As Auburn volleyball begins a new era under its new head coach, the Tigers showed that it will be a process, losing their season opener to No. 4 Florida in a three-set sweep.
Despite the sweep, head coach Brent Crouch feels like the Tigers improved as the match went on.
“I thought we settled down a little bit,” Crouch said. “When you first come out, you're going to have a lot of nerves. We haven't played in almost a year. I thought that we gained confidence as the match went on.”
Auburn got off to a successful start in set one taking a 2-0 lead, but before long, the two teams started trading points back-and-forth and were all tied up at six each. After substitutions, Florida scored five unanswered to take an 11-6 lead and never gave it back.
The Tigers lost the first set 25-14.
Set one saw Florida lead with 10 kills and only commit two errors, while Auburn produced 10 errors in set one, which held the team back.
Junior outside hitter Val Green led Auburn in kills with eight on the night and in the first set finished with two.
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“I’m not surprised with how [Green] played,” Crouch said. “This is how she’s been playing in practice. She’s probably the most improved player over the last three months, and it showed tonight. We do heavy-duty competition in practice. We don’t just put a starting lineup out there and say practice. We pit outside hitters against each other, and we track scores. It’s just head-to-head battles, and she’s winning all of those in practice.”
Set two featured more ball control from the Tigers and longer plays. Auburn showed improvement in cutting down on errors as the Tigers finished with nine instead of 10.
Auburn showed resilience in the second set after Florida seemed to score the winning point off of a deflection error, but after a review, the point was given to Auburn. The Tigers rallied for two more points before Florida won the second set 25-14.
Auburn entered set three, knowing it might be its final set of the night, and forced numerous lead changes and ties.
“It’s funny when you settle down you can be more aggressive,” Crouch said. “It sounds like a paradox, but it’s especially the case at the serving line. The more relaxed you are, the more you can really hit a nasty serve. That’s what was happening a bunch in the third. We were starting to get points serving.”
Set three produced the best kill numbers for Auburn with 11 and the fewest errors with seven. The Tigers were able to keep it close for most of the third set and scored 20 points.
The third set may have been the Tigers' best, but Florida still won the set 25-20. The Gators took the first match against Auburn this week in a 3-0 sweep.
“We’re really grateful for our fans, and I hope they stick with us,” Crouch said. “It’s going to be some growing pains for a while, but hopefully they saw a few things here and there and thought, ‘okay, that looks pretty good, and we can build on that.'”
The Tigers will retake the court Thursday at 7 p.m. CST to play their second match against Florida.
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