Auburn improved to 3-0 in SEC play after going to set five with the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-3). Now, the Tigers remain the only undefeated team in the SEC, and they are one of the four undefeated Division 1 teams in the nation with a record of 14-0.
Wednesday night, the Tigers hosted the Bulldogs in Neville Arena -- what resulted was a thriller. Auburn entered the game a historical winning streak of 12-0 following a weekend sweep of Alabama, but Auburn proved it can play with stiff competition by beating Mississippi State.
Mississippi State has a powerful, fast-paced offense, hitting for a percentage of .388 in its previous match against Georgia. Mississippi State has proven to be a strong competitor full of veteran players, in contrast to Auburn’s freshman team.
Despite being a young team, the Tigers stepped up; they matched Mississippi State with kills and aces, making it a tight game. Ultimately, it came down to battles at the net, and Auburn out-blocked the Bulldogs 15-7 and was able to keep Mississippi State’s offense down.
Errors also factored into Auburn’s win. For the first set, the Tigers has seven errors and Mississippi State only had two, leading to Auburn’s loss. After the 25-19 loss, the Tigers kept mistakes minimal, while the Bulldogs also doubled Auburn in errors.
After coming out on the losing side in the opening set, Auburn settled in, and it opened strong for the remaining sets, taking early leads and focusing on defense, with 70 digs.
Freshman libero Sarah Morton had numerous saves to keep plays alive. The Indiana native dove to the floor countless times, digging the ball up a career-high 25 times with impressive effort.
In addition to the defense, the Tiger's offense had higher hitting averages than the Bulldogs in every set except in the first. However, Mississippi State came back numerous times to tie the game or win, such as in the third set.
Freshman Akasha Anderson had one of her best offensive performances of the season, recording a pair of aces and a career high 26 kills. To make it even more impressive, Anderson is only 17 years old and has already accumulated 209.5 points over the past 13 games, scoring 29.5 of them in this match.
Jackie Barrett added yet another strong individual performance, notching her third double-double of the season. The junior racked up 47 assists in addition to 12 digs. Barrett, paired with Chelsea Harmon dominated the net for the majority of the contest.
The highlight of the match was the final set, where Auburn took over to claim the win.
Auburn had a hitting percentage of .444 on the night, the fourth highest mark in a single set thus far in the season for the Tigers. Moreover, they had zero errors, finishing flawlessly.
On the other side of the net, Mississippi State could never find a good rotation that combatted Auburn’s defense, forcing the Bulldogs to make numerous subs and hit for a .139 hitting average.
The Tiger’s momentum was up, and the team chemistry was high in their SEC home opener, leading to arguably their most impressive win so far this season. Their next match will be held at LSU on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. CST.
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