The Clemson volleyball team came back from a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth set against Alabama (9-2), but the Tigers (5-4) ultimately succumbed to the Tide, 19-25, 15-25, 25-20, 38-36, 13-15. The match, the Tiger’s opener in the Clemson Classic, featured a 38-36 Clemson win in the fourth set that had 28 ties and seven lead changes. In the match, there were 55 ties and 20 lead changes overall.
The 38 points were the tied for the most by Clemson in a set in school history, and by far the most since the 25-point format was adopted in 2008. In 2006 (when teams played to 30 points per set) Clemson reached 38 on two occasions, a 38-36 first-set win against Northern Iowa on Aug. 26, and a 40-38 first-set loss to Miami on Sept. 29.
Friday’s action had the added context of the Tigers clawing back from a 2-0 deficit to force a winner-take-all fifth set. The 13 extra points needed to win a set are the most in school history - an extra half a set - and are the most since dropping the fifth set at Duke in 2011, 25-23, needing ten extra points.
Mo Simmons finished with 23 kills on a career-high 72 attacks, including eight kills and 28 swings in the fourth set. Kristin Faust finished one dig shy of her career-high with 26 on the night, and she’s now posted 22 or more in three straight matches. Freshman Leah Perri had 12 kills and four blocks, while Karis Watson had 11 kills and a career-high nine blocks. In the final two sets, she had eight kills in nine swings and had five blocks.
Alabama’s Krystal Rivers had a match-high 25 kills and added seven blocks, while fellow middle Brittany Thomas had 22 kills. Alabama outhit the Tigers, .235-.219.
Simmons added ten digs for her fourth double-double of the season, while Beta Dumancic had seven blocks and five kills.
The fourth set was one for the ages as the Tigers tried to press for a fifth set. Clemson held a small lead for the early part of the set, but the drama started when Clemson had its first set point, 24-23, on a Watson kill. The teams traded sideouts with Clemson holding the advantage. Alabama fought off two set points, and took the lead, 27-26, on a controversial line call on an attack by Simmons.
Jolene Hoover called the second of her timeouts to settle the Tigers, and it worked. After fighting off two set points, The Tigers took the lead on a block from Dumancic and Irem Bayramoglu. In all, Clemson fought off three set points, and Alabama fought off ten set points. Dumancic, forced to serve because the Tigers ran out of substitutions, tallied an ace for the win.
Clemson fell behind early in the fifth set, 6-3 before fighting back to take a 10-8 lead behind a kill and two blocks from Watson. Clemson held an 12-11 lead before Alabama reeled off two straight. Clemson tied it at 13-13 on a Brenner and Dumancic block, but Thomas and Rivers tallied kills to close the match.
In earlier action in the Clemson Classic, Delaware downed Troy in five sets. There will be four more matches on Saturday, with Alabama playing Delaware at 10:00 am and Alabama and Troy at 4:30pm. Clemson plays Troy at 12:30 pm and Delaware at 7:00 pm.