Auburn Outlasts Arkansas in Five-Set Thriller

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
<B>Camila Jersonsky</b>

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
Camila Jersonsky
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

Nov. 2, 2012

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AUBURN - Junior Camila Jersonsky had 17 kills and nine blocks to lead the Auburn volleyball team to a heart-stopping 3-2 victory (25-14, 15-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-10) over Arkansas Friday night at the Student Activities Center, the Tigers' third straight SEC win.

The Tigers (16-8, 7-7 SEC) guaranteed themselves a winning record for the 2012 season as they avenged a three-set loss at the hands of the SEC West-leading Razorbacks (18-7, 9-5 SEC) from earlier this season in Fayetteville. The win also could prove to be a boost to Auburn's postseason aspirations as Arkansas came into tonight's match ranked No. 23 in the NCAA RPI.

Jersonsky and Courtney McDonald, the Tigers' two middle blockers, combined for 26 of Auburn's 55 kills and were in on a combined 14 blocks during the match. Both hitters topped the .400 mark as well as the Tigers snapped a three-match skid against the Razorbacks.

"We've been so close lately with teams like that, and I think it's a big confidence-builder for us," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "It's huge for the team to have confidence, knowing that if we do the things we need to, we've got a chance to beat anybody. We picked the right times to make some runs tonight, and obviously beating them is a big plus."

Jersonsky finished with 17 kills on 29 attacks with four errors for a .448 hitting percentage. She also totaled nine blocks (one solo, eight assist) to match a career-high, and she added two digs and a pair of service aces to her scoring tally as well. It was the second time this season an Auburn player had nine blocks in a match; McDonald posted nine in a four-set win over Alabama on Sept. 23.

Her biggest contributions came in the final two sets where she totaled 10 kills on an error-free 14 attacks along with six blocks.

"Camila's a great player," Nold said. "When we were able to start passing and getting her the ball, that made a huge difference for us because that opened everybody else up. Then right there at the end, she made some great blocking decisions and got on a good run for us."

McDonald added nine kills and five blocks and hit at a .421 clip in one of her best matches of the season. Three Tigers had double-doubles in the match. Senior Sarah Bullock posted 12 kills and a team-high 20 digs, hitting the 20-dig plateau for the third time this season. Chelsea Wintzinger led Auburn with 26 assists and 15 digs, and Ciara Richards added 20 helpers and 14 digs. Five total players had double-digit digs; Katherine Culwell had 11 to go along with eight kills, and Sarah Wroblicky added 16.

Auburn matched a season-high with 15 total team blocks. In addition to Jersonsky and McDonald's work at the net, Chloe Rowand, Culwell and Halle Kearney were in on four blocks each, and Bullock had a pair of block assists.

The win carried an added bit of significance for Auburn assistant coach Kris Grunwald, who was an assistant on Arkansas' staff the past four seasons.

"I'm sure he's pretty happy about it, no doubt," Nold said "And it's nice to have that as motivation, but that can't be what fuels us. We've got to keep trying to get better and let that be the thing we focus on."

Arkansas was led by Roslandy Acosta with 15 kills and 12 digs, and Jasmine Norton added 10 kills and 17 digs. Libero Emily Helm had a match-high 25 digs, and Helm and setter Raymariely Santos had two service aces each.

The Tigers sprinted to a 25-14 win in the first set, holding Arkansas to -.091 hitting as the Razorbacks tinkered with their starting lineup with little success. Arkansas had 12 attack errors in the set, four of which came on Auburn blocks. Auburn jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead and never allowed Arkansas any closer than six points the rest of the way.

But the second set was disastrous for the Tigers as Arkansas used a tough service game to take a 25-15 win and tie the match at one set each. Auburn fell behind early by a stunning 16-4 margin, but clawed back to within single digits as the Razorbacks tallied four service aces and held the Tigers to just six kills in the set.

"We stoped passing the ball (in set two), and that makes it really tough to play our style of volleyball," Nold said. "We took about a game and a half off. That's the part that goes back and forth. When you're passing and serving well, you're scoring a lot of points. They were serving tough, and that's part of it, but we made that change and were able to get the ball in the middle. You've got to go back to your basic passing principles, and it's tough to focus on that when things aren't going your way. It took us a while to get things going again, but once they got back focused where they needed to, we started passing well."

Auburn found its serve-receive game near the end of the third set, but Arkansas rallied from a three-point deficit to take a 25-23 win and a 2-1 lead in the match. Auburn led 15-11 midway through the set, but a 7-1 run by the Razorbacks made it an 18-17 Arkansas lead. Arkansas then had four tries at set point at 24-20, but Auburn fought off three straight before the Razorbacks got a big block to end the set.

But Jersonsky and McDonald dominated play at the net in the fourth set, combining for 13 kills and six blocks as the Tigers set the match to a fifth set with a 25-20 win. The score was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands on three occasions. Kills from McDonald and Bullock gave Auburn a 15-13 lead, forcing an Arkansas timeout, and a pair of kills from Jersonsky pushed that lead to 19-16. Two more from Jersonsky made it 21-18, and then a pair of tandem blocks - one from Jersonsky and Rowand, the next from Jersonsky and Culwell - pushed the advantage to 23-18. Jersonsky then added her seventh kill of the set to get to set point, and McDonald sent down her sixth to clinch the set.

Arkansas jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the fifth set and the teams switched ends with the Razorbacks leading 8-6, a lead that would eventually be 10-8. But Auburn would not lose another point the rest of the way. Kills from Bullock and Jersonsky tied the score at 10-10, and an Arkansas error gave Auburn an 11-10 lead , forcing a Razorback timeout. Jersonsky would again be the catalyst, getting a kill to make it 12-10, then stuffing a pair of blocks to give Auburn a try at match point. A block error by the Razorbacks would give Bullock her 12th kill of the night and a 15-10 win for the Tigers.

The Tigers will be back in the Student Activities Center at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to face SEC East rival Georgia. Admission is free to all Auburn home volleyball matches.