The Auburn volleyball team had been on a five-game losing streak until this past Sunday when the Tigers beat South Carolina in Columbia.
Hoping to continue on with their positive momentum, the Tigers came back home to Auburn Arena to host rival Alabama. The Tigers were able to hold off a resilient Alabama team to win the match 3-2 (25-21, 25-14, 20-25, 23-25, 15-11).
The Tigers had five players with double-digit kills, including sophomore Shaina White who had a very efficient game, getting 15 in just 24 attempts.
Junior Brenna McIlroy totaled 14, sophomore Gwyn Jones had 12 and senior Courtney Crable and freshman Anna Stevenson finished with 10 each.
Alexa Filley had a match-high 51 assists along with her 13 digs to get her 14th double-double of the season. Senior Jesse Earl match-high 29 digs while McIlroy had her season-best 19 kills.
Alabama had a strong showing from Mahalia Swink and Setter Meghan Neelon. Swink totaled 16 kills while Perinar had a double-double consisting of 45 assists and 14 digs.
The first set started off with Alabama with a slight lead. After a moment of trading points, Auburn capitalized on the Crimson Tide’s mistakes. Shaina White came out in full force, getting five kills on six attempts in just the first set.
Auburn climbed back to obtain a 19-16 lead and used their strong defense to keep the advantage. The Tigers finished out the set 25-21.
Early on in the second set, White continued her efficient play. Auburn took a massive lead with White’s help and Stevenson’s signature bullet kills.
Auburn led the Crimson Tide 20-10 in the final few plays of the set. Auburn’s plays were crisp and very fluid, capitalizing on every scoring opportunity without many mistakes. Alexa Filley’s high soaring kill finished a dominating set two 25-14 in Auburn’s favor.
The fans expected similar results for the third set, but the speed of play completely shifted. Both teams continued to just exchange points, struggling to find an opening to established a lead. McIlroy was keeping the crowd on their feet with some hard-hitting kills, but Alabama was determined to keep the game alive.
Alabama took a 15-10 lead midway into the set and maintained a steady advantage. The Tide extended the lead 20-14.
Senior Macy Reece checked in for Auburn and quickly scored a pair of kills that shortened the Tide’s lead to 22-18. However, Alabama was able to regroup and take a set of its own.
The fourth set was the closest one of the game. Once again, the two teams traded points all the way up to a 14-13 lead for Auburn. The Tigers looked to finally close out the match, but a few serve errors and mistakes cost Auburn crucial points down the stretched.
Shocking the home crowd, the Crimson Tide rallied during the final moments of the fourth set in a dramatic comeback set victory 25-23, forcing a set five.
The fifth set started with three quick points by the Tigers, which was replied quickly by Alabama. Alabama held a lead going into the fifth set intermission, and the Crimson Tide showed new energy.
Courtney Crable knocked a pair of solid kills down to keep Auburn in the set. McIlroy made a statement kill shortly after to give Auburn a 12-11 victory. With the energy and momentum given by the always vocal McIlroy and Earl, the team scored a quick three more points to end the set 15-11.
"I'm happy with the way we embraced the battle today," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "We started off strong, but Alabama is a good team and we knew they would fight back. We had every opportunity to let that get us down. We kept fighting and that's the team we've been all year. It was great to see that tonight."
The Tigers are now 6-6 in SEC play and 13-8 overall.
The Tigers will have a week off before hosting Tennessee in Auburn on Nov.9 and a rematch against No. 6 Kentucky on Nov. 12.