Nov. 8, 2012
Auburn (17-8, 8-7) vs. Texas A&M (19-5, 11-4)
Friday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. CT | Student Activities Center | Auburn, Ala.
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Friday is the "Welcome to the SEC Challenge." Fans are encouraged to help us welcome Texas A&M to the SEC by showing their Auburn pride. The most "creative" show of support will win a prize pack, including SEC and Auburn decorations, an Under Armour prize back and a signed volleyball from the team. It's also the only home match of the weekend and the final home contest of the season that will not be during a holiday break.
Live stats and live video will be available through AuburnTigers.com, and fans can follow @AUVolleyball on Twitter for updates throughout the match.
The Tigers (17-8, 8-7 SEC) come into Friday's match having won four straight in SEC competition, the longest winning streak by an Auburn team in conference play since the 1998 season. Auburn got a pair of road wins two weeks ago at South Carolina and Ole Miss, both by 3-0 scores, then came home last weekend to earn a thrilling five-set win over Arkansas and a 3-1 victory over Georgia.
"It was a great weekend for us," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "The first time we played both of those teams, we were far from our best. To respond from that and play the way we did was great to see. Over the last couple of weeks, we've started playing really consistently, doing a lot of the little things you need to do to win games.
Auburn will need another similar response Friday. Texas A&M (19-5, 11-4 SEC) presents a tough test as the SEC Western Division-leading Aggies make their first visit to the Plains. The Aggies have won four straight as well, and their five losses on the season - Southern Cal, Tennessee, Florida and twice to Kentucky - have all come to teams that have been ranked in the AVCA Top 25 at some point this year. And the Aggies defeated Auburn in four sets in College Station on Sept. 16.
And of the five remaining matches on Auburn's schedule, only one comes against a team not currently inside the top 25 of the NCAA's RPI. Texas A&M is currently at No. 24.
"Right now, out of five teams left, we have the best four teams in the league plus our rival in Alabama on the road," Nold said. "It's going to be a tough stretch. But when we play the way we want to play, we're confident we can compete against anybody. We just have to focus on us. This week, we'll go through and put a game plan together, but a lot of that is about us being able to accomplish things we want to. Again, tough stretch, but that's part of the fun.
AUBURN QUICK HITS
Auburn has an all-time record of 556-555-4 (.500) in its 41st season of volleyball.
Auburn's all-time SEC record is 136-258 (.342).
Head Coach Rick Nold picked up his 200th win as a Division I head coach Sunday vs. Georgia. He has a 28-27 (.509) record in his second season at Auburn; he is 200-125 (.615) in his 11th season overall.
Senior Sarah Bullock ranks in the all-time Auburn top 10 in career kills, digs and solo blocks.
Junior Camila Jersonsky is Auburn's all-time leader in career hitting percentage (.362), having met the minimum 1,000 attacks last month.
Jersonsky is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week and ranks 3rd in the SEC in blocks/set (1.13).
Auburn has won four consecutive SEC matches for the first time since the 1998 season.
Auburn has won eight SEC matches for the seventh time in program history.
Friday's match features the SEC's two stingiest defensive teams; Texas A&M (.163) and Auburn (.166) rank first and second, respectively, among SEC teams in opponent hitting percentage.
The Tigers are 14-2 this season when hitting .200 or better as a team.
Auburn is 14-2 this year when holding opponents below a .200 hitting percentage.
The Tigers are guaranteed a winning 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 (as a head coach or assistant) with a record of .500 or below.
WE'RE GOING STREAKING
The Tigers have won four consecutive Southeastern Conference matches, defeating South Carolina and Ole Miss on the road before taking down Arkansas and Georgia at home last weekend. It marks the first time for an Auburn team to win four consecutive SEC matches since late in the 1998 season. That year, the Tigers won five league matches in a row, defeating Tennessee (3-0), Ole Miss (3-0), Mississippi State (3-0), Alabama (3-2) and Alabama again (3-0) - along with a non-conference win over Jacksonville State in the mix - in a stretch of three weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 10.
