Nov. 1, 2012
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AUBURN, Ala. - The stretch run of the Southeastern Conference volleyball season begins this weekend as Auburn plays host to Arkansas and Georgia in a pair of critical matches at the Student Activities Center.
The Tigers will welcome Arkansas at 7 p.m. Friday for the annual "All Auburn, All Orange" match, and the Georgia Bulldogs visit at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to wrap up the weekend. Admission is free to all Auburn volleyball matches.
Auburn (15-8, 6-7) will be looking for a bit of payback in this weekend's home matches. The Tigers dropped road matches to Arkansas and Georgia by identical 3-0 scores earlier in the season. And with just seven matches left in the season - five of them at home - every win is crucial to the postseason chances for all three squads.
"We've got a tough stretch of games coming up, but being at home is definitely an advantage," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We feel like if we play our best, we can beat anybody. And the comforting side of it is that it's on us. We've got to go out and play hard. We've got really good teams coming in that have had great years. Our styles aren't very similar. If we're able to do what we want to do, I think that's something that would frustrate other teams.
Friday is "Pack the Act" night as the Tigers look to set a new Student Activities Center attendance record. The current record is 1,215, set Oct. 25, 2009, in a match against LSU. Fans are encouraged to wear orange, and the first 250 fans will receive a free "Pack the Act" t-shirt. In addition, Auburn Ignited members will receive double points for checking in on Foursquare, and students will receive double scan-in points.
"We feed off a big crowd," Nold said. "A big crowd can give us a lot of energy, and we play well when we're playing with a lot of energy. Sometimes it's tough on the road to fight through that negative energy, but when we're home, it makes a huge difference. We need a big crowd out there."
Live stats and live video will be available via AuburnTigers.com for both matches, and fans can receive live updates throughout the weekend by following @AUVolleyball on Twitter.
Auburn enters the weekend off a pair of road wins over South Carolina and Ole Miss last week, the first time for Auburn to sweep an SEC road weekend since the end of the 2010 season. It also marked Auburn's first back-to-back 3-0 sweeps in SEC road matches since pulling off the feat against Tennessee and Kentucky during the 1996 season.
"We looked confident in who we were," Nold said. "We were ready to play our game. Offensively, we put on a display that we had not seen all year in terms of hitting percentages. First of all, we passed the ball much better, which gives us those opportunities. And our hitters were being aggressive, going after things. It's something we hope we can latch onto, because if we continue with that mindset, we've got a chance to do some great things here at the end."
The Tigers hit their way into the record books with a .474 hitting percentage in last Friday's win over South Carolina. It was the sixth-best single-match hitting percentage in Auburn history, the third-best ever against an SEC opponent, and the best in an SEC match since 1998. Five players - Sarah Bullock, Katherine Culwell, Camila Jersonsky, Halle Kearney and Courtney McDonald - had season-high hitting marks, with Jersonsky (.750), McDonald (.556), Kearney (.545) and Bullock (.500) topping the .500 mark. Auburn then came back Sunday with another stellar performance at Ole Miss, hitting .325 as a team as Bullock and Culwell recorded double-doubles.
ABOUT THE TIGERS
Auburn has an all-time record of 554-555-4 (.499) in its 41st season of volleyball.
Auburn's all-time SEC record is 134-258 (.341).
Head Coach Rick Nold is two wins away from his 200th as a Division I head coach. He has a has a 26-27 (.491) record in his second season at Auburn; he is 198-125 (.613) in his 11th season overall.
Senior Sarah Bullock ranks in the all-time Auburn top 10 in career kills, digs and solo blocks. She is sixth in career kills (1,172), fifth in career attacks (3,465), fifth in career digs (1,115) and 10th in solo blocks (48).
Junior Camila Jersonsky is Auburn's all-time leader in career hitting percentage (.363), having met the minimum 1,000 attacks last month. Jersonsky is also 4th in the SEC in blocks/set (1.11).
Junior libero Sarah Wroblicky is third all-time at Auburn in career digs per set (3.23).
Auburn ranks 2nd in the SEC in opponent hitting percentage (.172) and digs/set (16.60).
The Tigers are 13-2 this season when hitting .200 or better as a team.
Auburn is 12-2 this year when holding opponents below a .200 hitting percentage.
The Tigers are guaranteed a .500 or better overall record for the 18th time in program history but just the third time since 2000.
Assistant coach Kris Grunwald, in the first year of his second stint at Auburn (seventh season overall), has never finished a season at Auburn with a record of .500 or below.
Arkansas enters the weekend at 18-6 overall, 9-4 in SEC play.
The Razorbacks have won four straight matches, defeating Kentucky and Miss. State on the road before earning home wins over Alabama and Missouri last week.
Arkansas had a season-high .407 hitting percentage in their win over Missouri on Sunday afternoon.
