Saturday, December 7, 2013

NCAA | A different view of the volleyball tournament: Alabama State has a blast

Team is overmatched by Washington, but not overwhelmed by the opportunity to enjoy
  • #3 Washington def. Alabama State (25-11, 25-5, 25-16)
  • next: LSU @ #3 Washington | December 7 | 7PM | Alaska Airlines Arena

Alabama State is this year’s Central Arkansas.

Last year, the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears drew powerful Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team, coached by David McFatrich, lost the match but won the hearts of many with their upbeat attitude and gratitude for Seattle’s hospitality.

Alabama State's Amber Bennett (12) and Rachel Smith (10) block against Washington's Melanie Wade
-Alabama State Athletics
This season, Alabama State flew in from faraway Montgomery as the first round’s biggest underdog. The Hornets were the team with the lowest RPI in the field, a squad that had miraculously won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament in a fifth-set upset. And, indeed, they were dominated by the Huskies in a quick, 3-0 sweep.

At the post-match press conference, Coach Penny Lucas-White sat between two players: libero Luiza Griz—the team’s only senior—and sophomore middle Myla Marshall. Press conferences featuring the losing team can often be a somber, uncomfortable affair. But just like last year’s Sugar Bears, the Hornets reminded us of how—well, nice, it can be. After all, 63 of the 64 tournament teams end their season with a loss. But once in front of the microphones, it can be something other than doom and gloom.

We couldn’t have played against a better team. To me, you play against the best if you expect to be the best. They’re so athletic, yet they’re still having a lot of fun. You can’t say they have one good player; they have a phenomenal TEAM. And it’s a phenomenal team effort. Everyone shows up to play on the Huskies. And I think your crowd was awesome.–Head coach Penny Lucas-White

I think it was a great experience for my very, very young team. It’s the start of a great tradition at Alabama State. I just think it’s a matter of time. I’m so glad that my team was exposed to this level, because I know how they’re gonna go back and how they’re gonna train. It’s what they do during the off-season that brings the benefits of what they get during in-season. I’m very, very proud of my young ladies. They’ve had a great season. They’ve gone out on a great note.–Head coach Penny Lucas-White

It’s been a long road. If you could have watched us three years ago, and then where we are now, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same girls, you wouldn’t be leave it’s the same school, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same program. Three years ago, we didn’t have expectations. Nobody set a high standard for us. When coach Penny Lucas-White came in, she set the expectations. She said, “guys, this is where we’re going. And this is what I need you to do.” –senior Luiza Griz

(Luiza Griz) holds us together. She’s the communication, the backbone. When everyone else is down—and you feel like you’re the only one on the court that’s still pushing—I can look to Lu, and I know there’s the drive. She’s gonna help us get through, push through, find a way. She means everything to this team. –sophomore Myla Marshall

We like to do a lot of team building, team bonding, things to look back on. This is a first-time experience for us, to be in the NCAAs. So why not do something cool? A lot of us had never been this far, like, ever. So we all took a group trip to the Space Needle. My favorite show, Grey’s Anatomy, this is where it was shot. Oh, my goodness, this is a big deal, this is huge! I took a picture in front of the hospital and I told my teammates, “Oh, my God, do you know what this means?” sophomore Myla Marshall
[At a gift shop, the entire team bought black Seattle Skyline socks, and wore them during the match]
LUCAS-WHITE: I couldn’t wear mine (during the match), so I wore them today, throughout the entire day.
MARSHALL: Coach, I think you could have made them work.

Finally, most teams that lose during the tournament take the first flight home. Not the Hornets.

We’re gonna watch the match tomorrow (between LSU and Washington.) You gotta get them hungry enough to know that they want to be back here next year. What an experience. –Head coach Penny Lucas-White


  1. Small town people are so much more appreciative of life in general. Great run ladies, hope you're back again next year. Point Huskies!

    1. Actually, most of the ladies on this squad or not from small towns. The two ladies mentioned in the article are from Brazil and Memphis, TN. Others are from Baton Rouge, LA, Farmington Hills, MI, Toledo, OH, Riverside, CA, and Serbia, to name just a few.

  2. Great spirit and great attitude. Congrats, Lady Hornets, from a Washington fan.

  3. I hope they get some nice recognition at tonight's match.

  4. Great article! I look forward to reading Volleyblog!

    I wish the people sitting behind me in the season ticket holder session could read this article and perhaps they would stop yelling " who cares" when the opposing team is announced. I know the students used to do that but I think we grown ups should know better!

  5. I would like to state for the record that Alabama State won 25 games this year and went undefeated in the SWAC conference to earn their spot in the tournament. This team is very young and the future is bright for Bama State Women's Volleyball.


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