Aug. 26, 2011
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Auburn had 10 blocks and got career-high kills from two players, but dropped the first match of the 2011 season to North Carolina, 3-0 (15-25, 21-25, 26-28), on Friday at the Active Ankle Challenge.
"We started a little tentative in all areas," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We talked a lot about controlling our energy level. Later in the match, we passed the ball better and were more aggressive, and that gave us a chance to stay in the match. I thought we did a good job of making adjustments as we went along, especially in our blocking."
Junior outside hitter Brittney Rhude, making her first career start, set a career high with eight kills on 20 attacks; she also had a block and two digs in the match. Sophomore middle blocker Chloe Rowand also had a career-high four kills and six blocks as she made her first career start as well. Senior outside hitter Kelly Fidero had five kills and four blocks in the match.
The two teams traded the lead several times early in the first set before UNC pulled ahead 9-4. The Tigers (0-1), however, would stage a rally of their own to make it 13-10. But 10-1 run by the Tar Heels would prove to be the Tigers' undoing as North Carolina (1-0) took the opening set 25-15. UNC was able to score six of their 25 points via service aces, four of which came on Emily McGee's serve.
North Carolina increased its lead to 2-0 with a 25-20 win in set two. The second set was much more closely contested with four ties and three lead changes and remained close throughout. UNC pulled ahead 17-12, causing Auburn to call a timeout. But from there, the Tigers went on a 5-2 run and pulled within striking distance at 19-17, forcing a Tar Heel timeout. From that point, UNC would score three straight points and go on to win the set to take a 2-0 lead.
The third set would be a back-and-forth affair that saw the Tigers lead almost the entire way. Auburn jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the heels of three straight blocks; three of seven the Tigers would tally in the set. Auburn led by as many as four on several occasions, including an opportunity at set point at 24-21. But two attack errors by the Tigers and a block by the Tar Heels pulled the set even at 24-24. The Tigers would fight off one UNC match point at 25-24 with a big swing from Fidero to knot the score again, and a block from Fidero and Rowand gave Auburn another set point at 26-25. But a service error and two UNC kills would put the set away at 28-26, giving the Tar Heels a 3-0 victory.
"We had lots of opportunities in game three," Nold said, "but we didn't play aggressively enough in situations where we could have put the game away. We kind of let them off the hook."
Auburn had a total of 10 blocks in the match - all coming in the second and third sets - something the Tigers did just three times last season in a three-set match. Auburn also held the edge in the dig battle, 47-46, but North Carolina had 38 kills to the Tigers' 26. Neither team hit particularly well, with UNC swinging at a .137 clip and the Tigers at .048.
The Tigers will return to the court Saturday, wrapping up the Active Ankle Challenge with a 4:30 p.m. (CT) match against Boston College. Live stats will be available through GameTracker on AuburnTigers.com, and fans can follow @AUVolleyball on Twitter for updates throughout the match.