Volleyball Opens Home Season with War Eagle Invitational
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM <B>Chelsea Wintzinger</b>
Chelsea Wintzinger

Aug. 30, 2012

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War Eagle Invitational | Friday-Saturday, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2012
Student Activities Center | Auburn, Ala.
Friday, 10 a.m. - Jacksonville State vs. High Point
Friday, Noon - Auburn vs. Georgia Southern
Friday, 5 p.m. - Georgia Southern vs. Jacksonville State
Friday, 7 p.m. - Auburn vs. High Point
Saturday, 11 a.m. - High Point vs. Georgia Southern
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. - Auburn vs. Jacksonville State
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AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn volleyball team will play its first three home matches of the 2012 season Friday and Saturday as the Tigers welcome Georgia Southern, High Point and Jacksonville State to the Student Activities Center for the War Eagle Invitational.

The Tigers (3-0) will face Georgia Southern (2-1) at noon Friday, followed by a match with High Point (3-1) at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Auburn will wrap up the weekend with Jacksonville State (4-0) at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free to all matches.

Live video for all of Auburn's matches and live stats for all six matches are available via AuburnTigers.com, and fans can follow @AUVolleyball on Twitter for updates throughout the weekend.

Saturday will mark the first meeting between Auburn head coach Rick Nold and his former team. Nold coached Jacksonville State for nine years, leading the Gamecocks to a 172-98 overall record and three NCAA Tournament berths.

Junior Camila Jersonsky turned in a Heisman-worthy performance at the Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Classic with a career-high 18 kills in a three-set win over UW-Green Bay to clinch the tournament title. For her efforts, she was named tournament MVP. She led all Auburn players with 33 kills (3.00/set) over the two-day tournament, and she also recorded a career-best nine digs in the win over Central Michigan.

Jersonsky ranks 10th in hitting percentage and 15th in kills per set in the SEC after the opening weekend of action.

Senior outside hitter Sarah Bullock remains one of the top offensive threats for the Tigers this year. The native of Allen, Texas, came into the season with 901 career kills (2.75/set), just 99 shy of becoming the 13th all-time member of Auburn's 1,000-Kill Club.

Bullock also entered the season 859 career digs (2.62/set), putting her just 141 away from becoming the ninth player in Auburn history to amass 1,000 digs in a career.

After the opening week, Bullock now has 929 career kills and 881 digs.

After missing the entire 2011 season with injuries, redshirt junior Katherine Culwell looks to make a comparable impact this season to what she did her first two years on the Plains. In 61 matches in 2009 and 2010, Culwell amassed 350 kills (1.75/set) and was a solid contributor all over the floor. She has 39 career service aces, third among returning players, and led the team with 24 aces as a freshman. She has also posted 66 career blocks (18 solo, 48 assist) and 394 digs (1.97/set) in her first two years of action.

Culwell's first week back went well as she totaled 28 kills (2.55/set) and 31 digs (2.82/set), leading the team with 11 kills vs. Central Michigan and earning a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs vs. Drake.

Freshman setter Ciara Richards made an immediate impact in the Auburn service game at the Green Bay tournament, serving up eight aces in the three-match weekend, including a season-best four against Central Michigan.

For comparison, no Auburn player had more than three aces in a single match during the 2011 season, and the last time a Tiger had four or more was in 2010 when Liz Crouch served up five aces against UT-Martin.

In addition, Auburn's leading server in 2010 had a total of 17 aces for the 30-match season; Richards has eight through just three matches.

Georgia Southern (2-1) enters the week after winning two of three matches at last week's Bulldog Invitational, falling to host Georgia but defeating Georgia State and Troy in the three-day tournament in Athens.

Senior outside hitters Meredith Paskert and Moriah Bellissimo led the Eagles with 34 kills apiece (2.83/set) during the tournament while sophomore Jamie DeRatt added 32 (2.67/set). Over the weekend, GSU out-hit their opponents .247 to .180 and were strong in the service game with 22 aces (1.8/set).

Last year, Georgia Southern posted an 18-15 overall record, 10-6 in the Southern Conference. The Eagles return 10 letter-winners from that team, including first-team All-SoCon setter Kate Van Dyke.

Auburn and Georgia Southern have met five times previously on the volleyball court with Auburn claiming four of those five meetings. The Eagles' lone win in the series came here in Auburn in 2005 as the Tigers dropped a 3-2 decision. Auburn is 2-1 in matches played at home and 2-0 when facing the eagles 256 miles away in Statesboro.

High Point (3-1) enters this weekend riding high after a come-from-behind win over in-state rival Wake Forest on Tuesday night as the Panthers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to claim a five-set victory at home. Last week, the Panthers put together a 2-1 week at the UNC Wilmington tournament, falling to the host Seahawks (3-0) but defeating Delaware State (3-0) and LIU Brooklyn (3-2).

Courtney Johnk leads the way for the Panthers with 57 kills (3.56/set) over the first four matches and a .261 attack percentage. Johnk has also been one of High Point's top defenders with 12 blocks (0.75/set). Chelsea Davis recorded 48 kills (3.00/set) in the first four matches, and Caity Farus was the top blocker with 19 (1.19/set); Farus also had 20 kills.

The Panthers went 9-21 overall last season (6-8 Big South) and return all but one starter - 14 letter-winners in all - from last year's squad.

Friday will be the first meeting between Auburn and High Point in volleyball.

Jacksonville State (4-0) is off to a strong start after winning all four of its matches at the ISTAP Invitational at Alabama State, defeating Stetson (3-2), Southeastern Louisiana (3-0), South Dakota (3-2) and Alabama State (3-0). The Gamecocks returned seven letter-winners and four starters from a 2011 squad that went 11-19 overall, 9-11 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Senior Jen Meyer leads the Gamecock offense with 46 kills (2.88/set) and an outstanding .447 hitting percentage (only four errors in 94 attacks). Senior Kelsey Anderson is not far behind with 45 kills (2.81/set). Junior Kelly Cole leads the JSU defense with 66 digs (4.12/set), while Abbey Heredia is a strong, six-rotation setter with 142 assists and 27 digs through the first four matches. All four players were recruited to Jacksonville State by Rick Nold.

Auburn and Jacksonville State will be meeting for the seventh time on the volleyball court. The Tigers hold a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1998, but Jacksonville State has won the last two meetings, a pair of 3-2 decisions in 2008 (at Jacksonville) and 2009 (at Auburn). Auburn won in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003.

This is the 41st overall season of Auburn volleyball, and the 27th season since the program was reinstated in 1986. The Tigers have an all-time record of 542-547-4 (.498) and an all-time Southeastern Conference mark of 128-251 (.338).

Auburn is coming off a 2011 season in which the Tigers posted an 11-19 overall record with a 5-15 mark in SEC play. The 2012 Tigers return four starters (plus libero) and 10 letter-winners from last year's squad and welcome four newcomers to the team. Auburn has three seniors, seven juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen on this year's club.

The Tigers finished fifth in the SEC's Western Division in 2011 and were picked to claim the same spot this season.

The Tigers will play a rescheduled match on the road at Troy next Tuesday, Sept. 4, before heading to Dallas, Texas, to wrap up non-conference play at the SMU Doubletree Classic. The tournament runs Friday-Saturday at SMU's Moody Coliseum where Auburn will face Texas State, Wichita State and host SMU.