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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn's season ends via sweep in NCAA first round exit

No. 7 seed Auburn (20-10, 10-9 SEC) fell via sweep in the first round of the NCAA Championship to unseeded Western Michigan (31-2, 18-0 MAC) on Thursday, Nov. 30, to end its 2023 season.

After a season full of firsts, including a ranking in the AVCA Top 25, the first win in program history against a top-ten opponent and the program’s first-ever win against Florida in Gainesville, the Tigers’ magical season came to an early close in the tournament.

For Western Michigan, the sweep of Auburn was the first Power Five tournament win for the Broncos since their 1987 win over the Oklahoma Sooners.

For the majority of the match, the Tigers were playing catch-up to the Broncos. Auburn was held to a .271 hitting percentage while allowing Western Michigan to hit .367. The Tigers also only collected 39 kills in the match, tying their fourth-lowest total of the season.

Auburn out-blocked Western Michigan seven to one but was outmatched in every other category except service errors, where the Tigers led the Broncos three to two. Western Michigan totaled 11 aces in the match, leading to serve-receive errors for the Tigers. 

Newly-minted All-SEC sophomore Madison Scheer led the way offensively for the Tigers, collecting 11 kills for a .290 hitting percentage. Seniors Bella Bell and Kyla Swanson accounted for seven kills each and combined for seven blocks. Swanson also accounted for all of Auburn’s three aces.

Sophomore Akasha Anderson was neutralized from the beginning, only collecting six kills while committing six kill errors on a team-high 34 attempts. The six kills gave Anderson her third-lowest total of the season.

For Western Michigan, its highly decorated senior setter Logan Case set the tempo early for the Broncos. 

The 2023 MAC Player of the Year and Setter of the Year racked up 44 assists in the match. Case also collected two kills and five digs to cap off a successful first-round matchup while tallying assists to five different Bronco hitters. 

Among Case’s weapons were First Team All-MAC graduate student Maggie King and Second Team All-MAC senior Anna Calcagno.

King and Calcagno led the way for the Broncos, collecting 14 kills each on a combined 61 attempts. King also accounted for seven digs while Calcagno added two blocks to her statline. 

One of the silent heroes for Western Michigan was the 2023 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Andelyn Simkins. Simkins led the Broncos with 25 digs while also wreaking havoc behind the service line, leading the team with six aces. 

Western Michigan will now advance to the NCAA Championships second round to face either No. 2 seed Louisville or Wright State. Auburn's historic 2023 season is now over.

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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