The wins stretched the Alabama season opening win streak to four matches and marked Bama's first in-season tournament championship since UA won the 1998 Crimson Tide Classic. The Hilton Classic crown also marked the Tide's 21st all-time tournament hardware.
Sophomore Shelly Adamcik became just the sixth Crimson Tide player to garner tournament MVP honors while sophomore Erin Price joined Adamcik on the all-tournament list. It was Price's first career all-tournament selection.
Alabama earned the season-opening title after topping Pittsburgh, 3-2 (33-31, 23-30, 30-19, 18-30, 15-11) and host New Mexico State, 3-1 (33-31, 30-24, 27-30, 30-26).
"The real key for us today was how we found a way to win all the critical points," said UA head coach Judy Green, who led the Tide to the second tournament title of her tenure. "I thought we got contributions from a variety of players. I really felt like our ability to block consistently and serve aggressively allowed us to win the tournament."
A determined Crimson Tide squad survived a five-game thriller in their first match on Saturday to earn a place in the championship match. Bama and Pitt rallied back-and-forth in the opening game with the Tide finally capturing the slight two-point win.
2001 Alabama Volleyball Squad
The Panthers answered in game two taking advantage of an inconsistent Alabama offensive attack to knot the match at one. Green shook up the Tide line-up in the third frame inserting freshman setter Kenna Milner and sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Bibber. The duo helped spark UA to an easy third game win.
A veteran Pitt squad regrouped in game four, keeping the Tide off balance with solid serving and aggressive front row play. The Panthers evened the match for a second time after earning the double-digit victory.
In the deciding game, Alabama ran out to a quick 9-1 lead before Pittsburgh charged back to within a pair at 11-9. The Tide proved too strong in the end outscoring the Panthers at the net to earn their third consecutive win of the year.
Bibber was the difference for the Tide in the fifth game opening the frame with back-to-back kills and a block and also served up three aces in the game. She finished with nine kills for the match. Jen Wagner paced the Bama offense with 11 kills.
Adamcik continued her strong play at the net with eight blocks. Milner led the Tide defense with 18 digs followed by 14 by Adamcik and 12 from Price.
In the opening game of the championship match with New Mexico State, the Tide and Aggies battled down to the wire with neither team leading by more than three points in the frame. UA finally claimed the game one win in extra play.
The Crimson Tide took control midway through the second frame opening up a seven-point margin. NMSU attempted a comeback but got no closer than four as Bama closed them out for the game two victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.
A gritty New Mexico State took the early advantage in the third game. Alabama rallied cutting the Aggie lead to a single point several times but NMSU refused to give in holding on for the victory and ending the Tide's hope for a clean sweep.
Game four was tightly played until Alabama opened a slight margin and looked ready to close the match. However a scoring spurt by the Aggies cut the UA lead to just one but a NMSU service error and a pair of aces by Lexee Marshall ended the threat and gave Alabama the tournament crown.
Four Tide players reached double-digit kills led by 17 by Erin Heffner. Adamcik added 12 and a team-high seven blocks, followed by Price and Bibber with 11 each. Heffner and Price also topped the Bama defense with 13 digs apiece.
Alabama continues its in-season tournament slate next weekend at the Sheraton Four Points Invitational in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Alabama (3-0) def. Pittsburgh (2-2), 3-2 (33-31, 23-30, 30-19, 18-30, 15-11)
- Alabama (4-0) vs New Mexico State (2-2), 3-1 (33-31, 30-24, 27-30, 30-26)