A win over Texas A&M on Friday would tie that streak as the second-longest intra-conference winning streak in school history. Auburn also won five straight league matches in 1997. The longest streak to date is an eight-match run from Oct. 25-Nov. 17, 1996, as the Tigers finished with an 11-4 SEC record and claimed their first (and only) SEC Western Division crown.
200 WINS FOR COACH NOLD
With Auburn's win over Georgia on Nov. 4, Head Coach Rick Nold claimed his 200th career victory as a Division I head coach. In his 11th season overall (2nd at Auburn), Nold has a career record of 200 wins and 125 losses.
RECORDS TO WATCH
Sarah Bullock: 6th in career kills, 5th in career digs, T-8th in career solo blocks
Camila Jersonsky: Has met the 1,000-attack minimum for all-time hitting percentage rankings and now ranks as Auburn's all-time leader (.362); just outside top 10 in career blocking categories.
Sarah Wroblicky: Averaging 3.23 digs/set for her career, now ranks third all-time having met the minimum of 500 total digs. Wroblicky is also on the cusp of the single-season top-10 for digs; the current 10th-place mark is 371 and Wroblicky has 368 digs with five matches left.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M enters the weekend at 19-5 overall, 11-4 in SEC play and leading the SEC Western Division.
The Aggies have won four straight matches, defeating LSU, South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas over the last two weeks.
A&M's only five losses this season have come to Southern Cal, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky (twice). All four have been nationally ranked at some point this year.
The Aggies are the top defensive team in the SEC, leading the league in opponent hitting percentage (.163). A&M also averages 3.0 kills/set, 2.8 assists/set, 0.6 aces/set and 1.7 digs/set more than their opponents.
Texas A&M also leads the SEC in kills (14.64/set) and assists (13.56/set) and ranks second in digs (16.85/set).
Setter Allie Sawatzky was last week's SEC Player of the Week, averaging 13.14 assists, 3.00 digs and 2.29 kills/set and hitting .324 in the Aggies' wins over Alabama and Arkansas.
Alisia Kastmo averages a team-best 3.58 kills/set, ranking 10th in the SEC.
Lindsey Miller is 8th-best in the SEC with a .337 hitting percentage and ranks 3rd on the team with 2.63 kills/set.
Auburn and Texas A&M have only met three times on the volleyball court with the Aggies winning all three meetings.
COACH NOLD ON THE AGGIES
"They're an athletic team. They've got a setter that's very active and they can kind of attack you in different ways. For us, it's going to be another one where we need to focus on ourselves, play our game, take away the things we can. But they're a good team. There's a reason they're a top-25 RPI team. We just have to get after it."
LAST TIME: TEXAS A&M 3, AUBURN 1 (9/16/12)
Katherine Culwell had a career-high 20 kills, but Auburn dropped a 3-1 (22-25, 16-25, 27-25, 18-25) decision on the road to Texas A&M before 1,216 fans at Reed Arena. TheTigers were nearly even statistically in most categories with the Aggies but struggled in the service game. Texas A&M had eight service aces with just two errors while the Tigers did not record an ace but committed six service errors.
With 20 kills on 44 attacks with seven errors, Culwell hit .295 in the match and recorded seven kills in a pivotal third set to keep the match alive for the Tigers. Culwell also had seven digs and four blocks on the day. Camila Jersonsky also hit double digits with 10 kills and a .350 hitting percentage; she also contributed five blocks. Both Auburn setters recorded double-doubles - Chelsea Wintzinger had 24 assists and 12 digs, and Ciara Richards posted 23 assists and 12 digs. Sarah Wroblicky led the defensive effort with 21 digs, and freshman Mary Hannah Arrington, in her first extended action, posted six kills and 11 digs after entering the match in the second set. Sarah Bullock had six kills and five digs in a set and a half of action.
Texas A&M out-hit Auburn .208 to .175 but only had one more kill (58) than the Tigers (57). Auburn won the digs battle, 80-78, and had 9.5 total blocks to A&M's 6.0. The Aggies were led by Tori Mellinger and Allie Sawatsky with 12 kills each; Sawatzky added 41 assists and Mellinger had 19 digs.
A LOOK AHEAD
Auburn hits the road for the final time in the 2012 regular season next week. The Tigers will face Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 16, before traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on Sunday, Nov. 18.