ST. LOUIS - Auburn's volleyball team posted one of the biggest wins in program history Saturday with a 3-1 upset of No. 10 Nebraska (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-23) at Chaifetz Arena in their second match of the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic.
The Tigers wrapped up the tournament title later in the day with a 3-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe (25-20, 25-15, 25-17).
"Obviously, coming out 3-0 and winning this tournament is a huge plus," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We had three good matches here. We were challenged in a lot of different ways, lot of different styles from the three teams we played. I'm really happy the way we fought through a lot of tight games and we ended up coming out on the good side of most of them. I think that says a lot about the mentality of the team and it looks good for the future."
It was only the second win over a ranked opponent in program history for Auburn (3-0), whose only previous such victory came over No. 24 Kentucky at home during the 2010 season. Nebraska (1-1) had a higher hitting percentage than the Tigers (.218-.208), but a stingy Auburn defense and troubles in the service game for the Huskers proved to be the difference.
"It's a huge win," Nold said. "Nebraska's got a great program. I thought we did a great job of staying really aggressive when we really weren't playing that well. I thought before the game that we have two very different styles facing each other, and that if we stuck to our style of being a scrappy, aggressive team, that would probably play in our favor. The girls never looked down and kept coming at them, and we got the win."
Nebraska was aggressive on serve, scoring six aces and converting numerous Auburn overpasses into easy kills, but the Huskers also committed 14 service errors, including errors on set point in all three games Auburn won.
Senior Katherine Culwell led Auburn with 17 kills and 16 digs, recording a double-double for the second-straight match. She was also in on five blocks, had five assists and recorded one service ace. Fellow seniors Camila Jersonsky and Kathia Rud had nine kills apiece with Jersonsky recording five blocks as well.
Culwell was named tournament MVP, and Jersonsky and fellow senior Sarah Wroblicky were named to the all-tournament team.
Sophomore Alyssa Ivey posted her first Auburn double-double with 26 assists and 14 digs on the day, and senior Chelsea Wintzinger also recorded a double-double with 18 assists and 11 digs. Courtney McDonald and Kia Bright had eight kills apiece, and Stephanie Campbell added five kills and three blocks. Wroblicky shared the team lead in digs with 16.
Nebraska was led by Tennessee transfer Kelsey Robinson with 18 kills and 18 digs, and Kelsey Fien added 13 kills for the Huskers.
The two teams traded blows for much of the first set, going on a pair of mini-runs with Culwell serving. The Tigers would finally take an 18-15 lead after a 4-0 run, but Nebraska fought back to tie things up at 22-all. From there, though, a kill from Rud and a Nebraska error gave Auburn a set point opportunity, and a service error by Robinson gave Auburn the set. Culwell had six of Auburn's 18 kills in the opening frame, and the Auburn defense was stout with 28 digs in the set.
Set two looked to be a Nebraska blowout. The Huskers capitalized on poor hitting and serve-receive by the Tigers to storm to a 20-7 lead. But the Tigers refused to capitulate and went on an 11-1 run, thanks in large part to several Nebraska errors, to cut the deficit to 21-18. Nebraska would then have five set point opportunities at 24-19, but Auburn fought off three of them to get within two points at 24-22. Nebraska finally put the Tigers away with a 25-22 win, despite the Tigers finishing the game on a 15-5 run.
That momentum seemed to carry over to the third set, which saw the Tigers fall behind by as many as four points at 14-10, but Auburn would go on an 8-2 run paced by two kills and a block from Jersonsky to take an 18-16 lead. Nebraska would tie the score twice more, but kills from Bright and Jersonsky gave the Tigers a set point opportunity. After a Nebraska block fought off the first game point, Robinson once again erred on her serve to give the Tigers another 25-23 win.
The fourth set saw Auburn gain a small early advantage and hang onto it throughout most of the set. Auburn padded its lead at 12-9 and forced a Nebraska timeout, but the Huskers would rally to tie the score at 15-all. From there, the teams traded blows for the next 12 rallies to see another tie score at 21-all. But a bad Nebraska set followed by a Jersonsky kill gave Auburn a 23-21 advantage, and two more Nebraska service errors gave Auburn the win, 25-23.
Auburn will play one more match this weekend before returning home. The Tigers will make a short drive across the Mississippi River to take on SIU Edwardsville at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Live audio will be available through AuburnTigers.com, and live stats will be available at siuecougars.com. In addition, fans can follow @AUVolleyball for updates throughout the match and all season long.