Sept. 15, 2011
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AUBURN - The Auburn Tigers (6-4) open Southeastern Conference play and wrap up a nine-match road swing with SEC tilts at Kentucky (9-2) and Tennessee (7-2) this weekend. Auburn will face the Wildcats at 6 p.m. CT Friday at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., before traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on the Lady Vols at 12:30 p.m. CT Sunday in Thompson-Boling Arena.
GameTracker for both matches will be available through AuburnTigers.com. For the Kentucky match, live video (for a fee) and live audio (free) will be available through UKAthletics.com. On Sunday, free live video for the match against Tennessee will be available through UTLadyVols.com. Fans can also follow @AUVolleyball on Twitter for frequent updates throughout both matches.
TIGERS IN THE SEC
Heading into the first weekend of conference play, sophomore Camila Jersonsky ranks second in the SEC with a .409 hitting percentage, putting down 51 kills on 110 attacks with just six errors in 25 sets of action. Fellow sophomore Chloe Rowand currently comes in fifth in the SEC in blocks, averaging 1.08 blocks per set (26 blocks in 24 sets) for the season.
The Kentucky Wildcats, receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll, enter this weekend at 9-2 overall. Eight of their 11 matches thus far have been played within the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum, where they have compiled a 7-1 record. After splitting their first four matches - including an upset of then-No. 23 Tulsa - the Wildcats have won seven straight. In fact, in the month of September, Kentucky has only dropped one set, losing the second game in a 3-1 win over Houston on Sept. 9.
Kentucky is led offensively by redshirt junior Ashley Frazier, who has 106 kills on 269 attacks (.219) for the year. Setter Christine Hartmann has the team's highest hitting percentage at .333 with 25 kills on 57 attacks with just six errors. She also leads the `Cats with 266 assists (11.08/set). At the net, Gretchen Giesler lead the way with 40 blocks while Ann Armes has 28. Libero Stephanie Klefot is one of the best in the league, leading the team with 193 digs (5.22/set), which has earned her back-to-back nods as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
On Sept. 24, 2010, Auburn earned one of the most significant victories in the program's 26-year history when it knocked off then-No. 24 Kentucky in five sets at the Student Activities Center. It was the first time in team history that Auburn defeated a nationally ranked opponent.
KENTUCKY SERIES NOTES
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Auburn 25-10, including an 11-3 mark in Lexington. The Wildcats have taken eight of the last nine decisions in the series with last year's historic win in Auburn the only Tiger victory since 2006. Auburn's last win in Lexington came on Sept. 23, 2005, when the Tigers took a 3-0 victory over the Wildcats at Memorial Coliseum.
The Tennessee Lady Volunteers enter this weekend at 7-2 overall and are also receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll. Tennessee has captured a pair of tournament titles in the early going, sweeping through their home tournament in late August to win the Toyota Lady Vol Classic and then earning three victories at the Virginia Tech Invitational last week.
As a team, the Lady Vols are hitting .267, which ranks third in the SEC. Freshman Shaelyn Kolosky leads Tennessee with a .333 percentage, which comes in eighth in the league, but the offensive power comes from sophomore Kelsey Robinson. In addition to posting six double-doubles in nine matches, she leads the league with 179 kills (4.84/set), most of those coming courtesy of freshman setter Mary Pollmiller, who leads the league with 416 assists (11.24/set). For her efforts in Blacksburg, Pollmiller was named last week's SEC Freshman of the Week.
Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick comes into the weekend with 299 career victories; UT faces Georgia on Friday before hosting the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
SOME FAMILIARITY FOR NOLD
While Auburn head coach Rick Nold - a native of Louisville, Ky., and graduate of the University of Louisville - has never faced the rival Wildcats as a head coach, he has traveled to Knoxville once before. His Jacksonville State Gamecocks faced Tennessee in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, falling to the Lady Vols 3-0 on Dec. 2, 2005.
TENNESSEE SERIES NOTES
Tennessee has won 23 of the 34 all-time meetings between the two programs, but the series has been marked by long runs for each team. Auburn won six straight and nine out of 11 between 1990 and 1998, but the Lady Vols rolled off 13 in a row from 1999 to 2007. Auburn took a 3-1 win in Knoxville in 2007 to snap the long slide, then won again in 2009 at home.
Auburn has never won at Thompson-Boling Arena, where Tennessee moved their home volleyball matches prior to the 2008 season.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
With the trip to Lexington and Knoxville this weekend, the Tigers will finally - FINALLY - conclude a nine-match road trip that has spanned the entire first three weeks of September. A total of 11 of Auburn's first 12 matches will have been on the road; the home opener against Alabama A&M on Aug. 30 being the only match within 300 miles of home so far.
By the time the Tigers return to Auburn Sunday evening, the team will have logged more than 3,500 miles of travel over the first four weeks of the season (round-trip mileage to Gainesville, Fla., Murfreesboro, Tenn, Coral Gables, Fla., and Lexington, Ky.). Auburn is the only SEC team to have not played at least three home matches thus far.
STRONG COMPETITION IN NON-CONFERENCE
The Southeastern Conference is plenty strong in volleyball these days, with six teams earning bids to the NCAA Tournament last season. But the Tigers have had an ambitious non-conference slate as well, with seven of Auburn's first 10 matches coming against 2010 NCAA Tournament participants. The Tigers are 3-4 in those contests, defeating Alabama A&M, Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee and falling to North Carolina, Missouri, Miami and Oklahoma.
A LOOK AHEAD
Auburn returns to the Student Activities Center for the first time in nearly a month as the Tigers kick off the home portion of their SEC schedule next weekend. Archrival Alabama visits at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and the weekend concludes with a Sunday afternoon tilt against Ole Miss at 1:30 p.m.