The Auburn Tigers defeated the UAB Blazers in a heated battle Friday night, continuing its winning streak and undefeated record through six games this season.
This win brings the Tigers' record to 6-0, but it started in a deficit, as they lost the first set (22-25); however, they were able to battle back by winning the second and third sets (25-22), (25-18), just falling short in the fourth (23-25) and battling to the end to win the fifth (15-7).
Freshman Akasha Anderson started hot leading the Tigers off with five kills to open. Madison Scheer and Kendal Kemp trailing close behind with four and three kills, respectively.
As the Blazers took the lead in the first, it was Anderson who pulled her team back up, as she fired three aces as her team began a six-point run forcing a Blazer timeout. Even though UAB pulled through, winning the set, this momentum set the Tigers forward.
The Tigers began to find some power in the second. Anderson pulled an additional four kills while freshman Bel Zimmerman added four more.
On the defensive side, the Tigers kept the Blazers within reach. Freshman libero Zoe Slaughter came through with three timely blocks, and fellow freshman Sarah Morton followed suit with a handful of digs, holding UAB to a .128 hitting percentage. Morton and Slaughter finished the night with career highs in digs at 18 and 14, respectively.
However, they were not the only two Tigers who finished the night with career highs.
Anderson’s breakout night continued into the third set, where she accumulated another four kills. By the end of the night, she would finish with career highs in kills (24), digs (14), and aces (four), making her first career double-double.
While Anderson was setting career highs, it was Auburn’s blocking efforts, led by Chelsey Harmon, that helped changed the game. The Tigers blocked seven attacks by the Blazers in the third set alone to take the lead.
Despite Harmon's incredible effort, the fight was far from over. The Blazers continued to fire back bringing their hitting percentage back to .318, as they forced a final fifth set.
With the game in the palm of her hand, Anderson led her team to the finish line. As she dealt her 24th and final kill of the evening, the Tigers finished the night with a climactic victory to remain undefeated -- equaling last year’s start with a 6-0 record.
“I thought it was a huge step forward. I could see our young players growing up on the court,” said head coach Brent Crouch. “Akasha definitely made a huge statement tonight. It’s taken five matches to get comfortable and now she is getting big kills when it matters most.”
The Tigers will continue the weekend in Birmingham in the UAB tournament as they take on Troy on Saturday at 2 p.m. CST and then North Florida Sunday at noon.
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Alexa Gardner is a sophomore at Auburn, majoring in exercise science. From Birmingham, Ala., she started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.