alabama and Missouri have faced off on five different occasions, all resulting in a win for the Tigers. In those five matches, Alabama has been shut out all but one time, which occurred last season.
Alabama and Missouri will enter the season from different ends of the conference. According to the SEC preseason coaches poll, Missouri was picked to finish third in the conference while Alabama is in 11th place, only to finish in front of Mississippi State and Auburn.
The two teams also ended their seasons in different ways last year. Missouri’s season came to an end in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Nebraska. Alabama lost its last eight games of the season and only won four total sets in these matches.
Two Missouri players, senior outside hitter Kylie Deberg and senior middle blocker Tyanna Omazic, were named to the preseason All-SEC team while no Alabama players received this honor.
Two things will determine how long Alabama stays within striking distance: the strength of sophomore middle blocker Alyiah Wells’ block and senior libero Kaylee Thomas’ ability to dig Deberg on the other side of the net. Wells tallied 109 blocks last season, which led the team last season. Thomas led the team in digs (424) in 2019 and is the 14th player in Alabama history to have at least 1,000 career digs.
Recent graduates Hailey McSparin and Ginger Perinar left big shoes to fill for senior outside hitter Doris Carter and freshman middle blocker Chaise Campbell. Carter had 256 kills last year, which averaged to 2.78 kills per set. Campbell was a member of the 2018 Team Florida National team and qualified for the Junior Olympics this past year. Campbell and Wells will need to be on the same page to control the Missouri attack.
Junior Abby Marjama and freshman Kendyl Reaugh look to be the two to rotate on the outside along with Carter. Marjama is a transfer from UC Irvine and was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2018. In 2019, Marjama led the Anteaters with 277 kills, and she had eight double-doubles and 10 or more kills in 15 matches. Reaugh was a top player out of her club the Skyline Juniors and was named MVP twice.
On the bright side for Alabama, senior setter Meghan Neelon will return as a mainstay again after missing much of last season due to an injury. Graduate student Riley Fisbeck will rotate in and out of the setter position with Neelon. Fisbeck was a part of the Texas Longhorns for her undergraduate career, where she competed in the NCAA tournament all four years.
The first serve between Alabama and Missouri is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Oct. 21, and can be streamed on the ESPN app. The Crimson Tide and Tigers will play their second and final match of the series on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 8:30 p.m. CT, which will air on SEC Network.