By Hunter Jones
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

When Lindsey Devine was hired as Alabama’s volleyball coach in December (after coaching 16 years at East Tennessee State) one of the first things she worked on with the team was a change in mentality.

“A shift in the mindset, a willingness, a thirst to be better,” Devine said. “A drive, a passion every time they come into the court, go into the weight room, they have really shifted that mindset to understand what this great opportunity has provided them.”

Alabama puts that philosophy to the test in the Crimson Tide’s season opener Friday at the UB Invite in Buffalo, New York. Alabama faces Marist and Buffalo on Friday and Colgate on Saturday.

Part of this change in mentality was a focus on selflessness, a trait that senior middle back Hayley McSparin said wasn’t as present in the past.

“We’re more together, we’re playing more as one and for each other,” McSparin said. “Before it might’ve been more individual but we’re playing as one so that’s a big change for us. And we’re playing for each other, we want to play and win for each other.”

Alabama was 20-12 last season, yet had a 7-11 SEC record, leading to a 7th place finish. Senior outside hitter Ginger Perinar thought being ranked in the top 25 last season led to a loss in focus.

“I think last year we started so well in preseason and we were so focused on ‘oh, we’re top 25’ and things like that and you can get so wrapped up in that and then not focus on the next game,” Perinar said. “I think that’s when we started to fall in SEC play so I think that’s something we’ll always keep in mind and not let happen against this year.”

Intensity was another key point McSparin, Perinar and Devine all pointed too in their approach to changing the mentality of the team. They believe that better intensity will benefit them the most when the back-half of the season comes around.

“I’m a firm believer in how you practice is how you’re going to play so we’re either going to rise to our level of training or we’re going to fall to our level of training,” Devine said. “So if we compete, we have this intensity, we play with these expectations every single day in our practices and you think of practice as a dress rehearsal for the big game so when we go to play that’s all they know. It’s ingrained in them, that’s who they are and it’s only going to set us up for what we need to do in the games.”