The Kansas Invitational did not start the way Auburn volleyball would have preferred.
The Loyola Marymount Lions swept the Tigers 3-0 for the first match of the weekend.
Set 1 started in the Tigers’ favor with back-to-back blocks, giving them a 3-2 lead. The teams went back and forth after that until Auburn again jumped ahead 11-8 after two kills from Taylor Rowland and one from Gwyn Jones. The Lions would come back and take a 17-15 lead. LMU held on and took set one, 25-18.
The Lions jumped ahead 5-1 to start off set 2, but errors allowed Auburn to shorten the lead, 8-7. An ace from Mica Allison tied the game at 17, but the Lions would come out on top with a 25-20 win.
Set 3 was a back-and-forth battle between the teams with each one taking large leads then the other coming back. Although the Tigers had a late rally with a Shaina White/Allison block and an ace from Payton White, the Lions would still win, 25-16, completing their sweep of the Tigers.
Meredith Teague had 12 kills for the Lions, and both Emma Johnson and Savannah Slattery had 11 kills. Sara Kovac had 10 kills of her own while setter Tess Reid finished the night with 42 assists. Kekai Whitford, a libero, contributed 11 digs on the defensive side.
On the Tigers’ side, Rowland had 13 kills, while Brenna McIlroy had seven. Allison had 24 assists and Bella Rosenthall has six digs.
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The Tigers redeemed themselves in their evening match against hosting Kansas. Auburn came out on top after a five-set match, winning it 3-2.
“I liked the way we responded after the first match this morning and played aggressively,” head coach Rick Nold said. “We wanted to see how we handled adversity and being able to respond and finish the way we did was a great sign.”
Rowland started the night off for the Tigers, giving them a 4-1 lead with back-to-back kills in set 1. Hits from White, McIlroy and Rowland contributed to a 23-17 lead. A block from Chesney McClellan/Jones gave the Tigers the win, 25-18.
The Tigers took the first lead in set 2, but Kansas came back to take the lead 6-4. From there, the two teams went back and forth until KU jumped ahead 15-11. Errors from Auburn allowed the Jayhawks to win the set 25-18 and even up the match.
KU started off strong, taking a 9-6 lead, but the Tigers came back to tie it at 9-9. Auburn jumped ahead 14-11, but Kansas took back control to tie the game again at 17-17. Auburn took a 21-19 lead after a kill from Mcilroy and a Jayhawk error, but the Jayhawks went on a 6-1 run to win the set 25-22.
Both teams battled in set four. The game had 16 ties and 10 lead changes. Hits from McIlroy, Rowland and Karis Beasley gave the Tigers a 16-13 lead. KU took a timeout and got on a run to take the lead at 23-22. The Tigers stayed strong and a block form Jones/McClellan plus a Jayhawk error gave the Tigers a 27-25 win, sending the teams into a tie breaker fifth set.
Auburn took that momentum into the final set to take a 5-1 lead. Tough serves from Mcilroy combined with a block from Allison/S.White gave the Tigers a 13-4 lead after a six-point run.
A kill from Rowland was the final blow to Kansas, giving the Tigers the win for the set at 15-6 thus giving them the match win.
Three Kansas players had double digit kills. Mmachi Nwoke had 17, Zoe Hill had 13 and Jada Burse had 12. Rachel Langs had 14 digs while setter Camryn Ennis had 12 digs and 38 assists.
For the Tigers, Rowland hit 23 kills while Mcilroy had another double-double with a season-best 14 kills and 14 digs. Jones had nine kills. Allison had a career best 47 assists, and Rosenthall had a career best 20 digs. Beasley had nine digs of her own. McClellan and White had four blocks apiece.
“We knew coming into this tournament that it was going to be a battle every match and we had to bring our best,” Nold said.
Auburn’s last match of the weekend will be against American on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. CST at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
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