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No. 24 Auburn to face No. 3 Florida and Ole Miss on SEC opening weekend

After a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 Wisconsin on Sunday, Sept. 17, the No. 3 Florida Gators are traveling to Neville Arena to open SEC play on Friday, Sept. 22, while Ole Miss has to go through a solid Alabama team before traveling to face the Tigers on Sunday, Sept. 24. 

The Gators were up early 2-0 over the top-ranked Badger squad, even after losing star sophomore setter Alexis Stucky to a lower leg injury in the middle of the second set. The 2022 SEC Freshman of the Year returned to the court, but this time on crutches and sat out the remainder of the match.

Wisconsin stormed back in impressive fashion, winning the next three sets to take the match despite the best efforts of a suddenly-scrambled Gator team working with a new setter to hand Florida its first loss of the season. 

After going 3-0 in the Alabama Showdown with the return of sophomore Akasha Anderson last weekend, the Tigers are hoping to steal a win from a hobbled Florida team that they have not beaten since 2015. 

With Anderson back healthy, Auburn collected a team total of 170 kills along with 36 blocks and 25 aces to finish out the weekend.

With a match still to play against Alabama on Friday before traveling to Auburn, Ole Miss has had a hot and cold season so far.

Playing in the SFA Invitational last weekend, the Rebels went 1-2 with their only win coming against Sam Houston State. They ended the weekend with a loss against host Stephen F. Austin to a final score of 3-1. 

Players to Watch

Florida: Kennedy Martin and Kennedy Muff

Freshman phenom Kennedy Martin is going to be a force to be reckoned with on Friday. Against the Badgers, she totaled a team-high 13 kills as well as 12 digs and four blocks. 

Backup setter Kennedy Muff seemed to find her groove with the front row (28 assists) after replacing Stucky, so it is going to be interesting to see how productive Martin and the rest of the Florida offense will be against the strong Auburn block. 

Auburn: Akasha Anderson

After making her comeback last weekend with a staggering 56 kills, Anderson will definitely be a pivotal weapon against the Gators and the Rebels. Combined with other hitters such as sophomores Madison Scheer and Bel Zimmerman, Anderson is going to be one that Florida and Ole Miss will have to keep an eye on. 

Ole Miss: Payton Brgoch

The senior middle blocker made her presence known last weekend, totaling double-digit kills in every match as well as 10 total blocks. After leading the team last year with 123 blocks, Brgoch is going to be essential for the Rebels when facing the Tigers. 

Auburn will open conference play against the No. 3 Gators on Friday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m. CST. The Tigers will then turn around to face the Rebels on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. CST. Both games will be streamed on SEC Network+. 

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Emily Porch | Sports Writer

Emily Porch is a senior from Sylacauga, Alabama. She joined The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @emilycporch

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