TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama put together one of its finest offensive performances of the season Friday night, defeating Tennessee, 3-1, at Foster Auditorium.
Alabama (12-13, 6-5 SEC) got off to a great start, winning the first set, 25-21, and the second, 25-22, but Tennessee (20-8, 6-7 SEC) rallied for a win in the third, 27-25, to avoid the sweep. The Crimson Tide were able to close out the match with a 25-18 victory in set four.
As a team, Alabama hit a season-best .355, led by Kat Hutson at .422 with 24 kills. Krystal Rivers had a match high 26 kills, hitting .408 with just six errors on 49 swings, while Brittany Thomas was also in double figures with 15 kills and a .312 clip. Sierra Wilson recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 62 assists and 12 digs. She is now only 107 assists shy of setting the Alabama career record.
A kill by Hutson early in the first set gave Alabama an 8-7 lead, but a 5-0 run by Tennessee gave the Volunteers a 12-8 lead as the Tide took a timeout. Alabama fought back within two, trailing 16-14, and then mounted a five-point scoring streak to retake the lead, 19-16, before Tennessee finally responded with a point to briefly stop the run. The Volunteers drew within one point late, 22-21, but back-to-back kills for the Tide made it set point, 24-21, as Tennessee took its final timeout. A kill by Rivers after the break sealed the 25-21 victory for Alabama.
The teams traded points early in the second set until, with the Tide leading 9-8, a 4-1 run extended Alabama's lead to 13-9 as Tennessee took a timeout. Alabama kept the visitors at arm's length through the middle of the set, holding a three-point lead at the 20-point mark, 20-17, as the Volunteers called a second timeout. After each team scored three points, a Tennessee service error gave Alabama set point, 24-20, but a Tennessee kill and an Alabama attack error cut the lead in half at 24-22. Hutson answered in the next rally with a kill to win the set, 25-22, and gain a 2-0 match advantage at intermission.
Tied at 5-5 in set three, kills by Thomas and Hutson gave the Tide a two-point lead that it held on to until the media timeout at 15-13. The Volunteers scored two straight points out of the break to tie it back up at 15-15 but were forced to take a timeout soon after as a kill by Rivers made it 18-17 in Alabama's favor. Later, leading 20-18, an Alabama attack error gave Tennessee back possession and a kill by the Volunteers' Kanisha Jimenez tied the set at 20-20 as Alabama took its first timeout. With the teams fighting neck-and-neck down the stretch, Alabama would reach match point, 24-23, but a kill by Erica Treiber tied it up and forced extra points. Alabama reached match point yet again at 25-24, but a Tennessee kill and an Alabama ball-handling error quickly gave the Volunteers set point, 26-25, as Alabama regrouped with a timeout. A kill by Tennessee's Kendra Turner ended it however, as the Volunteers won set three, 27-25, to avoid the sweep and force a fourth set.
Set four played out much like the third, with the two teams battling back and forth before Alabama found itself up 15-13 at the media timeout. A 3-1 run after the break that included two kills by Thomas and a third by Hutson extended Alabama's lead to 18-14 as Tennessee took a timeout. A kill by Jimenez was answered by back-to-back kills by Hutson and Rivers as the Tide took a five-point lead at the 20-point mark, 20-15, to force the Volunteers into taking a second timeout. Each team scored three points to make it 23-18 and a kill by Rivers gave Alabama match point, 24-18. A block on the outside by Thomas and Bruna Evangelista sealed the 25-18 set victory and the 3-1 match win over Tennessee.
Next up, Alabama hosts South Carolina (10-14, 3-8 SEC) on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. CT live on the SEC Network.