Aug. 26, 2009
War Eagle Invitational Notes
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn volleyball team opens up the 2009 campaign playing host to the annual War Eagle Invitational, Aug. 28-29, at the Student Activities Center.
The Tigers take on Alabama A&M on Friday at 12 p.m. The team will play in two games on Saturday, first against UAB at 10 a.m. and another face-off with &M at 1 p.m.
The Auburn Volleyball team is in its 24th year as a program and holds an all-time record of 341-363 for a .484 winning percentage. Head Coach Wade Benson enters his sophomore season as Auburn's head coach and holds a 160-80 career record (.667)
The Tigers finished the 2008 season with an overall record of 6-25 and 1-19 in the SEC. Returning are eight letterwinners, including starters Sara Shanks, Kelly Fidero, Lauren Mellor, Jonelle Wallace and Liz Crouch.
Auburn welcomes 10 newcomers to the squad that includes nine freshmen. The 2009 recruiting class was ranked 26th nationally by PrepVolleyball.com and third overall in the Southeastern Conference.
WAR EAGLE INVITATIONAL
Auburn has hosted a tournament 13 times in its 24-year history and holds a 25-13 all-time record in its own tournament. The tournament was held for the first time in 1994 and is in its teth consecutive year, beginning in 1999.
The Tigers have an 11-12 all-time record in season-openers and are 4-2 in season-opening matches at home. Head coach Wade Benson posted a 4-4 record in season-openers all-time.
Friday's match-up will be the fourth meeting between Auburn and Alabama A&M. The Tigers hold a 3-0 all-time lead in the series. The last time these two teams met was in 2005, seeing Auburn win 3-1 at home.
The Bulldogs enter the 2009 season picked to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference for the second-consecutive year. The team is led by junior defensive specialist Rose Corneille, who was picked preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the SWAC. Other key returners are seniors Madinah Abdullah and Natalie Rodriguez, along with sophomore Karensa Beckford.
Auburn holds a 10-4 advantage over the UAB Blazers. The last meeting between the two was 2004 in Auburn with the Tigers winning 3-2.
The Blazers return 10 players from the 2008 squad that finished 27-8 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Key returners on offense are seniors Andrea Lalic and Savannah Pegg. Sophomore libero Heather Thomas enters the season as UAB's top returning defensive player.
SCOUTING THE AUBURN TIGERS
Returning at the middle position is a pair of juniors in Alyssa Davis and Lauren Mellor, each of whom saw action in all 31 matches last season. An incoming freshmen duo will make a push for starting positions and add depth for the Tigers. Courtney McDonald, from Palmetto, Fla., and Chloe Rowand, from Spokane, Wash., will be relied on to bring competition and be solid contributors at the middle spot.
The Tigers will have a strong contingent of outside hitters joining the 2009 Auburn team. Katherine Culwell (Dallas, Texas) enters her freshman season as the No. 34 recruit according to PrepVolleyball.com and classmate MacKenzy Harper (Lebanon, Ohio) comes in as No. 91. Joining them will be Sarah Bullock (Allen, Texas), Brittney Rhude (Spring, Texas) and Vesala Zapryanova (Sofia, Bulgaria). Adding experience to the group is sophomore Kelly Fidero. She was second on last year's team with 202 total kills, seeing playing time in all 31 matches for the Tigers.
Returning at right side is junior Jonelle Wallace (Denver, Colo.), who finished her sophomore campaign with the second-best attack percentage on the team (.205) and averaged 1.72 kills per set. Joining Wallace is junior Morgan Johns, a transfer from Florida Atlantic that led the Owls in kills and service aces as a sophomore.
Junior Sara Shanks returns as a two-year starting setter for the Tigers that led the team with 995 assists and 30 service aces. Sophomore Christina Solverson (Tucson, Ariz.) came off the bench and provided depth at the setting position. Adding competition for the starting position will be newcomer Kendall Burgess. Burgess, of Houston, Texas, is a three-time All-State selection and will be a solid contender for playing time.
Returning to the libero position is two-year starter Liz Crouch (New Orleans, La.). The junior recorded a team-high 389 digs last season and her 3.70 digs per set average was fourth all-time on the Auburn single season list. Also returning is sophomore Chanelle Clark (Temecula, Calif.), who finished with a strong spring season. Freshman Sarah Wroblicky (Irvine, Calif.) has the ability to come in and provide added depth to the libero position.
AUBURN VOLLEYBALL PICKED FOURTH IN PRESEASON POLL
The Auburn volleyball team was picked to finish fourth in the SEC Western Division by the league's head coaches. The pick was the team's best preseason ranking in as many as nine seasons.
"I am very encouraged by the respect the coaches gave our young team," Wade Benson, head volleyball coach, said. "We are moving in the right direction and won't be satisfied until we reach our goal and the NCAA tournament."
Florida was selected to win its 19th-consecutive conference title by the league's 11 coaches. Kentucky was chosen to finish second in the SEC East behind Florida with Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia following.
LSU was picked to win the West, while Ole Miss and Alabama were predicted to finish second and third, respectively. Auburn and Arkansas were selected fourth and fifth and Mississippi State rounded out the poll in sixth.
FOLLOW THE ACTION LIVE
All of this weekend's matches will be available on GameTracker, which can be accessed from the Auburn Volleyball Schedule page. The first two Auburn matches will also be available through a live video Webcast. For more information, go to www.AuburnTigers.com/AllAccess.
Auburn hosts in-state rival Troy on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Tigers then travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for the Diet Coke Classic.