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A spirit that is not afraid

Volleyball seeks tournament bid

Senior outside hitter Katherine Culwell returns volley Sunday against LSU.(Charlie Timberlake / assistant photo editor)
Senior outside hitter Katherine Culwell returns volley Sunday against LSU.(Charlie Timberlake / assistant photo editor)

The Auburn volleyball team (16-8, 7-5 SEC) is coming off a tough loss against the LSU Tigers (19-2, 10-2 SEC), but is trying to finish strong and earn its first tournament bid, starting Friday in Knoxville, Tenn., against the Lady Volunteers.

If the Tigers manage to win four out of the final eight games, they will play in the tournament.

Three wins will put them on the bubble, while five will make them a good seed in the tournament.

"It's a big tribute to a lot of people around Auburn," said coach Wade Benson. "The crowds were just phenomenal. I just can't say enough about the support that has been going on in many different rungs, from administrative, to marketing, to newspapers, to all the people that came out."

Auburn will face Tennessee for the second time this season.

The last time Auburn met Tennessee this season, the Tigers lost 3-1 to the Lady Volunteers Sept. 26.

Senior middle blocker Alyssa Davis said she believes consistency is key when trying to defeat teams like Tennessee.

"We need to learn how to stay consistent and not put ourselves in tough situations like we did against LSU," Davis said, "so when it comes down to it, we'll be able to execute and come through in the end."

Following Friday's game in Knoxville, the Tigers will travel to Lexington, Ky., for Sunday's match against the Kentucky Wildcats.

The Tigers last faced the Wildcats Sept. 24 in Auburn and shocked the 'Cats with a 3-2 win.

Benson said he wants the Tigers to at least split the games this weekend before returning to The Plains for a three-game home stretch.

He said he hopes those games secure his team a spot in the tournament.

"If we're good enough, we'll do it," Benson said. "That's all you've got to think about."

The Tigers split their games last weekend as well, beating Arkansas (10-13, 4-8 SEC) 3-0 Friday, but losing to LSU 0-3 Sunday.

The win against Arkansas was the seventh conference win for the Tigers, its most since 1999.

"Arkansas is a good team, and I thought we made them not play so well tonight," Benson said following Friday's match. "We had a tough run in the first set, but we stuck with our starters and they showed a lot of maturity and were able to execute for the rest of the match."

Senior outside hitter Morgan Johns led the Tigers with nine kills and a .333 attack percentage.

Sarah Bullock added seven kills and eight digs, while senior libero Liz Crouch recorded 11 digs.

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Following Friday's convincing win over the Razorbacks, the Tigers had a tough time handling LSU.

When asked about the match, Benson said it was simply disappointing.

"I thought we played at about a six today," Benson said. "I thought LSU gave us the opportunity to beat a ranked team today, we showed a little bit of heart in game three, but we weren't meant to win this match based on preparation, or else we would have."

Freshman outside hitter Camila Jersonsky led Auburn with a .615 attack percentage and nine kills.

Sophomore duo Sarah Bullock and Katherine Culwell finished with eight kills apiece.

Senior outside hitter Jonelle Wallace added six kills while teammates Morgan Johns added five and Davis added four.

Defensively, Crouch led the Tigers with 10 digs.

Auburn will face Tennessee Friday at 6:00 p.m. before playing Kentucky at noon.

The Tigers will close out its regular season on the road with games against Alabama, Mississippi State and Georgia in late November.

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