Auburn dropped its fourth straight match Thursday night as the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Tigers three sets to one.
In the first set, Auburn came out with high intensity, with Gwyn Jones notching the first point of the match. The two teams traded blows, point after point. USC came out just as strong, however, blocking numerous balls at the net. Their play at the net seemed to stifle the Auburn offense, resulting in an Auburn timeout, with USC up 15-13.
The timeout seemed to backfire, though, when USC came out and dominated the second half of the set. The high energy at the net, combined with poor serving from the Auburn offense, resulted in a 25-19 South Carolina victory in the first set.
In the second set, Auburn seemed ready to swing the momentum. Huge kills by Shaina White resulted in a 3-1 lead early. However, poor serving again came to bite Auburn. Auburn head coach Rick Nold, visibly unhappy and yelling, was forced to call a timeout.
After the timeout, Auburn quickly turned up the heat. Brenna McIlroy earned a few of her 13 game, and team high kills, and the Auburn offense battled back to tie the game 12-12. From this moment on, both sides would tie the set 15 times along with 8 total lead changes.
South Carolina would prove victorious 27-25 in the hard-fought, long second set.
Still not giving up, Auburn took the first and second points of the third set, with quick kills from Jones and Alexa Filley. Auburn was able to maintain a steady lead in this set, for the first time in the match, cruising to a comfortable 10-6 lead. A rocket shot from McIlroy forced a USC timeout to try and stop the momentum swing. Still executing well at the net, USC tied it up 14-14.
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After two Auburn timeouts and yet another strong kill by McIlroy, the score was 20-17 USC. Three straight points went to the Auburn offense, causing a USC timeout. Auburn was able to capitalize on USC miscues and won the third set 25-22.
Auburn quickly amounted a 6-2 lead early in the fourth set. The key to their late-match success came from soft gap shots that the USC defense had no answer for all night. Huge slams on the left side by Macy Reece helped the team gain some momentum and confidence.
Coming off the late heroics in the last set, Auburn still was not out of the match. Auburn maintained a lead, up 13-12, but after errant hits and unforced errors, South Carolina won 25-19, taking the match three sets to one.
“Credit South Carolina for really passing the ball well tonight,” Nold said. “I thought that along with letting them capitalize on our poor serving was the difference in the match.”
Auburn had 20 service errors throughout the match, resulting in easy points for the Gamecocks.
Auburn will face No. 2 Florida inside Auburn Arena on Sunday. This matchup will be Auburn’s fifth against a nationally ranked opponent, and second against a team in the Top 10.
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