Sept. 1, 2012
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AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn volleyball captured its second straight tournament championship Saturday afternoon, winning the War Eagle Invitational with a 3-0 sweep (25-15, 25-17, 25-23) of in-state foe Jacksonville State at the Student Activities Center.
The Tigers (6-0) have won seven consecutive matches, dating back to the final match of 2011, for the longest winning streak for an Auburn team since the Tigers won nine straight during the 2003 season. With the win over the Gamecocks (4-3), Auburn Head Coach Rick Nold earned his first victory over the team he coached for nine seasons.
"It's good to get the wins this weekend," Nold said. "We've been working on some stuff, and this weekend I thought we got to see a lot of things we wanted to. We still have to make a lot of improvements. We talked about that a lot throughout the game, just some little adjustments we can make, but a lot of this is trying to get ready for conference play."
Junior Katherine Culwell was named tournament MVP after an 11-kill, three-block performance in Saturday's match, giving her 28 kills (2.80/set) for the week. She was third among all players in the tournament with 10 blocks.
"We talked a lot about the level Katherine was hitting last weekend," Nold said. "And we worked on some things in practice, and we talked all weekend about how she could make a few little improvements. But it makes a huge difference for us when she can use the athleticism she has."
Senior Sarah Bullock and junior Camila Jersonsky were named to the all-tournament team as well. Bullock had her first double-double of the season with a team-high 12 kills along with 10 digs today; she had 29 kills and 34 digs for the tournament. Jersonsky led all players in the tournament with a .500 hitting percentage, putting down 22 kills on 42 attacks with just one error. In today's match, she had five kills and four blocks.
Junior setter Chelsea Wintzinger earned her third double-double of the season with 18 assists and 12 digs, and Sarah Wroblicky led the Tigers with 13 digs.
Auburn controlled nearly every facet of Saturday's match. The Tigers had 44 kills to JSU's 34 and out-hit the Gamecocks .273 to .132. Auburn also won the digs battle, 51-47, had three service aces and had seven blocks to JSU's six.
The Tigers dominated the first set to the tune of a 25-15 win. Auburn hit for an average percentage at .206 but forced Jacksonville State into 10 errors for a -.077 mark. Culwell had Auburn's first five kills of the match as the Tigers sprinted to a 10-3 lead and never looked back.
Set two started out in much the same fashion as the Tigers went on an 8-0 run early to take a 9-4 lead en route to a 25-18 second-set victory. Jacksonville State hit much better in the set at .258, getting seven kills from Hivya Leite. But Auburn registered an outstanding 20 kills in the set, led by five from Bullock and four each from Culwell and Jersonsky and hit at a .354 clip.
Jacksonville State found a bit more consistency in the third set and made Auburn sweat just a bit before the Tigers held on for a 25-23 win and their fourth sweep of the season. Bullock was the star for the Tigers in the final frame, recording six kills on nine attacks and a pair of digs, hitting .444 in the final set. Auburn led 22-15 at one point late in the set and had its first match point chance at 24-19, but Jacksonville State kept clawing away, cutting the lead down to a single point at 24-23 after fighting off four straight match point tries. But Culwell's 11th kill of the day finally finished off the Gamecocks and kept the Tigers unbeaten in 2012.
Auburn will play its rescheduled match at Troy on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. in its next action. The final non-conference weekend of the season will take the Tigers to Dallas for the SMU Doubletree Classic, where Auburn will face Wichita State, Texas State and SMU next Friday and Saturday.
War Eagle Invitational - All-Tournament Team
Kristin Heldt (High Point)
Jen Meyer (Jacksonville State)
Meredith Paskert (Georgia Southern)
Sarah Bullock (Auburn)
Camila Jersonsky (Auburn)
Katherine Culwell (Auburn) - MVP