Georgia fends off Bama comeback in five-set close call
ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia women's volleyball team fended off an Alabama comeback to down the Crimson Tide in five sets Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 18-16).
Georgia (14-5, 5-3) went ahead 2-0 in the match but Alabama battled back to win sets three and four to force a decisive fifth set. The final set featured 13 ties. Georgia held match point four times before finally finishing the set 18-16.
Senior Amber Stivrin tallied a season-best 19 kills followed by 18 from junior Sophie Fischer (tied career high) and 17 from senior Kacie Evans. Redshirt-junior Mackenzie Norris also tipped the double-digit kill mark with 10.
Three Bulldogs recorded double-doubles in the match: Evans (17 kills, 11 digs) and setters Clara Brower (32 assists, 10 digs) and Alexa Fortin (24 assists, 14 digs).
Defensively, sophomore libero Bailey Cox put up 28 digs while Fischer had eight blocks.
Georgia used a 7-1 run early in the opening set to take an 8-4 lead on the Tide (7-14, 1-8). Another four-point run lengthened Georgia's advantage to six, 14-8. The Dogs kept the Crimson Tide at arm's length as Georgia held on to take the opening stanza 25-19. Fischer tallied six kills in the first as Stivrins added five. Trailing 10-8 in the second set, Georgia went on a 7-0 run to open a 15-10 lead going into the second set media timeout. Alabama battled its way back, knotting the set at 22, forcing a Georgia timeout. A Stivrins kill then ace drew set point then Evans finished it with her ninth kill to take the set 25-22 and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third frame was a tightly contested battle to start, with Georgia taking a one-point lead into the media timeout, 15-14. Prior to that, there had nine ties. Three-straight from Alabama after the break put the Tide in front 17-15. Down 22-19 a 3-0 Georgia run knotted the set at 22-all as Alabama called a timeout. Knotted again at 23, Alabama won the next two rallies to win the set 25-23 and kept the match alive.
A 6-1 run lifted Alabama to a 9-5 lead in the fourth. Georgia battled to tie it at 11 but Alabama responded with a 4-1 run to carry a 15-12 lead into the media timeout. Georgia rattled off four-straight to tie the set at 18-all, capped with back-to-back Fischer and Tori Harper blocks. Tied at 19, Alabama found a lead and held on to win the fourth 25-22, forcing a fifth and final set.
The fifth set battle began nearly point-for-point as Alabama led 8-6 at the end change. Two Tide errors evened it up at eight. Down 10-8, Georgia found a 11-10 lead. Georgia drew what would be its first set point on a Norris kill, 14-13. Alabama kept the match alive but Georgia continued to draw set point at 15, 16, then again at 17. Stivrins 19th kill secured the final point and the win for the Bulldogs, 18-16.
Head Coach Tom Black On what motivated his team at the end to finish strong... "I just think the team got reconnected and back on task. We were rolling, and then, I thought Alabama started playing really well. We were sort of on our heels. I thought those last eight points, we kind of got our rhythm back and made some really nice plays."
On the biggest takeaway from this match heading into tomorrow... "Consistency is really the name of the game. The league is super competitive. We know that, and you must bring your A-game every point. If you don't, the other side is going to take advantage just like we try to do to them. Consistency is the huge point.
Senior Outside Hitter Amber Stivrins On what motivated his team at the end to finish strong... "Our big thing is just trusting our training and trusting each other because in big moments it is easy to say, 'I wish I had done this. I wish you had done this.' It's important to just focus on your own job, and we can all trust that the person next to you is going to do their job too. It was really about just wrapping our arms around each other and getting big."
On the biggest takeaway from this match heading into tomorrow... "It's not over until it's over. After that second set, I think we started dragging our feet a little bit. Keeping the intensity from start to finish will be a big thing for tomorrow."
Up Next Georgia hosts Alabama Sunday at 12 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. The matchup will air live on SEC Network. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to Sunday's match. The first 400 fans will receive a pink t-shirt at the gate.