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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn upsets Creighton in five-set thriller, advances to second round

<p>Auburn volleyball celebrates after taking down No. 4 Creighton in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.&nbsp;</p>

Auburn volleyball celebrates after taking down No. 4 Creighton in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. 

Auburn’s second-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament has been extended. 

The Tigers, one of the last four teams in the field of 64, upset fourth-seeded Creighton in a five-set thriller (21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 16-25, 15-11) before a record crowd of 2,653 at Creighton’s D.J. Sokol Arena.

Auburn’s youth and postseason inexperience did not faze the upset-minded Tigers, even while competing against the tournament mainstay Bluejays, who were in the postseason for the 11th consecutive season.

Auburn’s SEC All-Freshman stars showed out in their first postseason match. Madison Scheer led Auburn with 17 kills, while Akasha Anderson added 15 of her own. 

Kendal Kemp, already Auburn’s single-season block leader, added six more to her total. Kemp was not the only defensive star for the Tigers, as Chelsey Harmon led the team with eight blocks. Libero Sarah Morton added a team-high 19 digs, the 25th time Morton has reached double figures in digs this season.

During the match, Jackie Barrett reached 1,000 assists for the season. Barrett, along with Anderson, earned double-doubles. Barrett had 10 digs and 44 assists for her 11th double-double of the season, while Anderson had 13 digs and 15 kills in her eighth.

Despite coming into the match with the nation’s 21st-ranked hitting percentage offense, the Bluejays only hit .166 for the match — well below their season average of .270. 

It was a tightly-contested match throughout, with only one of the five sets being decided by more than five points.

The Tigers and Bluejays went punch-for-punch throughout, with the first four sets seeing 21 ties and nine lead changes, and each team taking two sets.

After going back and forth through four sets of play, Auburn put the Bluejays away in the decisive fifth set. The Tigers ended the match on an 11-6 run to win the decisive set and complete the upset.

Auburn’s tournament journey will continue on Saturday night when the Tigers face the region’s No. 5 seed, the Houston Cougars. The Cougars, like Auburn, earned a five-set win on Friday, defeating South Dakota in the first round.

In Saturday’s match, Auburn will be looking to do something it has never done before — advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. In Auburn’s lone previous postseason appearance, the Tigers were eliminated in the second round.

The match between the Tigers and Cougars will begin at 6:30 p.m. CST in Omaha and will be streamed live 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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