TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama volleyball opened Southeastern Conference play Friday night in dramatic fashion, persevering for a five-set win over No. 19 Texas A&M by set scores of 25-19, 26-24, 22-25, 16-25 and 15-13.
The win is Alabama's (12-2) seventh over a ranked opponent in program history and its first since defeating Texas A&M (6-6) on Oct. 31, 2014 in Foster Auditorium. The two teams have gone to five sets in three of the last four meetings, with the Tide winning two of those contests. Alabama was led offensively by Krystal Rivers with 29 kills while Hayley McSparin posted 16 kills with a .414 hitting percentage. Shannon Mikesky finished with 59 assists and 10 digs, her sixth double-double of the year.
The Tide were rolling right away in set one, scoring four unanswered points to start he frame before the Aggies took an early timeout down 4-0. Alabama continued to extend its lead, eventually pulling ahead 13-6 at the halfway point as Texas A&M took its final timeout. The Aggies would fight back to draw within three, trailing 17-14, but the Tide would rebound to win the set by six points, 25-19.
Tied at 4-4 in set two, Texas A&M scored three quick points to pull ahead 7-4 as Alabama took its first timeout. The Aggies would remain in front but the Tide continually chipped away at the deficit, eventually drawing within one on an ace to make it 19-18 and force Texas A&M to take a timeout. Alabama would tie the set three times before eventually taking a late 22-21 lead as the Aggies took their second timeout. Alabama took its final timeout with the score tied 23-23 and eventually pushed ahead to win the frame, 26-24, and take a 2-0 match lead.
Alabama jumped ahead 3-1 early in set three but momentum quickly flipped in favor of Texas A&M as they pulled ahead 8-4 and the Tide took a timeout. Alabama took its second timeout facing a five-point deficit, 16-11, but managed to push back late within three, 22-19, as a kill by Rivers forced Texas A&M to take a timeout. The Aggies reached set point, 24-20, but back-to-back kills by Emily Stebbins and Rivers kept the set going as Texas A&M took its final timeout up 24-22. The Aggies ended the set on the next point however, posting a kill to win 25-22 and avoid the sweep.
Just like the third set, an early 4-3 Alabama lead in the fourth was quickly erased by a 5-0 Texas A&M run, pushing the Aggies ahead 8-4 at the Tide's first timeout. Texas A&M continued to extend its lead, with back-to-back points making it 16-9 before Alabama was forced to take its final timeout of the frame. Leading by the same margin later, 23-16, the Aggies put it away with back-to-back points to win, 25-16, and force a deciding fifth set.
Facing an early 5-3 deficit in set five, the Tide rattled off four unanswered points, capped by a Natalie Murison service ace, as Texas A&M took a timeout down 7-5. Alabama continued to charge ahead after the mid-set switch, leading 12-7 at the Aggies' second timeout and reaching set point, 14-10. Texas A&M didn't go down quietly, scoring three-straight points to stay alive and draw within one as Alabama burned both of its timeouts in the process. A service error by the Aggies ended it on the next rally as Alabama won, 15-13.
Next, Alabama wraps up its eight-match home stand on Sunday, Sept. 25 against No. 6 Florida (10-1) at Noon CT live on SEC Network.