Aug. 30, 2008
AUBURN - The Auburn volleyball team fell to 0-3 Saturday as it dropped matches to Mercer (3-1) and New Orleans (3-0) on the final day of the War Eagle Invitational. The tournament served as the season-opener for the Tigers and also the debut for new head coach Wade Benson.
New Orleans went on to win the tournament, going a perfect 3-0 and losing only one set throughout the event. Samford finished second, going 2-1, while Mercer compiled a 1-2 record.
For Benson, he says the tournament was not so much about wins and losses for his young team, but rather getting a good evaluation of where the team is and where they need to go.
"It is hard because you have certain expectations in your mind about where you think you are going to be and I understand in some ways the way we played because we have eight new people and one senior and we played a few teams with several seniors," said Benson. "I have mixed emotions, but the good thing about it is that we clearly know where we need to get better, and you need to play other people in order to know that.
"We are going to run through the game film and do what we are supposed do in order to teach these players how to get better."
Auburn opened the final day of the War Eagle Invitational against Mercer, dropped a 3-1 (25-27, 18-25, 25-22, 19-25) loss to the Bears. The win in the third set is the first set win of the season for Auburn.
Three Tigers hit in double figures, but a .142 team hitting percentage gave the Bears the advantage in the match. Freshman Olympia Haney and junior Emily Knuth contributed 12 kills each for Auburn as sophomore Alyssa Davis rounded out the trio with 11. Knuth became the first Tiger of the season to earn a double-double as she earned the first of her career with 12 kills and 13 digs.
Davis was the most efficient attacker on the Auburn squad, tallying 11 kills on 18 attempts with only four errors for a .389 attack percentage.
Defensively, sophomore Liz Crouch led all players with 19 digs in the match while Haney chipped in three blocks.
For Mercer, it was Rachel Urbelis leading the team with 12 kills and 11 digs, followed by Karen Dorris and her 11-kill, 16-dig performance.
Sophomore Sara Shanks and freshman Christina Solverson split setting duties for Auburn in the match. Shanks started the match and finished with 15 assists, but it was Solverson that took over late and finished the match with 32.
Auburn returned for the first afternoon match against New Orleans, falling 3-0 (16-25, 20-25, 15-25) to the Privateers.
Senior Jessica Glover led Auburn with 11 kills in the match, hitting .192, and was the only Tiger in double figures. Freshman Kelly Fidero followed with five kills while Davis chipped in three.
Solverson and Shanks again shared the setting duties with Solverson earning the start in the match. She finished with 13 assists while Shanks added 10.
Defensively, Knuth led the team with six digs while Crouch followed with five.
For New Orleans, it was Lindsey Loyd out in front with 17 kills and a blistering .600 attack percentage. Dobrilla Kovacevic followed with 10 kills and a .320 attack percentage while finishing second on the team with six digs. Nicky Valenti led all players with 11 digs in the match.
As a team, UNO hit .423 with 41 kills and eight errors on 78 attempts. Auburn hit .143 for the match with 28 kills and 16 errors on 84 attempts.
Posting only 14 blocks and a .151 attack percentage for the weekend, Benson said those areas will be the first addressed in practice.
"We put in a new blocking scenario and it takes a while to learn, but we are going to have to decide whether or not we are going to stick with it or go back to a more basic blocking scenario," said Benson. "Offensively, we have some bright spots, in ball control we have some bright spots, but the defense really revolves around the block, so as soon as we get the block sorted out things will get a little easier."
Despite the areas for improvement, Benson said he was definitely able to take some positives out of the opening weekend.
"I like that we stay together through thick and thin, I think that is a really important part of what we are trying to do here," said Benson. "You see people's true faces when times are toughest.
"The freshmen got time, and we played everybody. We wanted to play everybody so we could calm their nerves, and I think that is going to bode well for this next week. We are going to look a lot better on Tuesday night at Jacksonville State and play very well next weekend."
At the conclusion of the tournament, the War Eagle Invitational All-Tournament Team was announced. Champion New Orleans was well-represented with setter Jaci Bayley, Kovacevic and tournament MVP Loyd. Second-place Samford had Ashley Adams and Sheridan Stangohr while Mercer liberp Claire Tucker made the team. Represented Auburn on the team was Glover after her 31 kills and 14 digs over the weekend.
With the home tournament complete, Auburn now hits the road for nearly three weeks. The road swing begins Tuesday as the Tigers travel to Jacksonville State for a 7 p.m. match.