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DALLAS - Texas natives Katherine Culwell and Sarah Bullock combined for 22 kills in their return to their home state, and Auburn volleyball won its ninth straight match with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-19) sweep of Texas State on Friday morning at the SMU Doubletree Invitational.
Auburn (8-0) continued its best start to a season since 1990, when the Tigers won their first nine matches of the season. With a win in the final match of the 2011 season, the Tigers have now won nine straight contests, tying the school record for longest winning streak, held by the 1990 and 2003 teams.
"I thought we were solid all the way through," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We had a few times in serve-receive we backed away, but top to bottom, I thought it was our best match of the year. Every team in this tournament is at a very high level, and it's going to take our best match to get out there and win."
Bullock, a native of nearby Allen, Texas, led the Tigers with 12 kills, giving her 983 for her career and putting her within sight of becoming Auburn's 13th all-time player to reach the 1,000-kill mark. Culwell, meanwhile, racked up 10 kills in front of about a dozen friends and family here in her hometown.
Auburn put down 10 blocks as a team, led by a season-best six from Camila Jersonsky (one solo, five assist), while Culwell had four and Rowand recorded three. Courtney McDonald added a pair of blocks to go along with six kills and a .385 hitting percentage.
Freshman Ciara Richards led the Auburn setters with 16 assists and a service ace, while Chelsea Wintzinger added 14 assists and a pair of aces.
The Tigers hit .345 as a team, equaling a season-best mark, and held Texas State to a .101 percentage, the lowest opposing hitting mark of the season. Auburn had 39 kills to the Bobcats' 29, and out-blocked TSU 10-3. Each team recorded 37 digs.
Auburn hit at a stunning .542 clip in the first set and rolled to a 25-15 opening win. Culwell got off to a hot start in the first set, racking up three kills and two blocks, while McDonald led the opening set with five kills from the middle. From a 9-9 tie, Auburn went on a 13-3 run to take a 22-12 lead, getting four kills, three blocks and a service ace in that stretch. Kills from Rowand and McDonald put the Bobcats away as Auburn took a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers started a bit slower in the second set, but started pulling away midway through en route to a 25-19 win and a 2-0 lead. With the score tied 11-11, Auburn got a kill from Jersonsky, an ace from Richards and a TSU error to jump ahead 14-11. From there, the Tigers would keep rolling, getting four kills from Bullock in the set and holding the Bobcats to a .071 hitting percentage.
Set three would start off strong for the Tigers as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead. But Texas State kept fighting, tying the match at 10-10 before another 6-0 run by Auburn - highlight by a pair of service aces from Wintzinger - to make it 16-10 and force the Bobcats into a timeout. Bullock kept swinging away, racking up seven kills in the set, while the Tigers took advantage of poor hitting by the Bobcats (.038) to claim another 25-19 win and their fourth consecutive sweep.
The Tigers will play their second match of the day at 5 p.m. when they will take on Wichita State. Live stats can be found at SMUMustangs.com, and @AUVolleyball on Twitter will have live updates throughout the match.