Auburn's Crouch Digs Record, Successful Season
Oct. 14, 2010
Below is a feature on Auburn senior Liz Crouch, who set a new Auburn career digs record last week.
By David Morrison
There was no ceremony to let Liz Crouch know she had broken Gretchen Thompson's Auburn career record for digs, a mark that was as old as the Tigers' libero.
No balloons, no commemorative presentations, no announcement over the loudspeaker, not even a stoppage in play.
It was just another save -- one that just so happened to be the 1,496th of Crouch's career -- in a straight-set loss at Ole Miss last Friday.
The senior said she would have had no idea she just set the record if not for her mother, Kathleen Crouch, holding a one-woman celebration in the stands.
"My mom's kind of obnoxious," Crouch said with a smile, "so having her there kind of made me realize when it happened. She made a big, moving gesture or something like that."
Crouch said she wouldn't expect anything less from her mother, who has been at all but two of the Tigers' matches this season, home and road.
Kathleen and Crouch's father, James, have kept close tabs on their daughter's career during her time away from home.
"If they're not here, they're asking, `How many digs?' They all want to know," Crouch said.
"(The record) really is a huge deal. I've never really thought of it, but to make them proud, that's what any kid wants -- to make their parents proud."
Crouch has done her fair share of that in four years at Auburn.
The senior made an impact from her freshman year, tallying 392 digs, and has been a consistent force for the Tigers all the way through her record-setting 1,498th.
Some of which her coach had no idea how she got to.
"She just makes a lot of really good effort plays," Tigers coach Wade Benson said. "Those kind of players are really important for a team. They're energizer plays. It really is a big spark for the group to carry on and know you're always in it."
What makes her performance even more impressive is the fact Crouch has been battling a lower back injury since her freshman season.
Crouch said it's even gotten to the point where she's getting injections for the pain. She's missed just five matches over the past three years.
"It's definitely been tough," Crouch said. "It's been something I've learned to work through and learned to deal with. It's kind of limiting to certain things that I do that I know will hurt it.
"There's definitely times where it's been unbearable. But mentally and physically I can't let it be unbearable. I've got to keep playing."
Crouch has also seen an evolution in Auburn volleyball in her time on the team -- from one- and three-win SEC seasons her first two years to the Tigers' first winning season in 10 years to a 14-6 start this year, Auburn's best since 1998.
Now, the Tigers have their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth to work for.
"It's a 180 of when I came in," Crouch said. "We had a different coach, and the kind of driving factor was fear. You didn't want to mess up, because you were scared of the punishment that was going to get put on you.
"And now you work for each other. I work because someone else is working for me, and that drives me."
Even with a rare three days off to start the week, Crouch can't take much time to enjoy her new record.
The Tigers have the second half of their season coming up and a match at top-ranked Florida looming Friday.
All that individual stuff can come later.
"It's pretty cool," she said. "I think it'll be cooler when I'm done, when my career's over."
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