Auburn Volleyball Wins Five-Set Thriller Over FIU
Sept. 2, 2011
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Despite falling after three sets, Auburn staged a late-match comeback and took a thrilling 3-2 victory (25-22, 15-25, 22-25, 25-18, 17-15) over Florida International on Friday in the team's opening match of the Blue Raider Bash at MTSU's Alumni Memorial Gym.
The Tigers (3-1) got a jolt to their offensive capabilities with junior outside hitter Sarah Bullock and sophomore middle blocker Camila Jersonsky returning to the lineup, and came up with several clutch defensive plays down the stretch from libero Sarah Wroblicky to secure the win over FIU (2-2).
"We were really looking forward to this match, we knew the kind of competition we were going to have here," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "You kind of look forward to getting in tight matches, in situations like that, to see how people respond. And we responded by playing aggressively. I think that wins matches like that, so I'm really happy with how they pulled it out."
Bullock finished with Auburn's first double-double of the season, putting down 10 kills along with 12 digs in her initial appearance of the season. But she wouldn't be the only Tiger recording a double-double as setter Chelsea Wintzinger tallied 29 assists and 13 digs for her fourth career double-double.
Bullock was also part of the last time two Tigers had a double-double in the same match; she and Katherine Culwell pulled off the feat in last year's five-set win over then-No. 24 Kentucky.
Senior Kelly Fidero led the offensive attack with 14 kills; she also contributed five digs and a block on the night. Jersonsky was stellar in her 2011 season debut, recording nine kills on 16 attacks with no errors for an outstanding .562 hitting percentage. She also had a pair of solo blocks and a block assist in the match. And Chloe Rowand came up with several huge blocks late in the match; she would finish with five on the night to go along with five kills.
But the key to Auburn's eventual victory may have been Wroblicky. Returning to the floor as libero in the fourth set for the first time since leaving the North Carolina match with an apparent ankle injury, she finished with 11 digs, including a game-saver on match point in the fifth set.
"I think that's one of our great strengths," Nold said. "We've got some great defenders in Wro and (MacKenzy Harper). And again, when you get in that situation, you want to see how people handle it. I thought (Sarah) stepped up and made some huge plays for us."
The Tigers took a hard-fought first set by a 25-22 count. Bullock was a big reason for that with five kills and four digs, while Vesela Zapryanova hit .571 (4-0-7) in the set. Sixteen of the Tigers' 25 points came on kills in the first frame. The score was tied 12 times in the game with the lead changing hands four times, but Auburn never trailed after 6-5. However, FIU kept it close, tying the score at 19-19 before Auburn went on a 4-0 run to take a 23-19 lead. FIU fought off a pair of match points, but a kill from Bullock put the set away and gave Auburn an early 1-0 lead in the match.
Set two, however, was all FIU. The Panthers jumped out to an early lead and never trailed, taking the second set by a 25-15 count. In that set, the Tigers hit for a negative percentage (-.067) for the first time this season, and seven of the nine Auburn hitting errors were the result of FIU blocks.
The third set was quite similar to the first in that the game was tied five times and the lead changed hands four times. But FIU would pull away at the end for a 25-22 win, giving the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the match. Auburn jumped out to an 8-3 lead and forced an FIU timeout, but the Panthers would fight their way back, taking the lead at 14-13. The score would again be tied at 18-18 before FIU took four of the next five points to lead 22-19. A kill from Bullock and an FIU service error kept the Tigers in striking distance, but the Panthers would eventually win the set.
Game four was all Auburn as the Tigers took a 25-18 win. Auburn never trailed in the set, eventually taking a 17-12 lead courtesy of kills from Bullock and Kathia Rud. Fidero would then put down a pair of attacks to increase the lead to 20-14, then Auburn would hold off the Panthers to the end of the set and send the match to the first deciding game of the year. The Tigers hit a stellar .483 in the set, committing zero errors, while holding FIU to a .125 average.
Neither team could gain an early advantage in the fifth set as the lead changed hands seven times and the score was tied on 13 occasions - not an easy task in a set to 15. Auburn finally appeared to get the break it needed when it took an 11-9 lead on a Fidero kill, but two straight FIU points would even things up again. The teams would then trade punches for the next four points before a Tiger attack error gave FIU an opportunity at match point at 14-13.
On a ball that appeared destined to drop for the match-ending kill, Wroblicky made the play of the match with a diving dig near the Tiger bench to keep the rally alive. The Panthers' next attack was blocked straight down by Jersonsky to tie the match back up at 14-14. FIU would then have another chance at match point, but Rud came through with a kill to once again keep the Tigers alive.
A big swing from Zapryanova would give Auburn its first and only opportunity at match point, and an attack error by the Panthers would end things, giving the Tigers a 17-15 win in the set and the third victory of the season.
Auburn hit .211 for the match, narrowly outpacing FIU's .202 mark. The teams were even with nine blocks apiece, while Auburn won the digs battle 72-69. Five Tigers had double-digit digs, led by Wintzinger's 13. FIU had seven more kills than the Tigers (66-59), led by Jovana Bjelica's 24.
The Tigers will continue play at the Blue Raider Bash with a pair of matches Saturday. Auburn will square off against Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference at noon, followed by a match with tournament host Middle Tennessee at 7:30 p.m. Live stats are available through GoBlueRaiders.com.
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