The Razorbacks rank fourth in the SEC in both team hitting percentage (.257) and opponent hitting percentage (.179). The Hogs are also second overall in kills (14.23/set).
Senior Jasmine Norton is the SEC's active leader in career kills with 1,668 in her four years. She had 29 kills, 26 digs and four aces in last week's sweep of Alabama/Missouri. Norton is sixth in the SEC this year with 3.66 kills/set.
Senior Amanda Anderson ranks fourth in the SEC with a .361 hitting percentage.
Arkansas owns a 32-6 all-time advantage in the series and has won three straight. Auburn won three of four in 2009-10.
Auburn assistant Kris Grunwald served as an assistant coach at Arkansas the last four seasons.
COACH NOLD ON THE RAZORBACKS
"They're a very good all-around team. They've got a lot of guns; very athletic. They put up a big block. We struggled at their place getting things going in serve-receive, so we had a lot of trouble putting pressure on them. They've made some changes in a few spots. But they're one of those teams where we're going to have to go out and serve tough to get them out of system. And on our side, we'll have to handle the ball to give our attackers a chance to put them back on their heels."
LAST TIME: ARKANSAS 3, AUBURN 0 (9/28/12)
Auburn struggled offensively against a tough Arkansas squad, falling 3-0 (22-25, 18-25, 17-25) to the Razorbacks at Barnhill Arena. The Tigers were swept for the first time this season and had their lowest hitting percentage of the year (.118). Arkansas won their third straight SEC match and defeated the Tigers for the third straight time as well. The Razorbacks had four service aces and numerous other serves that kept the Tigers off-balance. Auburn did not have an ace and also committed five errors in the service game. Arkansas had 44 kills to Auburn's 31 and had a 10-4 advantage in blocks. The Razorbacks also hit .277 and had 37 digs to Auburn's 34.
Sarah Bullock led Auburn with nine kills and also had six digs in the contest. Courtney McDonald contributed six kills while Camila Jersonsky and Katherine Culwell had five apiece. McDonald, Jersonsky and Bullock had two blocks apiece. Chelsea Wintzinger had a team-high 16 assists. Arkansas was led by Roslandy Acosta with 10 kills, while Jasmine Norton contributed six kills and 12 digs. Liz Fortado and Janeliss Torres each had six blocks. Setter Raymariely Santos was tough in all areas with seven kills, four digs and 28 assists.
Georgia enters the weekend at 13-9 overall, 7-5 in SEC play. The Bulldogs have won five of their last eight matches.
In the last two weeks, the Bulldogs picked up sweeps of Alabama and Missouri before falling at home in five sets to Kentucky.
In SEC matches, Georgia ranks fifth in the league in hitting percentage (.238), but no better than sixth in any other category.
Freshman Jasmine Eatmon has the Bulldogs' highest hitting percentage (.302), ranking 12th in the SEC.
Junior libero Allison Summers ranks third in the SEC with 4.63 digs/set, and junior Elena Perri is fifth in the league in blocks with 1.10/set.
Georgia owns a 34-13 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1975. Auburn is 5-14 all-time against Georgia at home, but the Tigers have won the last two meetings at the Student Act.
COACH NOLD ON THE BULLDOGS
"They're really hot right now. They've been playing great over the last couple of weeks. They lost a tough one to Kentucky in five (sets), which is one of the top teams. But they're on a roll. When we played them at their place, they took advantage of us pretty good. And a big part of that was serving and passing. We were going a little bit too easy on the service side. That's something we've talked about since that match, and hopefully we've made some improvements since then."
LAST TIME: GEORGIA 3, AUBURN 0 (10/12/12)
Auburn fell on the road, dropping a 3-0 decision to Georgia (19-25, 21-25, 19-25) at the Ramsey Student Center. The Tigers fell to 1-4 on the road in Southeastern Conference play as Georgia had 42 kills against just 14 errors for a .292 hitting percentage, the highest by an Auburn opponent this season. The Bulldogs had 42 kills to Auburn's 34, but Auburn won the digs battle 39-32. The Tigers struggled to get their block going as they had just four stuffs on the night. Auburn hit just .125 in the match with 23 errors on its 96 swings.
Katherine Culwell led Auburn with 11 kills, and Sarah Bullock finished with nine kills and 10 digs. Bullock surpassed the 1,100-kill plateau in tonight's match, moving into ninth place all-time in career kills at Auburn. Camila Jersonsky added six kills and a pair of blocks, and Chloe Rowand hit at a .500 clip with four kills on an error-free eight swings. Chelsea Wintzinger recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 15 assists and 10 digs. Georgia was led by Elena Perri who hit .643 with nine kills and no errors on 14 attacks. Brittany Northcutt and Briana Bahr had seven kills apiece, and libero Allison Summers had a match-high 11 digs.