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Monday, Dec 11, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

No. 24 Tigers narrowly defeated by No. 3 Florida in SEC opener

Auburn Volleyball during a timeout in the Florida game at Neville Arena on September 22nd.
Auburn Volleyball during a timeout in the Florida game at Neville Arena on September 22nd.

Hosting the first top-25 volleyball matchup in Neville Arena history, No. 24 Auburn went toe-to-toe with No. 3 Florida for five sets, falling just short of a victory to start SEC play.

The Tigers fell 3-2 (25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 19-25, 15-17) against the Gators, earning their first set wins over the Gators since 2018 and nearly defeating Florida for the first time since 2015. It was a raucous atmosphere at Neville Arena throughout the game, with the announced attendance of 2,393 coming just 99 short of the school record of 2,492 set in 2019.

Akasha Anderson led the Tigers with a double-double, recording 18 kills to go with 10 digs. It was Anderson’s third double-double of the season. Two other Tigers reached double digits in kills, as Madison Scheer had 15 and Bella Bell had 11. Jackie Barrett also recorded a double-double with 40 assists and 10 digs.

The Tigers held the Gators to a hitting percentage of .204, well below Florida’s season average of .277. Auburn, however, only had a hit percentage of .196, much lower than its average of .289 — which ranked 14th nationally.

It was a back-and-forth battle throughout, with no sets being decided by more than six points and three sets requiring extra points to finish.

The Tigers took set one 25-20 behind 13 kills and a hit percentage of .265. Auburn took advantage of six Florida errors in the set to win. Auburn took a 10-9 lead in the set and led the rest of the way in the set.

It looked as if the Tigers were set for a set two victory as well. The Tigers had a 23-18 lead and appeared to earn a set point. However, the referees awarded Florida the point, which was challenged by Crouch. 

The review found in Auburn’s favor but rather than awarding Auburn the point, the call was to replay the point leading to a prolonged argument from Crouch toward referee Luis Martinez. Later in the set, Auburn once again thought it had earned a set point only to have it reversed on a replay challenge.

The turn of events seemed to rejuvenate the Gators, who went on a 7-1 run late in the set and pulled out a 26-24 set win.

In set three, it was the Tigers who took the 26-24 win. Behind 14 kills and six Florida errors, the Tigers earned a second set over the Gators for the first time since defeating them in 2015.

The fourth set was the most lopsided set of the match, with Florida winning 25-19. The Gators hit .278 in the set, while Auburn hit a match-worst .069. The result sent the match to a fifth and deciding set.

Auburn took a 12-9 lead late in the fifth set, but the Gators scored three unanswered to even the set at 12. From there it was back-and-forth as the Gators twice had match point, but Auburn staved both off. The Tigers were unable to survive the Gators’ third match point, falling 17-15 in the third set of the match that went to extra points.

It was Auburn’s second five-set match of the season, with the Tigers falling to 1-1 in matches that went the distance.

Auburn will have another shot at the Gators in Gainesville, Florida, on Oct. 6. The Tigers have a quick turnaround as they host Ole Miss on Sunday. The first serve between the Tigers and Ole Miss is set for 2 p.m. CT and will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Matthew Wallace | Assistant Sports Editor

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

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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