KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Facing a 2-1 match deficit, Alabama volleyball rallied with a hard-fought win in the fourth set against Tennessee to force a deciding fifth set, which the Crimson Tide won, 15-9, to secure the comeback victory.
Alabama (13-6, 2-4 SEC) won the opening set, 25-20, before Tennessee (8-7, 1-5 SEC) evened the match with a 25-23 win in the second. The Volunteers took the match lead with a 25-18 win in set three before the Tide rallied with the narrow two-point victory in the fourth, 25-23, and a gutsy 15-9 win in the fifth. With the win, Alabama remains undefeated in five-set matches this season, posting a 4-0 record, including two wins in conference play.
Three Tide players posted career highs in kills, led by senior Leah Lawrence with 19 along with sophomore Ginger Perinar and Mahalia Swink with 18 and 14, respectively. Freshman Meghan Neelon posted her team-leading sixth double-double thanks to 18 digs and a career-best 59 assists. Junior Quincey Gary led the defense with 27 digs and tied a career high with three service aces.
Alabama scored five points on five kills early in set one, leading 5-1 and Tennessee spent its first timeout just six points into the opening frame. The Vols would fight within one point three times but could not tie the score as the Tide remained in front, leading by five at Tennessee’s second timeout, 20-15. Having already spent its first challenge earlier in the set, Tennessee made its second challenge in the closing points of the opening frame but the call stood in Alabama’s favor to make it 23-19. Following a point by the Vols, back-to-back kills from Hayley McSparin and Christine Jarman gave the Tide the 25-20 win.
Tied at 3-3 early in set two, Alabama scored three-straight points capped by a Gary service ace to pull ahead 6-3. Tennessee took its first lead of the match near the halfway mark of set two, pulling ahead 11-10 and remained in front at the media timeout, 15-12. Alabama fought back to tie the score at 18-18 after Lawrence stuffed down an overpass for a kill and Tennessee took its first timeout. The Vols moved back in front, 22-19, and the Tide called a timeout before drawing back-to-back points from Alabama made it a one-point game and Tennessee burned its own timeout, now up 22-21. The Vols would eventually win set two, 25-23, to even the match at 1-1.
Tennessee took the early 4-1 lead in set three but Alabama quickly rallied to regain the lead at 6-5. The Vols responded with four-straight points to move ahead 9-6 and the Tide took its first timeout. Tennessee continued its run with three more unanswered points after the break before Alabama regained possession on a Vol attack error, now trailing 12-7. Tennessee took its first timeout leading 18-15 and scored five-straight points following the break to pull ahead 23-15 as Alabama called its own timeout. The Vols held on to win set three, 25-18, and take a 2-1 match lead.
Tennessee scored the first point of set four and held the early advantage before Alabama took an 8-7 lead on a kill from Jarman. After five tie scores, Tennessee would regain the lead, 14-13. The Vols stayed in front until a 3-0 run consisting of two kills and a solo block from Swink put Alabama back ahead, 19-18, and Tennessee took a timeout. The Vols were back ahead three points later, 20-19, and the Tide took a timeout. Trailing 23-22, Alabama scored three-straight points on three kills from Lawrence to win, 25-23, and force a deciding fifth set.
Tied 3-3 in set five, Alabama’s defense kept some tough balls off the floor and capitalized with three hard-fought points to lead 6-3 as Tennessee took a timeout. The Tide led at the mid-set switch, 8-4, and held a 10-5 advantage at the Vols’ final timeout of the set. The teams traded points evenly until, leading 13-9, back-to-back kills by Perinar secured the 15-9 set win and the five-set match victory for Alabama.
Alabama briefly steps out of conference play for a midweek road match at Alabama State (15-7) on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. CT before resuming SEC play in Baton Rouge, La. against LSU (13-4, 4-2 SEC) on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. CT.