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Season-Best Blocking Effort Leads Auburn Past Arkansas, 3-1

Nov. 10, 2013

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(16-9, 7-6 SEC)
 Match 25
(14-12, 7-8 SEC)

AUBURN, Ala. - A season-high 14.5 blocks and double-doubles from three players led the Auburn volleyball team past Arkansas 3-1 (20-25, 25-16, 26-24, 25-14) on Sunday afternoon at Auburn Arena.

The Tigers (16-9, 7-6 SEC) secured a winning overall record for the second-straight season and third time in the last four years, and they avenged a four-set loss earlier in the season at Arkansas (14-12, 7-8 SEC). They did it by playing tough defense at the net and bouncing back from a sub-par first set to hit .325 over the final three games.

"I'm really happy with the win," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We started off a little rough in game one, but we've talked a lot lately about just trusting what we do. They worked at it, and we got better each game. That's what you want to see in that situation, just fighting back."

After the Tigers struggled to make good passes in the serve-receive game in the opening set, the Tigers allowed just one service ace to Arkansas in the final three sets and were able to stay in system more frequently, leading to easy opportunities on the offensive end. Auburn also stepped up their service game, posting six aces on the day and keeping Arkansas off-balance.

"I think we started passing better," Nold said of the difference from the first set to the rest of the match. "We were just more disciplined and took care of the things we needed to. Serving is always going to be a big impact thing for us, and I thought we were able to take them out of system."

Nold said the Tigers' service game was also a key in contributing to a season-high 14.5 blocks, including seven from senior Camila Jersonsky and six each from Stephanie Campbell and Courtney McDonald.

"A big part of when we're serving well is that it gives us the opportunity to set up our block and take some areas away from them," he said. "They're an aggressive swinging team, and if you get in the right position, you're probably going to earn a few blocks. But another part of that was being disciplined within our system and making them earn points themselves."

Three players earned double-doubles for the Tigers. Senior Katherine Culwell led the way offensively and defensively for Auburn with 13 kills and 15 digs for her team-leading 10th double-double of the year. She also had a pair of service aces on the day, plus three blocks.

Freshman Stephanie Campbell matched Culwell's offensive output, matching a season-high with 13 kills of her own and was Auburn's leading scorer with six blocks and a service ace. She also hit a team-high .440 on the day. Kathia Rud had her seventh double-double this year with 11 kills and 14 digs, and Chelsea Wintzinger got her ninth with 25 assists and 12 digs.

Jersonsky added 11 kills to go with her seven blocks and hit .400 for the match. McDonald and freshman Emily Klitzke were also double-digit scorers for Auburn as both had eight kills; McDonald had a season-high six blocks while Klitzke had four. Sarah Wroblicky had 15 digs on the day, inching closer to the all-time top five at Auburn.

Arkansas was led by Meredith Hays with 18 kills and 14 digs, and Breana Jones added seven kills on the day. Ana Sofia Jusino had a team-high six blocks.

The Tigers hit .289 on the day, their fifth-straight match and eight out of the last nine over .200 in the hitting efficiency department, and held Arkansas to .169 hitting. Auburn also had 64 kills to Arkansas' 48, out-dug the Razorbacks 67-51, and recorded 14.5 blocks to Arkansas' eight.

Although the first set was a struggle for Auburn, particularly in the serve-receive game, things turned around quickly in set two as the Tigers hit .412 in the set and coasted to a 25-16 win to knot the match at a set apiece.

Set three was a battle that saw 10 ties and three lead changes, but a late push from Auburn after Arkansas had taken a 22-20 lead saw Jersonsky come up with three big kills to give Auburn the lead back, and a swing from Rud put the Hogs away, 26-24.

The fourth set was a close affair early, and Arkansas moved out to a 12-9 lead. But from that point, the Tigers closed out the set on a 16-2 run as Culwell was serving tough and taking the Razorbacks out of system, leading to a pair of aces for Culwell and three hitting errors by Arkansas. Wroblicky continued the tough serving, forcing four more Arkansas errors on her term of service and setting up the Tigers with a chance to put the match away.

Auburn will hit the homestretch of the 2013 season next weekend with a pair of critical road matches. The Tigers will travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on LSU at 7 p.m. Friday, then head to College Station, Texas for a 1 p.m. Sunday match against Texas A&M.

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