After splitting matches with Georgia, Auburn faces its next SEC foe in LSU at home on Friday, Oct. 29, to try and improve its SEC record to 5-6.
Both LSU and Auburn split its last SEC series, leaving Auburn with a 4-6 conference record and LSU just ahead with a 5-7 conference record. Auburn now sits with a season record of 12-8 while LSU possesses a record of 9-12.
Entering this week, several players on both sides received SEC Player of the Week honors.
Auburn’s Liz Reich was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after her performance at Georgia. She totaled 23 kills as well as a hitting percentage of .347 from the right side.
LSU’s libero Raigen Cianciulli was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season as well as becoming the SEC leader in career digs (2,161). Ella Larkin was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season for LSU after her setting performance versus Tennessee. She set up for an LSU team hitting percentage of .368 in the win over the Lady Volunteers.
The Auburn Tigers are still sitting atop the SEC leaderboards for their defense. Auburn ranks first in the SEC in both opponent hitting percentage (.145) and digs per set (16.55). It ranks second in blocks per set with an average of 2.79 blocks per set.
LSU’s defense has also been showing up this season. The Tigers are averaging 2.63 blocks per set to rank third in the conference as well as placing sixth in the SEC in digs per set with an average of 14.64.
Liz Reich: Earning her first SEC Offensive Player of the Week honor of the season, the graduate student is on an offensive role for the Tigers. Hitting from the right side, Reich has been a nice offensive weapon to offset Rebekah Rath. Reich finished the matches against Georgia with an average of 4.50 points per set and 3.83 kills per set.
Val Green: The senior outside hitter had a productive game in the win versus Georgia. Green totaled 16 kills, bringing her season total to 172. That number is the third-most among the Auburn roster.
Elif Yavuz: The senior came up big at the net defensively for the Tigers versus Georgia, totaling eight blocks. The middle blocker has only collected 50 kills on the season, but she is sitting on a .339 hitting percentage, making Yavuz a good option to set up on offense for the Tigers.
Kylie Deberg: The graduate student is going to be key in LSU’s game plan versus Auburn. Having already received SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors earlier in the season, the outside hitter has been big for the Tigers this year. She ranks third in the SEC in both kills per set (4.00) and points per set (4.57).
Anita Anwusi: Anwasi, the junior middle blocker, is also among those ranked in the SEC this season. So far, she is ranked fifth in hitting percentage (.359) and sixth in blocks per set (1.26). Her strength on both offense and defense will be key in the upcoming matchup.
Taylor Bannister: The senior right side has been quietly productive for LSU this year. She contributed a combined 28 kills against Tennessee to lead the team. She is hitting a team second-best 157 kill total so far this season.
Auburn has slowly but surely been spreading out its offensive attack against recent opponents. It has been giving more opportunities to hitters like Reich, Green, Yavuz, and Tatum Shipes and it has started to show in recent matches. The Tigers’ defense needs to remain strong and steady and continue to shut down the opponent’s hitting to get ahead in matches.
Because Auburn is starting to go with a more balanced offense, the opponent block that used to be so focused on Rebekah Rath needs to look at all sides of the offense. However, LSU needs to be looking to shut down that budding offense and turn Auburn’s attack plan back on Rath’s shoulders. This happened in the second match against Georgia, where Rath finished with 16 kills but the team finished the set with a .183 hitting percentage and 20 attack errors.
The battle of the Tigers will take place in Auburn, Alabama, on Friday at 6 p.m. CST. The game will be available to watch on SEC Network-plus.
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