The Crimson Tide volleyball team begins its quest for a fourth consecutive winning season this weekend when Bama travels to the Barker GMC Classic at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill. The tournament features a field of four teams with UA opening the action on Friday night against Marshall (5 pm).
Alabama meets the rest of the field on Saturday with matches against Florida State (10 am) and host Illinois State (7 pm). The Tide opens the season on the road for the fourth consecutive year.
TIDE STRONG IN SEASON OPENERS
Alabama has shown a track record of starting fast owning a 16-5 all-time record in season opening matches. In addition, the Tide is currently riding a four-match win streak in season debuts under head coach Judy Green (4-2).
2002 SLATE OFFERS UP CHALLENGES
Of the 26 opponents on the Tide's schedule this season... 16 finished the 2001 campaign with winning records including 8 with over 20 victories ...Five teams won conference titles. Eight teams on the UA ledger earned invitations to the NCAA Tournament.
A LOOK BACK AT 2001...
For the second consecutive season the Alabama volleyball team has posted 20 or more wins. With its victory over SEC Western Division champion Arkansas, Bama earned its 20th "W" marking just the fourth time since 1989 that the Tide has reached the 20-win plateau. The win over the Lady 'Backs also pushed UA into double-digit SEC victories for the second straight year. In addition to these accomplishments, the 2001 season also saw the Tide capture a regular season tournament title (Hilton Classic in Las Cruces, N.M.), two Crimson Tide players - Jennifer Bibber & Erin Heffner -earn All-SEC (2nd team) honors , place 10 student-athletes on the Academic All-SEC squad, a pair of Crimson Tiders earn SEC Player of the Week honors and several squad members climb the career statistical charts. This season also featured important program victories over perennially strong regional squads like Ball State, Fairfield and South Florida along with a first-ever road sweep of SEC foes Kentucky and Tennessee. UA continued its season of first by reaching the SEC semifinals after topping LSU in the first round (Bama's first opening round victory at the SEC Tournament since 1996).
TIDE VERSUS THE FIELD
Alabama has played 2 of the 3 other teams in the field of the Barker GMC Classic. The Tide and FSU have met the most times having faced each other 23 times previousily with the Lady Seminoles holding a slight 13-10 advantage in the series. Florida State has captured the last four meetings including a 3-2 win in Tallahassee during the 2000 season... Illinois State is a perfect 4-0 all-time against Bama with the last meeting coming at Texas A&M Invitational in 1996 (ISU, W 3-0)... Friday night's tourney opener with Marshall marks the first meeting between these two volleyball programs.
Marshall... The Herd returns 11 letter winners and all six-starters from a squad that went 6-21 (4-14 in the MAC) last year - Mitch Jacobs is in his first season as the head coach.
Florida State... The Lady Seminoles are coming off a 17-12 campaign (10-6 ACC). New head coach Todd Kress welcomes back five starters and nine letter winners from last year's group.
Illinois State... Coach Sharon Dingman is in her third season with the Redbird program. She returns 11 letter winners including three starters from a team that posted a 16-14 record (11-7 MVC).
THE BIG 500
With the recent success of the Crimson Tide, the team and its coach are both keeping an eye ahead on a fast-approaching mileston. With 488 all-time wins, Alabama needs just 12 victories to get the 500th in program history. In addition, head coach Judy Green (who began her coaching career with a successful stint at Montevallo) is only 15 "Ws" from earning her 500th career win.
TIDE LOOKS FOR 4TH STRAIGHT WINNING SEASON
With three consecutive winning seasons the Crimson Tide volleyball program is already in the midst of a historic run since it is the first time in modern volleyball history (since 1989 reinstatement of the sport at UA). What's next? Alabama would like to make it four in a row and also post the team's third straight 20+ win season. The program's first ever NCAA Tournament invitation is also high on the players and coaches goal list.
"CAVE" GETS UPGRADES WITH MORE TO COME
Bama's volleyball home - The CAVE - recently got some a much deserved upgrade as a new floor design was painted on the competition playing surface. A wider crimson border and an elephant head on each end were added to give the the floor at more "Alabama" flavor. Other additions include hanging action photos of the Tide seniors and juniors along with a gigantic Bama "A" logo greeting fans as they enter the gym. New scoreboards are also expected in the CAVE some time this season. In addition to these upgrades, more amenities are planned for next summer when two sets of 500 chairback permanent, retractable bleachers will be installed on each side of the court giving Alabama a truly volleyball specific playing arena.
CUSIMANO TO MISS ANOTHER SEASON
Redshirt freshman, Jennifer Cusimano, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first match last season reinjured her knee during some preseason training and will miss the upcoming season following a second surgery.