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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn volleyball earns second NCAA Tournament bid in program history

<p>Players huddle together during Auburn volleyball versus Florida at Neville Arena on Oct. 26, 2022.</p>

Players huddle together during Auburn volleyball versus Florida at Neville Arena on Oct. 26, 2022.

For the first time since 2010, and just the second time in program history, Auburn volleyball has qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

In a 64-team bracket, unseeded Auburn was placed in the region led by Stanford, the region’s first seed and the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament.

Auburn’s first opponent will be the region’s No. 4 seed, the Creighton Blue Jays, who went 27-4 this season and won the Big East championship. The Blue Jays will host the Tigers in Omaha, Nebraska this weekend. 

If the Tigers pull an upset, they will face the winner of the match between the No. 5 seed Houston and South Dakota — a match which would also take place in Omaha.

Despite finishing the regular season on a three-match losing streak, Auburn’s 21-8 record was good enough to make the postseason. Its hot start, in which it went 18-2 through the season’s first 20 matches, helped it overcome its slow finish. It ended its season with two three-set losses to Arkansas.

On Saturday, in the second of the losses, Madison Scheer’s nine kills and Kendal Kemp’s five blocks could not help the Tigers overcome the Razorbacks and Auburn fell in straight sets (25-21, 25-17, 25-17).

After the loss, head coach Brent Crouch thought his team was a “long shot” to make the tournament field. But when selection night came, Auburn had its name called.

Following Saturday's match, Crouch said that making the tournament would "light a fire" in his team.

"And if we do make it in, that's going to light a fire, too," Crouch said. "The season as a whole was just a huge plus and it's going to propel us to greater success."

12 years ago, in its only previous NCAA Tournament appearance, Auburn defeated Missouri State in straight sets before suffering a three-set loss to second-overall seed Nebraska.

This time, the Tigers look to make a deeper run behind its skilled freshman class led by freshman Akasha Anderson, who had 400 kills this season and was named as an All-SEC performer on Sunday.

Kemp and Scheer were also recognized for their performances this season, being named to the SEC All-Freshman team with Anderson. Kemp recorded 167 blocks this season, the single-season record for Auburn. Scheer recorded 3.03 kills per set this season.

Auburn went 3-6 against NCAA Tournament teams this season, winning against Tennessee and twice against Georgia. The Tigers lost to LSU and Florida and had two losses each to Kentucky and Arkansas.

Auburn’s tournament opener in Omaha will take place on December 2 at 6:30 p.m. CST and will be shown on ESPN+.

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Matthew Wallace | Sports Writer

Matthew is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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