When Auburn volleyball starts its season against No. 4 Florida this Wednesday, it will be the first time they take the court as a new team under a new coach.
That coach is Brent Crouch.
Crouch spent the past two seasons at the University of Southern California, guiding it to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He is now trying to revamp the Auburn program after the Tigers had a 7-22 overall record in 2019.
In his first season, Crouch is hoping to set a solid foundation for seasons to come. The big goal this year for Crouch is implementing his system and style upon the Tigers.
“I think it’s entirely about getting them to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and what the level needs to be at which we do it,” Crouch said in an interview with The Plainsman. “There are cultural things; these are foundational things, they’re fundamental movement things, they’re system things, that is the big goal this year. The faster we can get that stuff in place, the faster the wins will come.”
The Tigers face their first matchup this week, but Crouch is less concerned with the team on the other side of the net. The new program is working on itself first. Auburn has been working on breaking old habits and pushing comfort zones.
“That’s going to be a big challenge because whenever you get into battle, and the juices are flowing, the adrenaline is going, you tend to do the things that are the most comfortable,” Crouch said. “What’s most comfortable for them is what they've done the last four years. So, getting them to not do that and say we’re going to try these new things even though it's on television versus Florida."
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Veteran players are showing up to take that step, like senior blocker Chesney McClellan. McClellan played in 100 sets last season and ended the season with 70 total blocks.
“I think Chesney in the middle is a vocal leader already,” Crouch said. “She’s a talented blocker. I see her stepping up in practice and saying good things and lifting the group up.”
More leaders for the Tigers this season are within the libero position. Crouch said many of the leaders who choose to lead by example all serve here defensively.
One of those liberos is junior Bella Rosenthall. Rosenthall played every set for the Tigers last season and ended with the second-highest digs on the team with 307 total digs.
“[Rosenthall] is out of that group with the same effort level and same energy level, but she’s pretty vocal too,” Crouch said. “You’re going to hear her voice more than anyone else in practice. I expect her to have a nice year. I expect a lot of the liberos to just be the anchor of the team. They touch a lot of the first balls, and they do a good job of it. They really set the tone with their effort level.”
Crouch believes it’s not until the third year of a new program that you totally rely on scouting your opponent.
However, scouting does matter when your first pair of matches is against a top 5 team. Florida is starting the season at No. 4, while the Tigers remain unranked. Auburn volleyball is not backing down from the challenge that Florida brings to the Plains.
“I think it’s an awesome challenge,” Crouch said. “I think watching practice yesterday; I thought they are dialed in right now. I thought they were absolutely battling, very aggressive the way they were playing. If they can do that again tomorrow, I’m going to be very happy, win or lose.”
Auburn will face off against Florida on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. CST and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network. The second match against Florida will be on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. CST and will air on ESPNU.
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