Sept. 14, 2007
COLUMBIA, S.C. - For the first time since 1999, the Auburn volleyball team opened up Southeastern Conference play with a win as the Tigers took down South Carolina 3-2, Friday night in Columbia, S.C.
The five-game win (30-27, 30-28, 18-30, 27-30, 15-10) improves Auburn to 9-3, 1-0 SEC while dropping the Gamecocks to 7-3, 0-1 SEC. The win is the first for Auburn against USC since Oct. 13, 1995 when the Tigers pulled out a 3-0 win in Auburn, Ala. The last Auburn win at South Carolina came on Oct. 2, 1994, also in a five-game match, with the Tigers walking away with the 3-2 win.
Auburn returns to action on Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. CT match at No. 6-ranked Florida (8-0, 1-0 SEC). The Gators opened SEC play Friday night with Georgia, downing the Bulldogs, 3-1.
"A win in the SEC is always a good win, especially being able to take one on the road is important for this young group as we head into 19 more matches," said Auburn head coach Laura Farina. "We had opportunities to lost the match, but we saw some players step up that had not stepped up before and they found a way to make it work to win."
The scene heading into the final game of the match was similar to last season as the Tigers lost both matches to South Carolina in five games. Auburn went on to play in 11 five-game matches, winning five of them.
"I thought it felt really similar to last year to be quite honest. We talked about that after game four, asking the team what kind of team they want to be this season and I think the light bulb went on for some of the returners that they can make it different and they want to be different," said Farina. "I'm happy for the entire team on how they pulled together for the team to win."
The win also breaks up a rough run in SEC openers as it marks only the sixth time ever for Auburn to open SEC play with a victory. The last SEC-opening win came in 1999 with a 3-1 win over Mississippi State.
Junior Jessica Glover
led the team with 21 kills while also picking up her sixth double-double of the season with 13 digs.
Three other Tigers finished the match with double-doubles. Jelena Sekulic (18 kills, 13 digs) picked up her fourth of the season, Rachel Shanks (17 kills, 14 digs) earned her seventh of the season and Nicki Gerig (56 assists, 11 digs) added her fourth.
Liz Crouch led the team with 16 digs while senior Whitney Jacob tied her career-high in blocks with nine, chipping in nine kills along the way.
With the score tied 25-25, Shanks picked up back-to-back kills to put Auburn up as the Tigers held on for the 30-27 win in the opening game.
South Carolina took the lead from the start, but Auburn fought back and tied the game at 18-18 on a Jacob kill. Auburn then took its first lead at 19-18, setting off a see-saw battle that lasted the rest of the game.
Glover led the Tigers in the game with an amazing eight kills. Shanks followed close behind with a six kill, seven dig effort in the game.
USC again struck first in the second game, but Auburn stayed right in it and capitalized on a pair of Gamecock errors to tie the game and take the lead at 9-8. Auburn maintained the lead throughout most of the remainder of the game, leading by as many as four points before watching South Carolina even out the score.
The Tigers surrendered the lead only once in the latter portion of the game as USC led 25-24, but Glover came in with a kill to tie the game, setting off a 3-0 Tiger burst that gave Auburn the two-point lead it would hold for the remainder of the game for the 30-28 win.
Glover again led the Tigers, this time with five kills, followed by Shanks and her four-kill, three-dig performance.
South Carolina came out in a fury in the third game, running out to a quick 8-2 lead. Auburn never recovered from the opening run and could only cut the lead to seven late in the game before watching the Gamecocks roll to a 30-18 victory.
Sekulic led Auburn in the game with four kills, followed by Jacob with two.
The Tigers came out and took control early in the fourth game and held a four-point lead at 14-10, but USC battled back into it and scored four straight points to tie the game at 14-14. From there, the game alternated from an Auburn lead to a tie with the Gamecocks never able to get over that hump. But, that changed with USC taking a 25-24 lead, an opportunity the team would not give up as they forced a fifth game with the 30-27 win.
Glover and Sekulic led the Tigers with five kills each in the game.
In the fifth game, Auburn struck first and slowly built its lead to three at 8-5, forcing a South Carolina timeout. The Gamecocks scored two points right out of the timeout to cut the Tiger lead to one, but that would be as close as USC would get as Auburn built its lead back up to four, eventually winning the game, 15-10.
Crouch took over serving at the end of the game with the Tigers leading 12-10. A Sekulic kill, followed by a block by Jacob and Sekulic set up Crouch to bring home the win with an ace to seal the victory.